Dealing with Corrections

General discussion about learning languages
issemiyaki
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Dealing with Corrections

Postby issemiyaki » Mon Jul 20, 2015 6:47 am

We've all been there. You submit a piece of writing online in French, German or Japanese, and then you wait anxiously by the computer hoping that the people reviewing your work will shower your prose with praise. But sadly it comes back riddled with corrections. In fact the corrections are longer than the one small paragraph you submitted.

Well, the latest person to correct my French saw fit not to just correct my work. He re-wrote it! And since I understand French quite well, I know he CHANGED THE REGISTER to make it sound more formal. I wasn't addressing the French president, it was a paragraph for my journal.

Why do some insist on forcing language learners speak like diplomats? This is why I love the internet because it cuts through the bull and the false impression that many have about how they THINK the language should be spoken. I've had people actually tell me not to learn the elsions, yet they wonder why foreigners can't understand when someone says: J'ai pa'l choix. Or J'en train faire. And these are not ghetto people speaking like this, most professional, cosmopolitan Parisians speak like this.

How do you deal with overzealous correctors with inflated egos? How do you prevent yourself from taking it all so personally. (Uggg, can't believe I'm putting myself through this torture again for another language. Ahhh, the growing pains.
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Re: Dealing with Corrections

Postby Iversen » Mon Jul 20, 2015 8:13 am

I have got my share of corrections in school and at the university, and that was part of the learning experience. But even back then I wouldn't accept corrections that changed the things I wanted to express. For instance I once had had a row with a native French teacher at the university beause I had written something like "les bébés sont bons pour rien d'autre que (de) hurler" (meaning babys aren't good for anything but screaming), and she insisted that you couldn't write like that in French. OK maybe, but she didn't even try to suggest an alternative - the thought simply didn't occur to her that I meant what I wrote.

If you get lots of tiny corrections that each in itself is wellfounded and relevant, then the total result can still be overwhelming and confusing. Often the basic cause isn't lack of knowledge about the offending word or form in itself, but general sloppiness or maybe a lack of knowledge about the basic morphology of your language. In that case it would be better to pay better attention and maybe to spend some time on learning those darned grammatical tables than studying each correction in isolation.

Sometimes I have received corrections when I write on the internet, and I'm glad that people have taken their time to do them. But the only really important corrections are those that 1) with one fell swoop tell me how to avoid a LOT of errors in the future, 2) solve a problem which I know that I have struggled with (because then changes are that I understand the correction and remember it), or 3) give me a vital piece of information which I couldn't have known about even if I had used a standard dictionary or grammar.
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Re: Dealing with Corrections

Postby Elenia » Mon Jul 20, 2015 9:40 am

I think that I am generally lucky enough to avoid those kinds of corrections, and I try to avoid giving them. On the one occasion where I suspected someone's 'correction' had actually changed the content of my message, I commented asking them to clarify that point and see if there was another way of phrasing my sentence to make what I meant clearer. I think in that kind of situation, where there are only a couple of points where the native has overcorrected you, it is fine to just comment asking for clarification. So, in your case, you can ask something like 'is there a less formal way to say this?' or, 'how would I say this if just speaking to friends'.

If it's a whole text, however, it might be better to just ignore it and move on. I feel the people in question don't necessarily think they're better than you, but they automatically think that a learner of the language wants to learn the more formal registers, as they are more 'correct'. Their own goals are probably being able to pass tests, study formally or use the language professionally, and their learning experiences probably reflect that. For example, even the Swedish duolingo course teaches students to use only 'i dag' rather than 'idag' - despite the fact that I see idag much more often and it is even taught in the FSI Swedish course. It is just a part of the way we teach and conceive of languages. The formal register is the higher one and therefore the only one learners need to know. Of course, this isn't how it works in reality.

I submitted a correction on lang-8 yesterday that was quite long, and took a lot of my time. It was obviously a journal entry, and yet the writer made it fairly clear that he was learning for professional purposes. I corrected the grammar mistakes, pointing out where some are quite common among native speakers but probably shouldn't be adopted by a learner, but left all his contractions in, although they are frowned upon in academic writing. In hindsight, I wish I had left a note in my final comment telling him that, while contractions are fine in almost all situations, he shouldn't use them if ever he is writing an academic piece. I feel like that would have been more helpful than what I did, which is just leaving them in, but also MUCH more helpful than correcting them. If he actually started talking without his corrections (similarly, if a French learner spoke with absolutely no elisions) he'd sound like a robot.

EDIT: A there/their mistake. How embarrassing.
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Re: Dealing with Corrections

Postby Jar-Ptitsa » Mon Jul 20, 2015 11:23 am

Iversen wrote:I have got my share of corrections in school and at the university, and that was part of the learning experience. But even back then I wouldn't accept corrections that changed the things I wanted to express. For instance I once had had a row with a native French teacher at the university beause I had written something like "les bébés sont bons pour rien d'autre que (de) hurler" (meaning babys aren't good for anything but screaming), and she insisted that you couldn't write like that in French. OK maybe, but she didn't even try to suggest an alternative - the thought simply didn't occur to her that I meant what I wrote.


haha, that’s funny but true. Our neighbour has a baby and it is very annoying because of the screaming. Personally, I prefer the animals’ babies and the chicks, they are much sweeter and nice.

About the corrections, I like to know if my speaking or writing is incomprehensible, but i would like to receive only one or two corrections because more would be overwhelming and impossible remember them. Now we live in London i talk with some English people, and they don’t make corrections but if you don’t know a word or how to say a thing, then they tell you. But I don’t talk so much, i suppose if I talked more then they would correct more, but here they have so many foreigners. Sometimes they try to speak in French as well, and this is ok. I don’t make corrections for them, it would seem arrogant I think. Anyway, two of my colleagues are moroccans.
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Re: Dealing with Corrections

Postby basica » Mon Jul 20, 2015 11:36 am

I post on Lang-8 every day, I get a whole lot of corrections because well I'm still a beginner relatively speaking, and cases are hard man :) My strategy is to basically go through the mistakes I made and if the explanations are easily understood and implementable I take them on board, otherwise I just keep doing what I'm doing until I start seeing certain patterns in my corrections. Sometimes you'll get good correctors and sometimes not, don't sweat it too much just keep doing what you're doing. Corrections with a tutor are another thing, you sorta need to set expectations right up front like "don't correct me unless you see the same mistake a lot of times because otherwise we'll never get anywhere" for example.
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Re: Dealing with Corrections

Postby issemiyaki » Mon Jul 20, 2015 1:09 pm

Thank you all for your rich responses.

I just received a few more corrections from other people, and while there were quite a few corrections, they didn't infuriate me because I sensed they weren't trying to change what I had said, and make it sound more flowery. There are times when those types of corrections may be necessary in the future. But I'm just relieved that what I wrote was not gibberish.

You all made great points about how to spot good correctors, and also about taking what you need and just leaving the rest behind.
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