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Are we really so bad at Grammar?

August 2, 2010

Continued from “Why does proofreading matter?”

The “we” here is the British, and to answer this question, I guess we have to compare ourselves with someone else.

Stella Collins pointed out in her post to UKHRD that a French colleague of hers found himself correcting grammatical mistakes in English and was personally “able to identify parts of speech and grammatical errors far better than anyone I have met recently.”

A straw poll of one such as this does not make the French better at grammar than us, of course. In fact, I have personally corrected French grammar written by French people on several occasions. However, documentary evidence to support Stella’s point is at hand.

Professor Lamb of Imperial College London found that his genetics students from overseas made an average of 18.8 mistakes per paper whereas their British educated peers made 52.2.

For details and an article in the Independent, see the Grammar to Go blog.

We were lucky enough also to have a personal comment from one of professor Lamb’s students, Pilar Orti: “I was taught by Professor Lamb myself and always admired the fact that he took the time to mark all the undergraduate coursework correcting grammar, spelling, etc as well as content.”

Conclusion:
Maybe we are worse at grammar than other nations. Maybe learning a second language is a good way to become aware of grammar in your own language as well as the one you are learning. I believe that both suggestions are true and that we don’t teach languages enough in school.

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