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Correcting and encouraging non native English speakers

by stefp (Vicar)
on Sep 10, 2001 at 05:42 UTC ( #111374=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Like many people on perlmonks, I am not an English native speaker. I know that one quality about perlmonks is that the XP system encorages people to present their arguments with a correct language.

Perlmonks is a place to improve one mastery of Perl. Could it be as well a place where one could improve his English? In addition to the link <offer your reply>, could we add a link <correct my English> for node created by monks who ask to be corrected. The comments created by the accessed form would not be public (at least by default) but accessible by the corrected monk. The said monk would be able to correct his node using the said comments. The comments could be about spelling, grammar and style. Indeed, the style of a foreign perlmonk can be peculiar and clumsy. So helping him to find more straightforward sentences is useful too.

As a result, the English of the corrected monk would improve as well as the quality of his posts making Perlmonks a better place.

-- stefp

  • Comment on Correcting and encouraging non native English speakers

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Re: Correcting and encouraging non native English speakers
by pmas (Hermit) on Sep 10, 2001 at 08:40 UTC
    I am also non native english speaker. So what?

    I strongly believe that features should be implemented the simplest way available. And we already have not one, but two ways how to fix simple mistakes:

    (1) monk can share his/her scratchpad as public (so spelling error can be fixed)
    (2) Author can update all nodes (except front-page nodes). So in case changes are required, author can do it for yourself in most cases, in other cases Editors can help.

    I do not recall some answer was scolded as "written in poor, non-native speaker English". I guess most (native-Engilsh spekar) monks realize, that some of us are diffrent - and we are living with it without obvious problems, thank you.

    So my advice for a monk who feels may need a help: try to find a mentor, made your scratchpad public and ask your mentor to fix your errors before posting.

    No coding involved, and solves also problem in your proposal - who is going to fix spelling errors?

    I remember my friend, first-year teacher of English from USA, how he told me it was strange for him to point grammatic errors of his pupils. He told me that in USA it is little bit of rude to correct this kind of errors, so he needed to force himself to do it. And i explained him, that I am glad he shows me how to improve - without his help, I'll be repating my errors for ever. Yes, he was teaching first year, and it was during his first month...

    I believe here are much more knowledgeable monks who can say how Americans (and Britons, Australians, Indians and all other english-first-language monks) feel about bad english. I just wanted to say that another non-native speaker may not feel this an issue, and even if we want to fix it, we can first look around if we can use tools/features already avilable before proposing complicated multi-step changes of node status.

    I read somewhere that language of science is bad english (because for more than 50% of scientists English is non-native language).

    Be nice, be tolerant, and if you feel English of some fellow-monk need improvement, /msg him or her and arrange mentoring.

    After re-reading, I guess my own response sounds not too much tolerant... So if you feel offended, or you feel some wording is too strong, please /msg me and I'll update it promptly - tomorrow morning, after some sleep.

    To make errors is human. But to make million errors per second, you need a computer.

      I am a native speaker of english and I welcome another mechanism of correction as suggested by stefp. IMNSHO, Good Perl requires good communication of the problem & solution in a human language.

      Please don't ++ this node, the meta stuff is useful but not good for my personal XP goals. Please forgive my presumption for assuming you might ++


Re: Correcting and encouraging non native English speakers
by George_Sherston (Vicar) on Sep 10, 2001 at 17:08 UTC
    The great strength of English is that anyone can play. There's no Academie Anglaise to safeguard the language from mutilation by foreigners. Whereas a Frenchman might be outraged at the foreign word 'weekend' appearing as le weekend an Englishman is delighted to use English words like esprit, film noir, weltanschaung and so on. He likes to make them feel at home by giving them all the grammatical decoration the other words have (slap an "s" on to make a plural or a possessive - anywhere at the end of the word is fine, we're all friends here - if you have an apostrophe about your person then stick it in there for a possessive, but we'll get what you mean anyhow). And they are welcome to join in with other words to make even more words. I'm feeling espritfull today. David Mamet's next film has a noirish flavour. (I defy you to make a neologism out of weltanschaung).

    So my first point is just this: anyone can play. If you get your point across, it's English. We don't know from grammar over here anyway - hardly any inflexions, pretty much zero gender. But. We stuff meaning in anyhow. Short sentences? Fine!

    My second point is, Native Speakers Of English is itself a pretty broad church. It's quite noticeable that, although six of the last fifteen Nobel Laureates for Literature were native speakers, none of them was actually English. And each wrote in a different way.

    Having said that, there is a canon of "proper" English, which a non-native speaker may want to learn for business / credibility purposes. More important, to my mind, there is also a canon of Beautiful English, the English of Shakespeare, Jane Austen, George Orwell and all the other Olympians. To draw out some of the elegance, expressive power and sheer bravura idiomacity of the English language seems to me a good reason to learn "proper" English. I'd be delighted to offer the opinions of a native speaker to anyone who wants to sharpen up his or her English in that way.

