Sunday, January 19, 2014

Functioning in English in China

I use Grammarly's plagiarism checker because plagiarism and grammar are relative for someone who lives in China!

I haven't written much about what it is I actually DO in China. Most people assume that I teach English. This is true. I do!

I teach 4-6 year olds how to speak English by doing a lot of demonstrating and "experiential learning." That means that if we're learning about apples, we hold apples, pretend to eat them, and shop for them in a pretend store. At best, their English level is basic to intermediate. We're still at the point of making sure our kids say articles like "a" and "the" {this type of word doesn't really exist in the same function in Chinese} and we don't focus on more complicated grammar situations {don't get me started about plural verbs}.

When I'm in public, it's even worse. I find myself speaking super slowly with broken sentences {grammatically incorrect English is sometimes easier for non-fluent speakers to understand}. I often use the wrong verb tense or answering questions in that way that most public schools teach is correct {it's not!}. For example, when I'm in the U.S., I'd answer the question, "how are you," with "I'm well, and yourself?" Proper, yes? Here, I might answer any number of ways. Most of them make me cringe.

Because I don't always write or speak in {correct} English , I sometimes forget the best way to word and structure sentences. This has had an effect on my writing, and especially my blog writing. I've noticed that it has become less polished and I'm making more mistakes that I can't edit out as easily as I once could {graduate school was great for that!}. More than that, I always worry that after reading a novel, and the accompanying reviews that my thoughts aren't as unique as I think they are.

So, when Nick from Grammerly contacted me about trying it out, I was excited! A few of the bloggers I follow have tried it, and had great things to say. To test it out, I ran a few of my upcoming reviews {and this post} through Grammarly. At Nick's suggestion I did so before and after I edited it to note the differences.

Both times, Grammarly found some mistakes, but even better, found some places for improvement in style. It is especially helpful, in my opinion, for spotting the passive voice and run-on sentences. I use either far too many commas, or not enough, and I love that Grammarly helps me find the balance. Suspected mistakes are highlighted and explained, and you can edit your work right on the website before you run it though Grammarly a second time. Very convenient!

Oh, and the plagiarism checker? Well, it set my fears to rest. Some duplicate language was found, but not on websites or in text that had anything to do with my topic or that I'd ever read before. So, I'm now confident that I'm not copying anyone. I am confident that I'm writing my own thoughts about the books I review, and not something from someone else that happened to stick in my brain.

Thank you, Grammarly, for helping me get my writing back on track!

Disclosure: I was offered some compensation for writing about Grammarly. I get to use their service for free and I can buy a few books off of Amazon. I love their website and this post reflects my honest opinions. 

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