Alison

Recent Posts

Homonyms

Posted by Alison on 1/3/20 11:00 AM

English is one of the languages in which spelling is a big deal. Spelling bees were created in English, and the concept is not present in other languages in which words are more often pronounced just like they look. In English, we have words that are pronounced the same but have different meanings and spellings (homophones). We also have a lot of words that are spelled the same but have different meanings; these words are homonyms, and they are the focus of this post.

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Tags: homework help, English, high school

Grammar: One to 1

Posted by Alison on 1/1/20 11:00 AM

When learning a new language, students almost always begin with the alphabet and numbers. We use letters, of course, to form words, which form sentences that express ideas of varying complexity in a form that people who read this written language can understand. Numbers designate a different kind of language, one that conveys equations and measurements, mathematical calculations and scientific formulas. But sometimes the two forms come together, when, for example, we are outlining how to follow numerical steps or stating someone’s age or simply noting that there is more than one right way to write numbers. How and when are we supposed to put numbers into words?

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Tags: creative writing, English, expository writing

Fun English Facts

Posted by Alison on 12/23/19 11:00 AM

English is weird. There is no denying it. As one of the most fluid languages in terms of its continued evolution over time, it has historically been quite a difficult language to learn. And yet, it is considered the world’s universal language. Below are 10 fun facts you may not have known about English:

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Tags: English

Betwixt and between: difficult grammar rules explained

Posted by Alison on 11/25/19 11:00 AM

English is not the easiest language to learn. This may be because of the many exceptions to its rules or because the same combinations of letters can be pronounced in many different ways. English also has one of the largest vocabularies of any recorded language, which means English speakers can say what they mean in a lot of different ways, but they also have a lot more words potentially to misuse, often without even realizing it. This post covers the correct application of some words that sound right but are often spoken or written in the wrong time or place.

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Tags: creative writing, English, expository writing

Speech is Silver, Silence is Golden: How Pausing in Conversation can Transform the Way you Communicate

Posted by Alison on 7/21/17 6:00 PM

Many people probably recognize the second part of that proverb as an oft-quoted adage to dictate the importance of quiet in our busy, noisy lives. The full version, as written above, originates in English thanks to Thomas Carlyle, who translated it from part of a larger German work in 1831 (which can be found on phrases.org/uk). The translated passage begins, "Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves together," according to the same website.  

If we stopped to think about this, in a moment of peace and quiet, we might recognize the truth in this idea. Silence gives us the chance to pull together information or speech to which we have just been exposed but which perhaps we need more time to process. To think about what you want to say before speaking is common advice, especially to avoid realizing a different idiom, that of "I spoke too soon."

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Tags: English

Why Does English Borrow So Many Words From Other Languages?

Posted by Alison on 5/22/17 6:30 PM

The Canadian blogger and free-lance reviewer James Nicoll created the following epigram on the English language: "English doesn't borrow from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, knocks them over and goes through their pockets for loose grammar."

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Tags: English

The Five Key Difference Between American and British Spelling Conventions

Posted by Alison on 5/1/17 5:57 PM

Before America became a nation, the colonists who arrived to establish the country spoke English. From England. As there was not yet an authoritative source for how to spell words correctly in English, the colonists spoke the English they were used to back home and wrote much the same way, using the way language was written in English literature as a guide, according to this brief mental floss video. The first official written authority on the English language was Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1755, which served as the trusted reference for English language use in the United States until Noah Webster invented one of his own. Webster reasoned that a new country should have a new language, and thus the first American dictionary was born. Webster's A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language was published in 1806 partly to solidify America's cultural as well as linguistic independence from Britain.

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Tags: English

No butter? No bother! How context impacts meaning when speaking a language

Posted by Alison on 3/27/17 7:07 PM

A friend and I recently traveled to Dublin, where we were struck by how accessible the history and beauty of the city seemed, in a way that was easy to get to know. The people we encountered were friendly and eager to strike up a conversation, and they often did – with what we considered wonderfully melodic Irish accents. Notwithstanding the fact that the spoken language there is also English, however, we were not able to catch the meaning of every word we heard. One evening at a casual local restaurant, one of the waitresses who took our order followed up with what we heard as "no butter?" We were confused because it seemed an unlikely question, to have butter or not, on the dish my friend had ordered. The waitress, on seeing our perplexed faces, quickly clarified with a smile, "no worries!"

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Tags: English

Don't Actually Break Your Leg - Common English Idioms Explained

Posted by Alison on 2/27/17 4:51 PM

One of the recent lessons I gave to my English Language Learners involved English idioms and their origins. An idiom is a saying that does not mean what the words literally express, but rather it has some representative meaning behind the words. Often, the reasons for the meanings of idioms are obscure; in this post, I will try to bring to light a few commonly used idioms and where they come from.

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Tags: English

Back to the Basics: Past, Present, and Future Tenses in English Explained

Posted by Alison on 1/30/17 6:34 PM

As an English teacher and literature major in college, I am passionate about the English language. I am a self-identified stickler for grammar, and I will correct a text to a friend if I notice it lacks an apostrophe or contains an erroneous punctuation mark.

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Tags: English