Moved to

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I moved all my posts here to my website. Easier to manage, lol. See you there!

There, Their, or They're?

Friday, May 29, 2009

There are some words in English that sometimes make us confused because they have similarities in pronunciation and spelling. Mistakes in writing those words can be a serious problem in your grammar exam ;). I will try to list some of them along with the examples here.

accept (v), except (prep.)
They accepted my invitation.
Everyone except me attended the party.

affect (v), effect (n,v)
The verb affect means to influence; the verb effect means to cause to happen, and the noun effect means the result.

Pollution affects everyone.
Arbitrators have effected a settlement of the dispute.
The effect of the drug is well known.

cloth (n), clothes (n), clothe (v)
the noun cloth means artifact made by weaving or felting or knitting or crocheting natural or synthetic fibers; the noun clothes means clothing in general, or apparel; the verb clothe means to provide with clothes, or to cover as if with clothing

Woven cloth originated in Mesopotamia around 5000 BC.
The man was wearing old, dirty clothes.
The mountain was clothed in tropical trees.

compared to, compared with
Compared to is used to point out similarities, compared with is used to indicate differences.

He compared the crowd with the larger crowds of previous year.
He compared the crowd to a swarm of angry bees.

complement, compliment (n)
A complement is something that completes something else; a compliment is a statement of an approval or congratulations.

A subject complement follows the verb "to be".
She got many compliments on her new dress.

costume, custom, customs (n)
Costume refers to clothing; custom refers to a traditional practice or habit; customs means the agency for collecting duties imposed by a country on imports or exports.

She wore a beautiful costume to the party.
Customs differ from country to country.
You must pass through customs when you enter a country.

desert (n, v), dessert (n)
The noun desert means arid land with little or no vegetation; the verb desert means to leave behind, to abandon; and the noun dessert refers to a dish served as the last course of a meal.

It is very hot and dry in the desert.
The camp was deserted.
My favorite dessert is chocolate ice cream.

its (adj.), it's (pronoun + v)
Don't judge a book by its cover.
It's time to go home.

maybe (adv.), may be (v)
Maybe means possibly or perhaps; may be is a verb form indicating that a possibility exists.

Maybe you will find the wallet you lost.
She may be late.

personal (adj.), personnel (n)
Personal means private; personnel refers to the workers or staff of a business.

It is difficult to discuss personal problems.
All personnel must attend the meeting.

quiet (adj.), quite (adv.)
Quiet is the opposite of noisy; quite can mean completely or fairly.

After the boys left, the house was quiet.
She is quite beautiful.

their (adj.), they're (pronoun + v), there (adv.)
Use there when referring to a place and their to indicate possession. Remember that they're is a contraction of the words they and are. It can never be used as a modifier, only as a subject (who or what does the action) and verb (the action itself).

They left their books at home.
Please put your book over there.
There are many documents that are used in investigations
They're studying for the exam.
They're talking about their plan there.

Can you add some more? :D

Make Grammar Easy

Sunday, October 12, 2008

To grammar even kings bow (JB Moliere, Les femmes savants, II, 1672)

We might have learned English since we were in junior high school. Our teacher might have given us a bunch of grammar exercises to do. The teachers usually give a set of grammatical rules to memorize, while sometimes memorizing rules can be discouraging.

Some say grammar is not important when learning English or other languages. Well, it is true sometimes, as long as the person (or native speaker) you talk to understands what you say. However, as my professor said, learning English without grammar is nonsense. Grammar is important. You can’t speak accurately if you don’t use the correct grammar. Consider when your boyfriend/girlfriend, for example, says “I loved you” to you. You might not notice the [-d] sound in ‘loved’, and might be happy hearing that. Be cautious though, he/she might be telling you he/she loved you in the past time and doesn’t love you anymore now. Well this is just an example, my favorite one when giving tips about how important grammar is, haha.

Every language contains a set of grammatical rules. When we study grammar, we study the language pattern. Constant practice of using the language improves our grammar, because we learn the pattern through practicing. In other words, we are exposed to such pattern, over and over.

First way to start, read. Read as many English texts or books. If you’re a beginner, read children books. They are usually shorter, less complicated, and use simple grammar. Study the sentence pattern. If you find grammar constructions that confuse you, take note and discuss it with your teacher or friend. As your skill improves, select books that are more difficult.

You can also watch English movies or listen to English songs. The more you are exposed to English language, the easier for you to catch the grammatical rules. Sometimes songs are grammatically incorrect, but they do help me. When I was in high school, I had a grammar test and I was asked to make a sentence using “would rather…than…”. I didn’t remember if I had to use “to infinitive” or “infinitive without to” after “would rather”. Then I recalled a Backstreet Boys’ song that goes “I’d rather die than live without you”, and I could construct another sentence with the similar pattern. See how it helped me?

Another way to improve your grammar is by writing. Try to write simple stories or your weekend experience for example. It is okay if you write in your language and translate it. Writing directly in English sometimes will make you use simpler grammar and vocabulary. Translating from your native language forces you to write more complex English and it helps you improve your grammar and vocabulary. Then consult your teacher or ask your friend who has a good command in English to correct your writing. It is better if you ask a native speaker, because he/she knows sentences that sound right and do not sound awkward. During the process, make sure you watch for errors that you repeat over and over. Finally, practice using these things correctly. As time goes by, you will be able to think in English without having to translate, and your English will sound “English”.

