Wednesday, 29 October 2014

English as a Foreign Language

English, like all human languages, is full of problems for the foreign learners. Some problems are easy to explain and understand. Other problems are tricky and cause difficulty even for advanced students and teachers. English as a Foreign Language, to a degree, is a guide to problems of this kind and aims at digging out underlying blunders. Also, this book will provide the readers with grammatical information at various levels, ranging from relatively simple to quite advanced problems. Teachers of English are all too conversant with the teaching of the language showcasing structures, patterns, syntax, phonemes, etc. Nonetheless, it is now realized that grammar has a place in the language learning process, without which there is a vacuum in the teaching of the language. In view of this, there is an increasing demand of teachers of English with a good knowledge of grammar and practical usage where the English language is a second language.
If someone makes too many mistakes in a foreign language, he or she can be difficult to understand, so a reasonable level of correctness is important. However, it is not essential to speak or write a language perfectly just so as to communicate effectively. But a teacher who teaches a foreign language, in my opinion, is expected to avoid mistakes as far as possible, but shouldn’t be obsessed with correctness. Yes, grammar is the backbone of any language. So, grammar in natural contexts over a time is better than force-feeding. There is a widespread rumour that the standard of English at private schools is going downhill on account of the inefficiency of teachers who teach very young children. Teachers alone aren’t responsible for it.
The book encompasses Language Terminology, The Most Common Mistakes in English Usage by Nepalese Teachers and Students, Tips on English Pronunciation, Teaching Writing, Teaching Speaking, The Difference between British and American English, Some Creative Teaching Techniques, etc.
We teachers believe that teaching a second language is challenging and difficult. We, therefore, are always on the lookout for ways in which a collective, concerted effort is made to discuss and tackle language problems.
English as a Foreign Language is intended for aspiring teachers, students of all level and especially those teachers who teach young children because they can play a remarkable role in improving students’ language proficiency, and identifying and nurturing the talents of individual students at an early age. I arrived at the decision of writing this book only after consulting some of the English language specialists and authentic books written by the native experts of English. The book, I reckon, is to be fruitful. This book is an endeavor to sharing practical ideas but not an intensive training or a complete guide to the English language.


My first and the foremost gratitude goes to my most loving mother who endured lots of pain to bring me and my brother up as father was indifferent to family condition, my dear chema, Bhim Rani Tigela (mother’s sister) and sanaba (Laxmi Tigela) who reside in the UK; whose constant financial and emotional supports have put me where today I am.  I am also grateful to my wife Srijana Rai for her indirect help.                                  
I must also thank British teachers Mrs Simmons (international co-ordinator at Sherwood School, the UK), Mrs Mathuru (specialist in the English language) and Mrs Holliday (in charge of English) for their valuable advice and brilliant ideas. Printing errors if any are inadvertent and regretted. Your constructive suggestions, comments, and feedback are most welcomed which will have a great influence on further writing.
Last but not least, Subhash Thapa Magar, Dipesh Dulal, Madan Tamang and John Kesner deserve my hearty thanks for encouraging me to write it.  
And my heartfelt thanks to Mahesh Chapagai, who is studying in Japan, for his constant encouragement and inspiration.

I must mention reference works that I consulted and pay homage to in order to be safe from plagiarism: Practical English Usage, by Michael Swan (Oxford University Press 2005), English Collocation in  Use,  by Michael McCarthy (Cambridge University Press 2005), The Most Common Mistakes in English Usage, by Thomas Elliott Berry (Tata McGraw-Hill Edition 1976), Cambridge IELTS 8 (Cambridge University Press 2011), Longman Essential Activator (Addison Wesley Longman Limited 2000), Vocabulary Workshop Enhanced Edition, by Jerome Shostak (Sadlier-Oxford 1996), Language in Use, by Adrian Doff & Christopher Jones (Cambridge University Press) Cambridge School Dictionary (Cambridge University Press 2008) and English for the teacher, by Mary Spratt (Cambridge University Press 2004).

Amar Bahadur Sherma
Editor-in-Chief, Writers’ Diary
Vice-president, Sustainable Education Group-Nepal
ELT at GEMS, freelance writer 


