As the perpetual learner of the English language, I still find two parts being the most difficult.
- Prepositions: Am I living on the seaboard or at the seaboard? I can never remember, and still it doesn’t come natural.
Am I sitting at my desk? Or perhaps by my desk, even? I’m pretty sure now, it’s at. I know for sure I’m sitting on the sofa, but in the armchair. I was corrected once, when I said I was sitting in the sofa. The one who corrected me, bless his heart, got a bashing from a friend who said to him: “… and this coming from a person who can’t even spell the word preposition!!!“ 🙂 Back then I just used the corresponding preposition from my native tongue, and there we sit in the sofa.I know the cat is sitting on my lap, but normally I would have said he’s sitting in my lap.
I work at whatever company, but I’m in my office. There’s another thing too, but that’s not related to prepositions: If I didn’t know better, I’d say “The microwave is standing on the counter.” Now I know, so I say that it’s sitting there. I thought that sounded funny in the beginning — I visualized the microwave sort of hunkering down, on the kitchen counter.
- Next issue would be “one word, or two?”Is it weeknights or week nights? I know for sure it isn’t wee knights 🙂. Meat balls or meatballs?
When I’m not sure, I use a hyphen. Again, it’s my native tongue that’s causing the problem. There, they put all words together so, for example, two words like “Sunday afternoons” would become “söndagseftermiddagar”. A floor sander becomes “golvslipningsmaskin”. That word really consists of three words, put together; golv-slipnings-maskin.All that has caused me to often feel uncertain whether to write words together or split them into two. No big deal here, on the computer, where I get a red underscore when I’m in the wrong, but that’s not always the case, and I’m still learning these things the best I can.
If you’ve never tried to learn a second langue, or third even, you’ve never had to consider these issues. Kids growing up bilingual just don’t know how blessed they are, to get two languages “for free”. I’m lucky, because I have my dear husband who’s also my live-in-dictionary/grammar. So easy to just ask! It’s worse when I’m not even aware, when I think I’m right and don’t even hesitate. Secondly, how to remember. I’ve found jotting each thing down, by hand, really helps for me. Not always, though. I still have a hard time remembering the pronunciation of “saline”. Listening to it now, in Websters, so I know it’s ‘SAY-line’, but yesterday, out by the ocean, where I was breathing the saline air, I wasn’t sure.