Learning English As A Second Language Essay

In general they are long, pompous nouns that end in –—like development and fulfillment.Those nouns express a vague concept or an abstract idea, not a specific action that we can picture—somebody doing something.It’s not as musical as Spanish, or Italian, or French, or as ornamental as Arabic, or as vibrant as some of your native languages.

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” I was trying to put myself into her mental process of switching from Arabic to English.

She said, “It’s all adjectives.” Well, of course it’s not adjectives, but I knew what she meant: it’s decorative, it’s ornate, it’s intentionally pleasing.

I try to piece it out like a hieroglyphic, and I ask my wife, “Can you make any sense of this? Two who come to mind are Gay Talese and Joan Didion. There are some baseball trophies and plaques in a small room off Di Maggio’s bedroom, and on his dresser are photographs of Marilyn Monroe, and in the living room downstairs is a small painting of her that Di Maggio likes very much []: It reveals only her face and shoulders, and she is wearing a very wide-brimmed sun hat, and there is a soft sweet smile on her lips, an innocent curiosity about her that is the way he saw her and the way he wanted her to be seen by others.

” She says, “I have no idea what it means.” Those long Latin usages have so infected everyday language in America that you might well think, “If that’s how people write who are running the country, that’s how I’m supposed to write.” It’s not. Here’s a passage by Talese, from his book of collected magazine pieces, Joe Di Maggio lives with his widowed sister, Marie, in a tan stone house on a quiet residential street near Fisherman’s Wharf. [Notice all those one-syllable words: “the way he saw her and the way he wanted her to be seen.” The sentence is absolutely clean—there’s not one word in it that’s not necessary and not one extra word.

Another Egyptian student, when I asked him about Arabic, said, “It’s all proverbs. People say things like ‘What you are seeking is also seeking you.’” He also told me that Arabic is full of courtesy and deference, some of which is rooted in fear of the government.

“You never know who’s listening,” he said, so it doesn’t hurt to be polite.

Those nouns are rich in feeling, but they have no action in them—no people doing something we can picture.

My Spanish-speaking students must be given the bad news that those long sentences will have to be cruelly chopped up into short sentences with short nouns and short active verbs that drive the story forward.

I wish could walk around New York and hear people talking in proverbs.

But all those adjectives and all that decoration would be the ruin of any journalist trying to write good English. Spanish also comes with a heavy load of beautiful baggage that will smother any journalist writing in English.


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