Tuesday, 29 January 2013

No Job for a Woman? Mind your Language!

Question:  Is there anything wrong with the following sentences?
  1. It's important for a doctor to be good at listening to his patients.
  2. Sometimes a manager needs to make decisions that will be unpopular with his staff.
  3. A nurse knows that she has a lot of responsibility for her patients' welfare.
  4. If someone wants to become a scientist, he needs to study hard at school.

Answer:  It depends what you mean by 'wrong'.  Grammatically, they're all fine.  However, to many English-speakers, there's something just a bit... uncomfortable... about them.

Simply put: why are the doctor, the manager and the scientist automatically men, while the nurse is a woman?  Aren't women doctors too?  And men nurses?  In English it's now customary to include both genders in statements like these - it's polite, even!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

New Year's Resolution: improve my English

Did you make any New Year's Resolutions last week, as the clock ticked towards 12, the fireworks started and people everywhere tried to remember the words to Auld Lang Syne?  If your resolution was to get better at English, what are you going to do next?

Actually, it doesn't really matter what your first step is, just as long as you do something.  You could...

  • look up language classes in your local area
  • find out whether studying in an English-speaking country is a possibility
  • set up a new social networking account that you'll only use in English
  • download a language learning app for your phone
  • beg, buy or borrow a book in English to practise your reading
  • start a blog
  • try to meet English speakers socially to practise conversation
  • do what you love - look for English videos, groups and sites relating to your hobbies and interests
And whatever you do, practise, practise, practise.  Time, effort, and repetition will all help you to improve.

Congratulations!  By taking that first step and finding a way to incorporate some more English into your daily life, you are already doing better at keeping your New Year's Resolution than most of the population!  Now for the second step, and the third...

Photo taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by @eltpics, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/