Picking The Finest Words

I’m feeling a cold coming up! So happy that I managed to return my 2nd edition of the essay as required, the deadline is tomorrow. I’ve been reading and writing my learning journal for our independent distant course in English linguistics but today it felt too heavy to read the remaining articles with the cold coming up and a slight headache. I left the more complicated articles for last. I think I need to get better before I will be able to focus on 30 pages of psycholinguistics; I plan to read Stiver’s and Mossano’s Mobilizing response article next. It’s something I find interesting but I definitely need to be able to concentrate. (A headache and a sore throat is not the best medicine for concentration!)

I’ve really been digging into the course material and read several articles on the reading list. I’ve for instance learnt more about how ecological educators see language learning as relationships among and between learners (Leo van Lier’s From input to affordance),  how linguistic relativity does not constrain our thoughts or perceptions but that it tends to influence what we as humans routinely think (Kramsch, The relationship of language and culture) and how being a good language learner and student requires not only demonstrating linguistic competence, but also understanding of the specific instructional setting and learning to develop communication skills and being interactive and interpreting a situation and how to act in that situation (LORENZA MONDADA, SIMONA PEKAREK DOEHLER, Second Language Acquisition as Situated Practice: Task Accomplishment in the French Second Language Classroom). I won’t go into the details of the above and some other articles here in my blog, but language IS truly complex and as an academic research field it is very wide – if that can begin to describe the art and science of language.

I also read a couple of essays today, as I prepare to make the peer reviews of essays. To be able to review the academic essays, we have been given the task to read also The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need by Susan Thurman ; Edited By Larry Shea. I’m not sure if we were to read the whole thing, but it’s almost 200 pages and for me that is so much reading that it requires some sinking in. I can’t do it in one or two session’s. The book is well written and not at all a what-you-would-expect, it’s not a typical, dare I say, boring grammar book! I already wrote a few lines in my previous post about the book and that I ordered it for myself. It seems to take some time to arrive with the mail so I haven’t yet had a chance to turn the pages of the actual book. Luckily we can use the online editions for free through the university. I read the first chapter in a breeze! It was an easy read and I surprised myself, because I enjoyed the read. I wouldn’t expect a grammar book to be enjoyable. Silly me, but I’m a linguist so maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised.

The first chapter was about finding the right words when writing. We all know how hard it can be to find the right words! If you want your words to have influence, it helps if you check common errors, misspellings or possible misuse of words. The book promises it will give your reader more confidence in what you are trying to say, so I recommend checking whenever you are in doubt. Finding the right words means also knowing the exact meaning of the words you are using. The better you are at knowing the meaning of words, the better you will be at conveying your thoughts when writing.

The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need has excellent lists of rules and exceptions and uses examples for clarifying them. There are plenty of words that often get people mixed up, but of course the book is only for those who need the advice. I’m not going to continue this post any further and advise you on how to pick the finest words. That you need to try on your own.

See the difference between advice = noun and advise=verb there? The example is from the book.

The only grammar book I will ever need?


We have a grammar assignment coming up where we are divided into groups and assigned chapters to read from”The only grammar book you will ever need”. (Susan Thurman ; Edited By Larry Shea. Adams Media 2003).

Me and my group were assigned the chapter Writing better sentences. We will read and ponder what challenges we face with the phenomena  of the chapter ourselves in our academic essays. Then we will prepare for explaining the topic to the rest of the group. The goal is to provide tips on how to improve our writing, using our own essays as examples.

Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 9.33.00Reading the chapter about how to write better sentences  I found loads of useful material on the internet that cover topics described in the book:

Many of the topics are familiar to me, but I also learned a few things. I had for instance never heard the expression red herring. I realise many people dislike grammar – maybe because it’s sometimes associated with something very dull and laborious. That’s a challenge for any grammar teacher. Having the students present different grammatical phenomena to peers will make it impossible not to learn ( I think!). Having to teach a topic, you really need to know it inside out.

Risks in using the student centric teaching methods and peer teaching:

  • You can’t avoid traditional lecturing if students decide to use lecturing to teach their peers
  • Students may only get a deeper understanding of the topic that they were assigned to read and present themselves
  • If a group or groups don’t do their homework well enough to teach the rest, then what?

As a teacher (or student) you would have to make sure to have a plan B to fill in the gaps. After all you need to make sure that the required learning objectives, for example “to discuss structures of English and English grammar from different theoretical perspectives” (like on my basic English philology 25 ECTS course) are achieved.

It remains to be seen if the book I mentioned will be the only grammar book I’ll ever need, especially if I ever get to teach younger students who speak Finnish as their native tongue. I’ve still found my old Lukion Englannin Kielioppi by Irja & Mikko Mattila useful as it contains grammatical terminology in Finnish. Now that book is useful for someone who doesn’t understand what an auxiliary verb or helping verb means and needs a translation.