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Our company blog featuring our work teaching English pronunciation, grammar, and test preparation in Washington D.C.  Our place to share resources for improving English language skills and for newcomers to the city.

'Word Crimes' parody music video

"Weird Al" Yankovic has been making parodies of popular songs since the 1980s, and this particular one is a commentary on the general decline of writing skills in the US. It's aimed at native speakers who don't bother with grammar and writing conventions as well as those who write in text language. If you are still confused about when to use 'its' versus 'it's', then this one is for you. It's time "2 lern some grammer."

Third Language Map of the US by State

Most people know that Spanish is the second most common language in the US, but what is the third? This map shows the breakdown by state of the third most common languages, and some of the results may surprise you. It's also a good indicator of immigrant settlements in the US and clusters of Native American tribes. Scroll down for even more specific language breakdowns. What are the most common languages aside from Spanish in your community?

What is 'good writing' in English?

William Zinsser is a prolific writer, a professor, and author of the classic writing text On Writing Well. In this speech to the incoming international students at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, he explores the concept of 'good writing' and how it is intricately tied to both the structure and culture of the native language. He goes on to explain how this plays out in English. It's a fun and informative read for any lover of languages and anyone who wishes to improve his/her writing in English. The intended audience is nonnative speakers of English, but native speakers can benefit from his advice, too.

What is considered 'good' writing in your language? How is it different from English?

On the psychological and spiritual impact of writing in a second language

In this op-ed (opinion-editorial) piece from the New York Times, author Costica Bradatan explores the idea of writing in a second language leading to a re-birth of the self: "When she starts writing in the new language the world is born anew to the writer. Yet the most spectacular rebirth is her own. For this is a project of total reconstruction of the self, where no stone is left unturned and nothing will look the same again." Now, I know some of you are thinking, "But I still have to look up the words I need" or "Maybe, if your writing fluency is already so good that you have brain space left over to contemplate such things", but even so, I think most of us can agree that we do not feel like our familiar selves when writing in our second language, if for no other reason than we don't feel like we have to tools to express ourselves in the same way as we would in our native languages. Read on for a positive spin on the familiar and common struggle of written self-expression in a language that is not your own.

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