Why do some people here correct language that isn't wrong?

I've noticed more and more on here that people will correct language that just isn't wrong at all.

What are your thoughts on this? To me, people who write usually want to be able to speak well too. Correcting usage that might not be 100% grammatically correct but which would always be said in real life spoken usage is wrong.

There have been cases (which has just happened to me) where a perfectly good part of a sentence in French has been changed for a part which says exactly the same thing. Why would somebody do that?!

To write a spontaneous journal entry in your target language, without looking anything up or using a dictionary, whilst subvocalising how you would speak the sentence, and have it corrected as if it's wrong is very detrimental to learning. If i hadn't looked for an alternative opinion elsewhere i would be stuck thinking that the way i would naturally say something, which is correct, is actually wrong.

It's bad for confidence, bad for future usage and bad for aiding clear thought patterns whilst thinking in your target language.

The aim here is to learn to speak/write another language. Why are we correcting things that are totally fine in real life and replacing them with the pedantic whims/stylistic preferences of the corrector?


Mar 12, 2017 6:41 PM
Comments · 12
Phil, I was going to reply but Steve took the trouble to answer you seriously and you were rude to him.  This is not that kind of community.  It would be nice if you apologised to him.  
March 12, 2017
Correcting stuff is as easy as falling off a log; here are some examples. "Correcting language that isn't wrong" is illogical (it's impossible, by definition, to correct something that isn't wrong). "Isn't wrong at all" is a tautology (more economically expressed as "isn't wrong"). "100% grammatically correct" is a tautology (more economically expressed as "grammatically correct"). "Would always be said" is an overreach of power that is more modestly expressed as "would commonly be said". And so on. Error is extremely prevalent among humans, and so is error-correction.

But I think that the subtext of your question is: why would someone *change* something that isn't incorrect? I don't know. But that's just (arguably) a special case of error, and I would reiterate that error is extremely prevalent among humans. And so is error-correction.

Moving away from fun and onto more practical thoughts, though. I've recently realized, and gotten into the habit of mentioning at every opportunity, that questions and answers regarding language should take three orthogonal axes into account: correctness, comprehensibility, and natural-ness. Not looking at all three axes at the same time is to miss something important.
March 12, 2017

Steve mentioned "natural-ness" and I think that is the point where a lot of misunderstandings arise. I took a look at your last notebook entry and the correction. If you think someone corrected something that wasn't necessary, you should ask if it was really unnecessary or if there isn't more to it and, for example, the word(s)/construction you used simply aren't natural, i.e., that concept is not expressed in this way in the other language although the sentence is gramatically correct. If that's the case, the person did the right thing in correcting it, in my opinion. If you prefer not to receive such corrections, I would suggest adding a note at the end of your notebook entry, maybe in bold or italics, saying that you only want your text to be corrected for grammar/spelling.

Being a native speaker doesn't qualify people as editors. Some people unfortunately tend to rephrase everything and practically "rewrite" it in their own style. Personally I've found that there is a very fine line in correcting/editing between necessary and unecessary changes. I've corrected long entries with sentences which didn't sound natural at all but where I decided to only correct the grammar because otherwise I'd have to change too much of the sentence and the writer wouldn't understand why I did it. In those cases, I think it would be better to have a teacher who can explain their changes in details.

March 12, 2017

Steve - there was no 'subtext' - just you being one of the pedants. And yes it is correct to say they are 'correcting' something that isn't wrong - from the perspective of the person who amends the entry they are correcting you, rightly or wrongly.

You did actually prove a lot of what i said with your weird over the top grammar nonsense that doesn't apply in the real world. Nobody cares about 'tautology' or 'overreach of power'. People speak how they speak, and my writing in English is better than 99% of the population. I can't imagine what you must do to a learner. Maybe your students come out speaking like robots or something.

I look forward to ignoring your response.

March 12, 2017

On another site that is more specialized for helping with written language, they have tools that make it easier to color code and make more useful corrections. (I have written about it here if you want to see if you also like that site better for notebook entries.  On that site, people often use red to make corrections of grammatical errors and make suggestions in blue when they think something could be said in a more natural manner, more similar to what native speakers in their region would say.  That site also makes it easier to comment on each line to explain that it is just an alternative to think about, not that you have broken a rule.  

I think people are different in what they appreciate when a  native speaker ¨corrects¨ notebook entries.  I know when I have put things in blue and made a comment that this is how it would be more commonly said where I am from, I often get thank yous for doing that.  I think it especially helps with the possibility the person I am correcting could be writing perfectly correctly in British English or some other dialect of English and I just do not know it.   

I think italki makes does not make it so easy to make suggestions that are clearly just alternatives and it is easier to offend someone here. I think you should take all corrections with ¨a grain of salt¨ and assume that they are trying to be helpful but many people do not know as much as they think they do about their own language.  

March 12, 2017
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