ESL ~ English as a Second Language

If you are a non-native speaker, it is often difficult to make yourself understood.  In the written word, fluent clarity can be almost impossible.  Something as simple as interpreting a story can become disastrous--especially when colloquialisms and slang enter the equation.

Here's an example from my real life professional experience.  Recently, a former colleague presented a paper at an international conference.  His talk was memorable...but unfortunately for the wrong reasons.

Having been a professor in England for years, he felt confident enough to personally translate this presentation from his native German to English.

When he got up to speak, my colleague started with an anecdote about a juvenile delinquent.  Evidently, the boy had been extremely violent to his female babysitter.  Obviously, this was an extremely serious subject and not at all a laughing matter.  We all listened attentively.

My colleague undoubtedly meant to say that the boy had "beaten" her black and blue.  Instead, he told the audience how the delinquent teenager had "banged the babysitter black and blue."

For a native speaker of English, the mistake is both obvious and hilarious.  For the rest of the talk, most of us were smirking and trying desperately not to laugh--particularly when my colleague kept using the word "banged" over and over.

Yet, for a non-native speaker, the problem isn't at all obvious.  Indeed, my colleague was completely oblivious to the issue.  He had no idea that "bang," when used as a verb, is English slang for having sex. 

In this case, unfortunately for him, my colleague is very well-known in his field.  Nobody in the audience had the courage to tell him his mistake and correct his English.

Thankfully, having known him for years, I was able to pull him aside afterwards and explain to him the very colorful element he had inadvertently added to his story.  Though embarrassed, as I'm sure you can imagine, he was extremely grateful to know.

Could this happen to you?
Most definitely!  In the course of my academic career, I worked with dozens of people from many different countries.  None of them were native speakers of English and they all had one problem in common.  They could not achieve a native voice in their writing.  Grammar was frequently an issue. Sometimes the thesaurus did them more harm than good (as was the case with my German colleague). With the differences between British and American English added to the mix, the task of simply communicating often seemed insurmountable.

Was there something wrong with them?  Absolutely not!  This is the nature of having learned rather than native fluency.  Sometimes, there are aspects to the language that you will never quite grasp, no matter how long you have known or used it.  Some things only a native speaker would catch.

Why risk it?
Whatever the reason behind your writing--be it storytelling, presenting research findings or simply writing a term paper--you want to be understood and convey your intended meaning.  You certainly don't want your message to be lost in miscommunication or misunderstanding.

My English Editing and Proofreading services provide a review of your draft with a focus on improving your writing in English.  It can cover not only proper English usage and phrasing but also expressions and word choice.  The goal is to enable you to be fully understood by ensuring that your writing conveys the message you intend (and nothing unintended).  We offer three levels of ESL-specific services from which to choose.

ENGLISH SUBSTANTIVE EDITING ($0.024 per word):  This is an in-depth editorial review which focuses on content and structure.  It is for authors who are new to writing in English or who are not comfortable doing so.  Language errors are identified and corrected.  Punctuation, capitalization, spelling and grammatical mistakes are also addressed.  Coherency, flow and comprehensibility are also addressed, with extensive editorial suggestions for improvement provided.

ENGLISH COPY EDITING ($0.015 per word):  This is for authors who have some experience writing professionally in English but lack confidence in their ability to communicate fluently in the written word.  This editorial service ensures proper sentence structure, word choice, grammar, punctuation, spelling and capitalization.  Comprehensibility is the main focus.

ENGLISH PROOFREADING ($0.008 per word):  This is a basic proofread to catch and eliminate language errors as well as grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes.  It is for more confident writers in English who need a final check on their work.