Professor Pedantic 教授的考究學問
The professor awaits your query on academic writing, though in all honesty, he doesn’t have a lot of time for you. He is a tenured full professor and working on yet another magnificent academic tome. Even so, he has graciously consented to entertain your question. Submit it and prepare to be edified.

QUESTION: I am working hard to master use of English in my academic writing, but I find it very difficult not to write what I call “Chinese English.” Are there any sure methods to learning English composition that is acceptable to a native English writer?

Let me stipulate that the struggle you are having is an admirable one: You want to master a foreign language. The only people who fail in life are those who strive to learn and grow as individuals. It is certain that a person who is content to be fluent in his native language is never going to be embarrassed by his attempts to learn a second one. So, congratulations to you for being willing to risk failure in order to improve yourself. This progressive mindset is sure to help you as an academic as you explore the intellectual edges of current thought and assumptions.

But as a practical matter, it is frustrating to methodically translate a thought into another language and then learn that you have expressed yourself awkwardly or in a way that distracts from the thought being expressed. So-called “chinglish” is the result, the merging of Chinese and English into something puzzling to a native English speaker. Some of the problem is linguistics. The nuances of the English language, such as the forms a takes in varying usages, trip up even experienced Chinese-English translators. English is not an easy language to learn.

But Mandarin and Cantonese are not easy, so learning English is doable. I will suggest two ways to master composition in the English language (recognizing that British English and American English are not in perfect harmony). First, study English-speaking culture as much as English words. Language draws upon cultural assumptions. The more you understand the framework of a language, the more easily you can frame your thoughts compatibly. Second, have your papers critiqued by a native English speaker. Better that he, rather than a professor, embarrasses you.

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