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  1. Newbie
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    #1

    Helping My Roomate understand Sentence structure

    Hey everyone, I'm posting here today because I'm trying to help my roommate improve his writing. I'm a native English speaker and he's from Bangladesh, and I can tell right now that I have my work cut out for me. I want to be up front here, I'm not a trained ESL instructor, and he would probably be better off going to a skilled teacher, but he really can't afford that so I'm the best he can do.

    One problem that I'm having is that there are mistakes in the syntax of his sentences that I readily notice but that he doesn't seem to pick up on. I want to help coach him when I find such errors, but it's difficult for me to do so because these mistakes are usually things that I just pick up on intuitively without thinking much about them, and coaching my roommate is forcing me to think about and articulate on why these mistakes are actually mistakes. My temptation is to simply step in and edit the sentence for him and say, 'this is a more appropriate way of expressing that thought' but if I do that he'll never come to understand the underlying principles that lead me to that conclusion; doing that would simply serve as a purely cosmetic solution to a deeper-running issue.

    Anyways, here are some examples of such sentences that I've come across in his writing:
    Example 1: [In our last tutoring session], we discussed <why> the term "accurately" was a poor [word] choice in my writing.

    The material in square brackets is stuff that I added for context, but my main issue is that he omitted the word 'why' when he wrote the sentence, and because he did that, the sentence's syntax is incorrect. I need to be able to explain the principles to him that make it so.

    Example 2: In the sentence where I wrote 'accurately', <my use of the word> was not appropriate because 'accurately'... is best used to describe something attempting to remain true to a standard or hit a target.

    Here, he seems to be missing anything akin to the subject I've included in the angle brackets, which makes it so the part of the sentence 'was not appropriate' doesn't actually point to anything.

    Any suggestions?
    Last edited by GoesStation; 10-Jul-2020 at 22:19. Reason: Put the final third of the post in the default font size (emsr2d2); fix other formatting (GoesStation)

  2. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Helping My Roomate understand Sentence structure

    Yikes. I'm not a teacher, either. I've seen ESL teachers at work, and they really do pick apart the parts of speech.

    But don't underrate the power of listening. Even for an adult learning a new language, the act of listening to the language without structured lessons is a powerful way to learn. So don't be compelled to have a reason for the things you teach (or try to teach) him. Just being clear on what's right and what's wrong is a big help in itself, even if you can't explain why.

    Also, keep in mind that English is a difficult language. Even we native speakers make mistakes. So don't expect him to soak it all up at once.

    Now I'll get out of the way so you can see what some folks who know the trade say.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

  3. Moderator
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    #3

    Re: Helping My Roomate understand Sentence structure

    Quote Originally Posted by Keanu View Post
    Where did my advice go?
    It was deleted for being flippant and unhelpful. You're welcome to participate here, but only if you make positive, useful suggestions or ask questions seeking serious responses. Posting unhelpful messages will get you suspended or banned.
    I am not a teacher.

  4. Member
    Interested in Language
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    #4

    Re: Helping My Roomate understand Sentence structure

    I agree, as a native speaker I had very little formal instruction in English grammar. I know when something is wrong but nine times out of ten I really can't explain why.
    Retired magazine editor and native British English speaker - not a teacher

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