Perfecting Your English - The Native Speaker's Guide
We spend much of our formative years in full time education, with a lot of emphasis on studying the ins and outs of the English language. After graduation from the education system we are set free into the world and suddenly nobody is there to correct our writing. Surely as native speakers with all those years of learning we will have perfect command of our own language?
Not necessarily. Even if born and raised into English, it can be particularly challenging to master at a high level. This is due to the range of erratic spelling and pronunciation alongside the constantly emerging new terms and combinations of words from other languages.
Some of the lessons we learned throughout our educational years will stick with us forever, the classic “I before E except after C” rule, for example, but if we aren’t careful our correctness can really start to slip. Follow these top tips for native speakers that want to keep improving their standard of English:
- “Don’t fall for common mistakes.” It can be much easier than you think to fall into the trap of making amateur blunders, especially with more widespread use of internet talk and abbreviations. Writing down “could of” instead of “could have” for example, due to the way it is often pronounced by people, is a common mistake. Other frequent misuse might not be so easy to spot...such as whether to use “e.g” or “i.e”, or whether it’s “historic” or “historical”.
- “Expose yourself to good writing.” Read, read, and read. Books tend to have correct use of language as they have been through a strict editing process but magazines and newspapers can also be worthwhile. If reading isn’t really your thing and digging into a classic by Tolstoy just makes you feel like you are in a classroom then find something that interests you, be it an autobiography, short story or scientific research paper. After reading a lot of high standard writing correctness will start to feel natural.
- “Widen your vocabulary.” Sounds like a real chore but it doesn’t have to be. Playing word games such as Scrabble or Hangman can be a great night in and will introduce you to new words. Turning to the dictionary to learn new words can be effective for some but the most natural way to learn is to read them over and over in different contexts.
- “Write.” Keep a journal or blog and write often. Writing is like a muscle that needs to be worked out often in order to stay in shape. Even emails or text messages can be considered writing practice as long as you consciously try to write in concise English.
- “Proofread.” Read your writing aloud or get someone else to check it. Very often we can proofread our own material and skip over mistakes that we didn’t expect to be there. Therefore the best method of proofreading is to have someone else do it for you. eAngel is an inexpensive online platform that utilizes real professionals to proofread your text and send you back a corrected version in a short period of time. Useful for checking anything from a short email to a novel or thesis. Take note of mistakes that you make often and be aware of them when writing.
- “Learn another language.” Sounds slightly ironic to study another language when you are trying to improve your own but it can really help. Learning different structure and grammar will make you more conscious of the structure and grammar of your own language. Exploring similarities and differences will enable you to look at English in a new light and heighten your awareness of your mother tongue. We could all, at times, use a reminder to actively engage ourselves in our own language and enjoy delving deeper into the endless sea of knowledge that is available. By implementing these simple steps into your everyday life, you should see an obvious improvement.