    But only if that's what you enjoy. If you just want to get your point across - you are free! Use it how it works! There's more than one way to say it!

    George Sherston
      Native Speakers Of English is itself a pretty broad church

      I would just like to back up Georges point about this. Having grown up in Toronto, having lived in central London and having spent the past two years in Frankfurt, I can say quite fairly that some of the worst abusers of English are these 'Native Speakers of English'. To be honest the German prediliction towards saying 'Ein bitzien' when asked if they speak English, wherupon they proceed to speak in almost flawless English is a continual source of amazement and humour to myself and other english colleagues here. The likelyhood that a German or Dutch or Austrian or (in my limited experience) French person will speak better english than the cab drivers and corner store owners in North America or the Cockney Barman is almost 100%.

      My point being that if asked I will correct the English of those non-native speakers (and a few native to boot), if not I wont because normally its pretty good anyway. For instance the OP in this thread was as well written as it would have been had it been posted by myself or many English hackers out there.

      Also Georges assertion that anything understandable that purports to be English IS English is 100% correct. It is a dynamic language that has absorbed concepts and words from all of the nations that make up its people (English is basically the oldest documented Patois) and could stand to have more contributions made from the many non-native speakers that have ended up needing to speak it.

      So if you get your button I will contribute when appropriate if you dont i will /msg you if you ask, and if you dont wll then it doesnt matter 'cause we all understood you anyway!


      You are not ready to use symrefs unless you already know why they are bad. -- tadmc (CLPM)

        It is a dynamic language that has absorbed concepts and words from all of the nations that make up its people

        Yay! And what other language does this remind one of? Why, the Practical Extraction and Report Language, of course.

        The future belongs to generous-spirited patois!

        George Sherston
        Exactly my point, George_Sherston and demerphq. It's fine if somebody will ask help to clean up his/her english. It's fine if a node is written if less than perfect english, as long as we can understand question - or answer.

        I agree with stefp that PM is a place to improve my perl skills. I agree with mandog that good commmunication in human language is important to get my point through. I suppose sometimes my selection of word might be less than perfect, associations for native speakers might be different from mine (I am near-perfect speaker in another 2 languages, and I know my english is not *that* good). So sorry if somebody felt offended. It was not my intention - not here not in any other my post.

        What I do not agree, and my point in this thread is: code just to deal with improving english spelling is not primary interest to PM. After all, you can write your node in M$ Word, spellcheck it and paste it here. IMO is wrong to complicate node submission by "correct my english" process, if we can do it informaly (without any coding) using existing scratchpad and messages. And as non-native speaker I wanted to express my priorities and opinion, so other native speakers will not feel obliged to provide feature stefp asks for. Speaking for myself, I do not need it. I hope that people who ++ stefp proposal did it for sake of discussion about non-native English speakers, and not about agreeing that we need new feature. I do not feel that somebody owes me something because I was not born as english speaker. I am happy to learn English, it opens word much wider than my native language. Also, my government cannot fool me this easy now...;-)

        Fortunately (or is it fortunatelly?) changes proposed by stefp will never happen - we have bigger fish to fry, more important features requested for.

        Interestingly enough, no other non-native English speakers felt compelled to express their opinion. Who feels we need feature stefp asks for? Who thinks existing tools are adaquate enough? Who feels it will be nice to have somebody "clean up english" before posting, and /msg in CB to check my own scratchpad is not enough?

        (and who feels we need to continue this discussion?) I believe we non-native speakers can feel assured that even with bad english, our questions will be answered and if not - /msg and node update should solve it without any new programming.

        Let's do some coding now...;-)

        To make errors is human. But to make million errors per second, you need a computer.
        (Please /msg me you find any strange english spelling errors.)

        out on a limb to correct a German spelling. I think it's "ein bisschen" -- "a bit". :)

        I would be glad to give private feedback on English if the Monk has entered something like "Please to giving feedback on my English not so good at some times" in the signature area of the post... and think that such would be sufficient support from PM.

        For the record, I love the parallel between English and Perl both being somewhat resilient to different grammar/lexicon choices... of course, that parallel is by design. Both seem to be abused quite a bit by so-called poets, too. *grin*
Re: Correcting and encouraging non native English speakers
by Caillte (Friar) on Sep 10, 2001 at 16:40 UTC

    As a native English speaker I could probably use some pointers too.

    Especially when I compare my English to my son's who is not a native English speaker

    However, I wonder if this is the right place for it.

    $japh->{'Caillte'} = $me;

Re: Correcting and encouraging non native English speakers
by pmas (Hermit) on Sep 11, 2001 at 00:02 UTC
    I am failing to get my point through. I guess it is because I am not native English speaker...;-)

    My point is: We have all tools to check and fix english of poster. We do not need to add any code for this, just start using it. Our Clairvoyant leader already did add all needed features.

