Fearless English

  • How to Overcome Page Fright

    Some people are natural writers, but that doesn’t mean they write perfect first drafts. In fact, bad first drafts are the norm, not the exception. Most writers have to revise their work several times before they consider their draft “final.” 

    Even if you’re a writing natural, you may still find it hard to get started, especially in a second language.  And some of you may never feel completely comfortable with the written word, like my student Ivan, who loves numbers and formulas but shuns words and sentences. 

    Like an actor with stage fright before a performance, many of us experience page fright when we find ourselves face-to-face with a blank page.   Read More...

  • Special Post: Changing Immigration Policy

    Many people—both foreign- and native-born—are understandably nervous about the future. Will the president-elect carry out the harsh immigration policies he argued for during his campaign? What will change, and what will stay more or less the same?  Read More...

  • Ups and Downs

    English doesn’t have a reputation as a musical language. Italian, Swedish, and Mandarin Chinese seem to “sing” in a way that English doesn’t, but the English language has its own unique rhythm and cadence.

    If you’ve been living in the United States for a while, you’ve probably noticed that Americans use their voices a little differently from what you’re used to in your own language. Our voices get higher, lower, louder, or softer depending on our meaning—and depending on particular patterns of pronunciation. We linger over particular sounds and words to emphasize what’s important, and we speed right past what isn’t. Although we believe in equal time when it comes to presidential debates, we don’t give equal time to every syllable in a word or to every word in a sentence.  Read More...

  • It’s About Time

    Last week, Valeria—one of my former students—kept me waiting for nearly an hour at the restaurant where we had agreed to meet for lunch. When she finally arrived, I was pretty miffed.

    Just think of all the glorious things I could have done with that hour! Instead of nibbling olives and getting indigestion, I could have organized a kitchen cabinet or called a sick relative. I could have written a diplomatic email message to my grumpy neighbor, the one who is always complaining that I don’t recycle properly. I could have done something. Clearly, Valeria had no respect for my time, and that meant she had no respect for me, or so I felt.  Read More...

  • Can you trust native speakers?

    Native speakers of American English, like native speakers of any language, know their own language without having to think about it much. But that doesn’t mean they always speak the language correctly. In fact, we American English speakers make mistakes—and we make them often.

    Here’s just one small example.  Read More...

  • The “ing” thing (Part II)

    Those three little letters—ing—seem to be everywhere! But before we move along to gerunds, present participles, and weird variations on continuous tenses, let’s take a look at the future continuous.  Read More...

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