La Liseuse
Can anyone explain something that has been puzzling me? Can anyone explain the rationale behind a certain style of question which regularly appears in this section? It's the type of query in which the asker presents two sentences, identical apart from a single word or phrase, and then asks 'Does X mean the same as Y in these sentences?' While I appreciate the value of analysing something by testing its boundaries, and see the value of this approach to grammar, I fail to understand what this can achieve with regard to vocabulary. The usual answers are 'Not really. The meaning is different', or - at best - Well, they mean the same in this particular sentence, but ..' To my mind, these learners are approaching things from the wrong angle. If I come across a new word, I'll ask 'Can I use X in this context, too?' or 'Can I also use X to talk about ..?'. This seems the logical way to learn how to use new language. Why, then, do so many learners seem fixated on testing the context, rather than the target language?I'm also posting this as a discussion.
Jul 27, 2014 8:55 AM
Answers · 21
Dear Friends If you need an example, please go now to the post entitled "little way".
July 27, 2014
Well, from where I see it, the question is valid since there are occassions where two terms may be used indistinctively. "If" may be replaced by "whether" in sentences such as: I will go even if it rains or snows. I will go whether it rains or snows. But not in: We can go tomorrow if you want. So the question: "Does "if" mean the same as "whether" in these sentences?" would be a correct and probably necessary question for a learner. Also, some words may be perceived as "the same" by most native speakers, even though they could imply different things that most people is unaware of. For example: "north" and "northern". That city is north France = outside France. That city is in northern France = in the north part of France, not outside of it. Though, I do not know any native speaker that would make a mistake using those words, I know very few that would be able to explain the difference (I might just not know enough language oriented English speakers). On top of that, there are expressions that are used under certain circumstances due to protocol, but would be unlikely to be used in a different scenario, though they mean the same thing. A secretary may say to a person on the phone "the line is occupied", but if she is calling from home to her brother and his brother is talking she will not say "the line is occupied", she will say "the line is busy", so the learners will also wonder under what circumstances each should be used. Finally, certain words or preposition could change from one variant of a language and another. In certain area of England people say "I have to take a decision", whereas most of the English population would say "I have to make a decision". So a learner, after seeing this kind of expression, could be wondering if both mean the same, if they mean a different thing, if they are both appropiate, et cetera.
July 27, 2014
Su.Ki., it's systemic and afflicts a large percentage of the world's population of English learners. I know what you mean. Here's one illustration: "Can you tell me the difference between 'conflict among fellow workers' and 'paradox among fellow workers '? Do they mean the same thing? The reason for this phenomenon is the way the teachers in certain countries teach English. Students recite word lists and synonyms from a "native-English" dictionary. When they see "conflict", they remember that in that native dictionary, under the native word for "conflict", "paradox" is also given. So they come and ask. It's a widespread phenomenon among certain nations. Basically students "use English words to write essays drafted in their native language", so that they are there own human transliteration machines. They are not learning English. They are learning to match each native word and phrase that come to their minds with a word or phrase memorised from a native-language dictionary or a word list issued by their English teacher.
July 27, 2014
If you like, I can do an example for your amusement. Original sentence: My brother had some fresh Japanese raw fish for lunch. Can I say this instead: My comrade possessed some new Nipppn live fish for his midday eating matter.
July 27, 2014
SuKi... the answer to your query may be as simple as realizing that the "askers" are not yet proficient in the English language, hence the difficulty as expressing themselves accurately ( a problem that most language speakers suffer from, at least from time to time. I could also be possible that they just want to know if the two words are synonyms. This comment may well be worth exactly what you paid for it.... :)
July 27, 2014
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