    Follow me: I will pretend I am test1 - new (female) user I just created.

    test1 wants to post something and is not sure about her english. She put sample text in her scratchpad, and made her scratchpad public. Now test1 can go to chatterbox and ask somebody to look to her scratch pad viewer and improve her text. Her angel mentor can copy/paste her text into own scratchpad, improve it, and let test1 know when done. Then, test1 can copy/paste improved text as own post.

    Is it simple one-click solution? No. Do we need to wait to implement it? No - it is ready to use. Is it straightforward? Not exactly. Is it possible to train users and mentors to do it? Certainly so.

    So we can do "english fixing" right now, all we need is to train new users to use scratchpad this way. tachyon may want to add (improved to real native english... hehe) description of how to do that to his famous New Monks Info Page, and we are all done. Or I am still missing something?

    To make errors is human. But to make million errors per second, you need a computer.

Re: Correcting and encouraging non native English speakers
by jlongino (Parson) on Sep 11, 2001 at 08:59 UTC
    After reading this thread I felt compelled to share some of my feelings on the topic of language.

    American English is my native tongue but it most certainly does not flow easily from my tongue or to my pen/keyboard. I am not a verbal person. What you see in this response is the result of 90 120 150 minutes of composition. I can also state with certainty that every other original post I've made to this site has taken at least that long to compose. The only exception has been ode to strict, which took only 15 minutes, is my favorite and was written when I was half asleep.

    Through the course of writing this post I've deleted more than three four times the amount of text that remains. I've read and reread each word/sentence at least five six seven times and am still not completely happy with the wording, style or resulting content. I've fussed about whether or not my paragraphs are formed correctly. I know I've mixed past/present/future tenses somewhere but haven't found it yet. I can't remember a tenth of what I was taught in school about grammar (whatever that is).

    Do you think I would even presume to try and correct someone else's use of any language? After reading this post do you think anyone in their right mind would even ask me to?

    I have occaisionally wanted to point out the correct spellings of separate or monastery, but somehow I feel more inclined to chalk it up to a simple typo, as we all tend to make when we're in a hurry, and let it go at that.

    I could probably keep reworking this for another 2 2.5 hours, but quite frankly, I'm getting bored of it and doing so would probably just make it worse. Bravo to anyone willing to submit a post at all. Perfect "English" or not.

    BTW, I ran this through a spell checker four times and only misspelled occasionally. That wasn't a typo though, I always try to add that extra "i" for some reason.

    @a=split??,'just lose the ego and get involved!';
    for(split??,'afqtw{|~'){print $a[ord($_)-97]}
Re: Correcting and encouraging non native English speakers
by shadox (Priest) on Sep 10, 2001 at 21:15 UTC
    I totally agree with stefp, sometimes for non english native speakers it is dificult to ask what they got in mind, and i can bet that some people just don't ask because they don't know a word and don't like the idea of type it wrong. Something like  "<correct my english>" or  "<spell checking>" would be very useful for all of us.

    Dreams, they just disapear into the shadows, then they become true
      I am also one of these non-native speakers of English.
      But if I don't know a word, I reach for one of these fine inventions called dictionary. I know I am a really bad speller but I will never ask for spellchecking, because I can do that job with my spell-checker. Therefore, a <spellchecking> button would actually mean Heya! I was too lazzy to do speelchecking, please could you do it for me? No, I do not want to ask for such a feature.

      While spellchecking and looking up words I don't know, can be done easily by myself, I feel quit uneasy when it comes to word usage, grammar, wordorder, etc. pp. . Especially if I was going to write longer prose like a tutorial or book review which also will have a wider audience than this little node, it would be nice if there were some volonteer editors who could check my writings.

      And yes, like many non native speakers of English I feel quit ashamed for my bad English. (Especially if fellow countymen of mine look at me from behind. Definitly a psychological problem for many of us non native speakers.)

        like ichimunki and doubtless many others, I'd be more than delighted to give feedback when wanted on prose style and grammar, just in the same way as it's always a pleasure to answer somebody's uncertainty about perl (not that I'm often in a position to do that - I probably am actually more use with English). I'd suggest anyone who would welcome that kind of input put something like "always glad to get feedback on my Egnlish" in the sig.

        {But PLEASE don't feel "ashamed" - (A) if you get your meaning across (as you do) then you have succeeded; and (B) most native English-speakers (at least Brits and Americans) are LOUSY at other languages - because everybody else speaks our language so well, we get to be very lazy.}

        George Sherston
Re: Correcting and encouraging non native English speakers
by toma (Vicar) on Sep 11, 2001 at 11:33 UTC
    My New Jersey American needs another button: HARD TO READ. I have asked what is wrong with a particular node and received the answer, "your writing is hard to read." It has something to do with the way I construct sentences, I think, but I'm not sure. Anyway, it would be nice if I could get some feedback on this. Perhaps a generic STYLE button could msg feedback. Or maybe people should just feel free to make suggestions with msg's. I have benefited from msg's and have changed my nodes when I thought the suggestions made sense. Perhaps we could add some shiny javascript buttons to our sigs to make this easy?

    msg me with suggestions for this node
    It should work perfectly the first time! - toma

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