Fun with Rhyme

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sometimes you have problem improving your vocabulary. I would suggest that you read any writings in English or watch English movies. You can also listen to English songs, follow the lyrics and find the meaning. Those are quite effective, especially when you have no native speaker to practice speaking to. However, I have my own way to build up my lexicons (vocabulary). I like using rhymes. A rhyme is a repetition of identical or similar sounds in two or more different words and is most often used in poetry and songs. I think rhyme is an easy way to find and use new words, mainly because it enables you to find similar sounding words. I usually use rhymes when writing poetry.

You can start by collecting words that have similarity in the final syllable. For example, you have the word "darkness". You can find other words that end in "-ness". If you have no idea, use the opposite of darkness, such as "brightness". Surely you will have other rhyming words, just write them down. If you have difficulty, you can go to this site I just found (click this). Now you have a list of rhyming words. Arrange them so as to create a meaningful line or sentence. When you write a poem, sometimes you don't have to write full sentences.

Here is an example, one of my poems (crummy I know, heheh):


You are a witness...
A witness of the darkness
When the night whispers you a call
Through the wind you crawl
Spread your wings, never think to fall
Just hope and pray...
Hope and pray to get a prey
You're a witness...
A witness of the darkness
When the sun spreads his brightness
You just start your loneliness...

You can see which words rhyme. That is how my poems usually go (more of my poems can be found in my personal blog), full of rhymes and repetition. They might sound crappy, but that way I can improve my vocabulary (and it is kind of my poetry style, heh). It works pretty well for me, though. Just try it anyway, and you will find it an interesting way (rhyming, eh? :P).

Speak It Right!

Friday, May 23, 2008

We Indonesians do not speak English as our mother tongue (although some people do). We mostly speak our local language; for example, we speak Javanese because we are Javanese. As Indonesians, we are also able to speak our national language, Bahasa Indonesia. However, English is a foreign language in our country. Many of us do not acquire English at birth, therefore we often make errors and mistakes learning it. But don’t worry, American or British kids make them too. Language acquisition is a process, and it takes time. So when you make mistake, don’t consider it a terrible thing.

I have seen people making mistakes when speaking English. I do make mistakes too sometimes as a learner. The interesting thing is that we usually make similar mistakes when speaking English. There are many studies proving this. Here are some common mistakes I have noticed:

Thanks before

You are supposed to say “thanks in advance”. Indonesians tend to say “thanks before” because there is an Indonesian language interference. We usually say “terima kasih sebelumnya” right? And we just translate it directly to terima kasih ‘thanks’ and sebelumnya ‘before’. But native speakers don’t say it that way. As I said above, they say it “thanks in advance”. So if you write its abbreviation when you send an SMS you should use TIA (thanks in advance) instead of thanks b4 (before).

No hurt feeling, no heart feeling, etc.

Sometimes you say one of these when you've said something you think is rude and would like to apologize just in case the other person feels offended. Those phrases are incorrect. Native speakers might know what you mean when you utter those phrases, but it's not written correctly. You should change ‘hurt’ and ‘heart’ to ‘hard’, and add ‘s’ to ‘feeling’. So you have to say “no hard feelings”.

Its mean, it’s mean, its happen, etc.

These are common mistakes made when the speakers intend to say “it means, or it happens”. A kind of a slip of the tongue? It could be. In addition, the present tense marker -s attached to a verb is not an easy feature to acquire. It is easier for an English learner to say or notice the -ing sound (as in ‘meaning’) rather than -s sound (as in means), because -ing sound is a salient feature in English. It sounds obvious, and you can hear it clearly. So, let’s say you want to explain something, then you have to say “it means”. If you say “it’s mean,” then you mean something is cruel (mean is an adjective synonymous to cruel).

[Note: Actually you would say "that's mean" or "that was mean" not "it's mean". If you say "its mean" an English speaker might think you are talking statistics.]

Now you know how to say the correct English forms. I hope this short passage helps you improve your English. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.


acquire = memperoleh

acquisition = pemerolehan

adjective = kata sifat

feel offended = merasa terhina

mother tongue = bahasa ibu

salient = mencolok

slip of the tongue = keseleo lidah

sound = bunyi

synonymous = bersinonim

*from the 2nd edition of e-loen

Today or To Die?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

G'day mate! When I was in college my professor once told the class a funny story about Australian English. I think many of you notice that Australians have their own English accent, which is different from American or British English.

So this is how the story goes. I think my prof modified it but I still think it is funny, anyway.

Australian guy : Are you going to the hospital to die?

Indonesian prof : [surprised] No, I’m not going there to die.

Australian guy : I mean, are you going to the hospital TO DIE?

Indonesian prof : I'm not going there TO DIE, okay? [aggravated]

Australian guy : I was asking if you are going to the hospital to die or tomorrow.

Indonesian prof : Oh, you mean TODAY?

Australian guy : Yea, to die, wednes-die.

Vowel pronunciation is the most significant difference between American, British, and Australian English. Elongate your vowels [Eel-oon-gayte uur vowls]. Note that words ending with [ay] sound are pronounced [ie]. So, practice "to-die" so you will be ready tomorrow :).

**from the 1st ed. of e-loen

My New Blog

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

So this is my new blog. I created it to post my writings in e-loen. E-loen is a free electronic magazine from, a blogger community in Semarang. I am the contributor of the English Corner column, in which i write stuff on how to speak English, tips to learn it, and so forth.

I hope this blog will be helpful, and I would be very glad if you can give me feedback for improvement. As I myself am an English learner too (and not a native speaker), I welcome any constructive criticisms and suggestions. I would really appreciate that :).