LESSONS                                                                                            PAGE NO.
I)    Introduction to Language ­­­                                                                                   5-10
§  What is Language?                                                                       5
§  Language as Action in Context                                                        5
§  Glossary                                                                                     6
§  What is grammar?                                                                        7
§  Parts of Speech                                                                           8
II) Most Commonly Confused Words                                                                      11-44
§  Self-Test                                                                                    43
III) Errors in Using Nouns                                                                                         45-47
§  Determing the Real Subject                                                            45
§  Collective Nouns                                                                          46
§  Subject Joined by Conjunctions ‘or’ and ‘as well as’                                      46
§  Pronouns ‘you’ and ‘we’                                                                 46
§  Collective Noun in UK and US English                                               47
§  Countable and Uncountable Nouns                                                  48
§  Illness                                                                                        50
§  Plural Nouns Misused as Singulars                                                   50
§  Singulars Misused as Plurals                                                           51
§  Plural Same as Singular                                                                 52
§  Dated words                                                                               52
§  Common Fixed Expressions                                                           55
IV) Errors in Using Pronouns                                                                                                58-60
§  Relative Pronouns                                                                        58
§  Indefinite Pronouns                                                                      58
§  None, all, some—Use of as Pronouns                                                       59
§  Antecedents                                                                                59
§  Yourself—Yourselves                                                                    60
§  Whose—Its                                                                                60
V) Errors in Case                                                                                                          61-62
VI) Errors in Using Verbs                                                                                           63-65
§  Forms of Verbs                                                                           63
§  Shift of Tense                                                                             65
§  General Truth                                                                              65
VII) Errors in Miscellaneous Areas                                                                         66-99
§  Elision                                                                                        66
§  Prepositional Phrases                                                                    67
§  News Vocabularies                                                                       74
§  Keywords                                                                                   81
§  Sounds of Animals                                                                       82
§  Food Preparation                                                                         83
§  Sounds of Objects                                                                       83
§  Famous English Idioms                                                                 84
§  The Structures of Tense                                                                85
§  Correct Use of ‘Other’                                                                             86
§  Verbs Followed by ‘to’                                                                            87
§  Verbs Followed by ‘-ing’                                                                88
§  Verbs Followed by ‘to’ and ‘-ing’                                                     88
§  Avoidance of Repetition                                                                88
§  Subject-Verb Agreement                                                                89
§  Mental Verbs                                                                               90
§  British and American English in Practice                                             91
§  The Difference between US and UK English                                       92
§  Describing People                                                                         94
§  Choosing Right Words for Right Persons                                           96
§  Actions Expressing Emotions                                                          98
VIII) Collocation                                                                                                          100-6
§  The Most Frequently Mispronounced Words                                               106
IX) Creative Teaching Techniques                                                             107-112
X) Reinforcements                                                                                                     113
Vocabulary Test                                                                                                          114
Self-Test Key                                                                                         115

                                                INTRODUCTION TO LANGUAGE
“Good noise means learning. Bad noise means the children are out of control. No noise means adults don’t understand the nature of children.”
                                                                        Dr Harlen Hansen University of Minnesota
What is  Language?

Language is a system of communication with the ‘means’ of verbal symbols. Basically, by the term ‘language’ we mean the human language, which is specific to the human species and is characterized by uniquely human features: the human ‘verbal’ language is different from the limited means of communication among animals and also from the other non-verbal code system of communication among human being themselves. Besides many other features, the human verbal language is manly characterized by structural ‘complexity’ and functional ‘diversity’ to the extent that there is no limit to the depth and breadth of its study. The ‘human’ language has many uniquely human characteristics like creativity, complexity, arbitrariness, specialization, displacement, cultural transmission, discreteness, reflection, change, etc.
Language as Action in Context
Language is a skill. It is a device or weapon that human beings use to have things done. The branch of linguistics called pragmatics (the study of how language is used in specific context) sees langue as action. It regards utterances as ‘speech acts’. This idea is intended to ‘do’ something. The act of uttering is called ‘locution’ and the act intended to be carried out is called ‘illocution’.
The speech act is governed by many factors of the context in which it is used. When speakers speak, they intend to have something done in what we call the linguistic marketplace. They use language to carry out functions like describing, explaining, amusing, criticizing, passing judgments, delivering opinions, promising, agreeing, greeting, etc. Thus, all utterances are goal-directed actions or ‘speech acts’, and language is action (two kinds of action at the same time: the action of uttering and the action of accomplishing a purpose).
The basic function of language is that of naming objects or ideas. Naming is a way to get control, to exercise power. Describing and defining is also to take control over things. Language can also be used to describe itself: that is called metalingual use of language, or metalanguage. The other functions of asking, commanding, promising, and expressing opinions are also actions carried out with specific goals in specific contexts.
When language is used, it is always used in a context. The act of language use (and of the goal to be achieved) is influenced by the conditions of the context which include who the addresser and addressee are (status, relation, age, sex, belief, etc), what the channel is (face-to-face, telephone, writing, etc), what the topic is, and other factors like social and physical circumstances. The selection of the appropriate alternatives under a particular context makes the set of choices a variety of language. The whole of a language can be seen as the totality of the range of varieties and choices. From the linguist’s point of view, any language is a collection of varieties which differ according to the governing factors of the context. All utterances are ‘acts’ governed by the context.

