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Tag Archives | English

Chinese verb structure creates immortality

Chinese_charactersTo prep for my trip to Guangzhou and Shenzhen next month (more on that later now at Writer, editor, pajama model), a friend and client suggested I read Tim Clissold’s “Mr. China.” It’s an interesting firsthand account of the business climate and culture in China when it was opening up to trade with the west in the 1990s.

Perhaps the most fascinating passage in the book, however, was this blurb on Chinese not changing verbs based on time (p. 132):

The link in China between daily language and the past is strengthened further by a lack of senses. In Chinese, there is no verb change depending on time. “Mao Zedong is a good leader” and “Mao Zedong was a good leader” are not distinguished in Chinese. Things that in our language are extinct remain alive in Chinese. Without the separation in language or thought between what “was” and what “is,” China’s past seems to merge into its present.

Confusing? Sure. But there’s something beautiful about a language allowing timelessness and immortality.

(Photo: Flickr/kevindooley)

Promoting the website for Maestro, an English language institute focusing on American accent development

Cara Fulton was the president of the Global Links Toastmasters club, which I belonged to when I lived in Washington, DC. Cara is also the owner of Maestro, LLC.

Maestro helps people learn global English, English pronunciation, and how to speak with an American accent (known as American accent development, reduction, or modification). Maestro also teaches students how to speak English as a second language (ESL). Instruction courses are offered online or in-person in Washington, DC.

And Cara is an excellent teacher and speaker, frequently winning Toastmasters’ contests.

I’ve been helping Cara optimizing the Maestro website for better search engine performance. So far we’ve

  • revised the text of the website to emphasize the keywords people use to find instruction on American accent development or mastering English
  • reviewed 33 search engines for possible inclusion of Maestro’s website (it’s interesting how many second- and third-tier search engines come and go)
  • created links to the Maestro website

While it can take a while to see the results of search engine optimization, there already has been an increase in the site’s visitors.

If you are interested in finding out how I can help your website become more visible in search engine results, please contact me.

The French consider getting rid of the semicolon

In her blog, Maitresse, fellow Gridskipper contributor Lauren Elkin details the possibility of France banishing the semicolon (no word on where it would go, although the obvious guess is the island of Elba).

I don’t speak French (and I have the report cards from high school and college to prove it, although I am about to study it again). But in English the semicolon, while often misunderstood and misused, serves a unique purpose (joining two independent phrases without a conjunction).

It’s also useful when writing a comma-separated list and some of the items themselves contain commas. (For example, “I have lived in Washington, DC; Boston, MA; and Winston-Salem, NC.”) So it’s interesting to contemplate what English would be like without the semicolon.

Also, before reading Lauren’s post, I had no idea that languages might treat the same piece of punctuation differently.

A non-native English speaker’s thoughts about English

Prajwal Sharma, who wrote about “Cleaning up your writing by avoiding these six common mistakes” as a guest writer on this site,” has a couple of good articles about English from his days writing for The Truman State Index (free registration required):

Both of Prajwal’s pieces, however, are insightful and worth reading. I usually enjoy reading non-native English speakers’ thoughts on our language. (Although I love the irony of one column saying that American’s mastery of English is dismal, yet the other piece encourages English speakers to share their knowledge with people trying to learn their language.)