  • Cleft Sentence
One simple sentence that has been split into two clauses to focus on one part of it. For e.g., The book was written in 2008. It was in 2008 that the book was written.
  • Ellipsis
Leaving out a word or phrase completely. Who is coming to your home this evening? ‘My cousins’. Coming is ellipted.
  • Fronting
Moving an element of a sentence to the beginning for emphasis, particularly an element that does not usually appear at the beginning. For e.g., On the left of the aisle was a flower pot.
  • Subjunctive
A form of verb which is the same as the infinitive without to/ to convey necessity. For e.g., The judge insisted that each client pay his own costs. (US English)
  • Redundancy
It is a common fault in many students and teachers whose first language isn’t English. Re-stating an idea either by closely following one word by another with the same meaning or with a word whose meaning is already encompassed within the broader definition of its mate. For example, Rekha saw a big, enormous ship in the sea. Ritesh made a new invention.
  • Collocation
The combination of words formed when two or more words are frequently used together (fixed) in a way that sounds natural. For example, a big mistake not a large mistake. Likewise, do a bit of travelling not make a bit of travelling.

  • Contractions
A short form in which a subject and an auxiliary verb, or an auxiliary verb and the word not, are joined together into one word. Contractions are also made with non-auxiliary be and have. Examples: I’m, who’ve, can’t, etc.
  • Ambiguity
A sentence which logically can have two meanings.  The problem  with the ambiguity is to try to determine the meaning intended by the user. For example, Mrs Tamang told her sister that she must study harder.

                                      WHAT IS A GRAMMAR?
Grammar is the study or science of rules for forming words and combining them into sentences.
  1. Orthography
It studies spelling. Apple (a-p-p-l-e) mother (m-o-t-h-e-r)
  1. Etymology
It studies words and their meanings.
He      she     fountain        garrison         affection
  1. Syntax
It studies the arrangement of words in a sentence.
  1. Prosody
It studies verse and prose in a poem.
  1. Letter
Letter is a written or printed sign representing a sound used in speech.
  1. Alphabet
Alphabet is a set of letters in a fixed order used in writing. There are two types of letters: vowel and consonant.
A vowel is a letter used to represent a speech-sound made without audible stopping of the breath. For example, a,e, i, o, u.
Vowels are of two kinds.
a)    Monopthong is a single sound. (pen, book, king, ink)
b)   Dipthong is a union of two vowel sounds. (five, doubt, nose, ear)
          A consonant is a letter for the speech-sound produced by a complete or partial stoppage     of the breath. (b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t v, w, x, y, z)
          A syllable is any of the units into which a word may be divided, usually consisting of a         vowel-sound with a consonant before or after. For example, fan, ac.tor, but.ton
  1. Stress           
A stress is the result of an extra force used in speaking a particular word or syllable.

                                                            PARTS OF SPEECH
Parts of speech are words that are divided into different kinds according to the work they do in a sentence.
The parts of sentence are eight in number.
a.    Noun
A noun is a name of a person, place, animal, thing and some ideas. For example,
Anjana, David, Japan, Sherry, table, desk, pity, education, neighbourhood, fantasy etc.
Anjana is a person’s name, Japan is a country’s name, Sherry is an animal’s name, desk indicates the name of a thing, pity indicates the name of some ideas, etc.
b.   Adjective
An adjective is a word that defines or limits a noun. For example,
Kabita is a tall girl. (‘tall’ in the sentence defines how Kabita is.)
Ripe grapes are sweet. (‘ripe’ and ‘sweet’ are two words which give the quality of grapes.)
c.    Pronoun’
A pronoun is a word used in place of a noun. For example,
Mohan is speech-impaired, so he cannot speak. (‘he’ has been used instead of Mohan.)
Srijana and Sujata are friends; they live together. (‘they’ has been used instead of Srijana and Sujata.)
d.    Verb
A verb indicates doing, being, and becoming of somebody or something. For example,
We cook meals. (‘cook’ indicates an action.)
Tuleshwor digs a hole. (‘digs’ in the sentence indicates an action.)
Aslesha and Aisharya are doctors. (‘are’ indicates becoming or state’.
e.    Adverb
An adverb is a word used to modify a verb, an adjective or another adverb. For example,
Gopal speaks English well. (The verb has been modified by well.)
Students cried loudly. (The verb cried has been modified by loudly.)
Santosh ran very quickly. (The adverb has been modified by another adverb very.)
f.     Preposition
A preposition is a word often placed before a noun or pronoun to indicate place, direction, source, method, etc.
There is a cat under the bed. (The word under indicates place.)
Amar walked towards church. (The word towards indicates direction.)
A mango fell from the tree. (The word from indicates source.)
Bisika went to Hong Kong by plane. (The word by indicates method.)
g.    Conjunction
A conjunction is a word used to join words or sentences. For example,
Srijana and Amar are husband and wife.
Durga is wise but his son is stupid.
Either sing a song or dance on stage.
The words ‘are’, ‘but’ and ‘or’ have been used as joining words or connectives.
h.   Interjection
An interjection is a word used as an exclamation. For instance,
Alas! She is dead.
Hurrah! I won the game.
Hush! Don’t speak like this.
The words ‘Alas’, ‘Hurrah’ and ‘Hush’ give a sense of exclamation.