never listen to what your teachers tell you about your writing other than spelling and grammar

Music Will Save Your SOUL (and your pronunciation)

Other blogs and articles and even books can tell you why you should listen to music while learning a foreign language, but they don’t really tell you how. So here are a few personal tips of mine for how to get the most out of music in your target language.

1. Listen, don’t read: A lot of people will say “go find foreign songs and look up the lyrics!” and I say hold up on the lyrics. When listening to music just listen. Don’t worry about meaning and words just let all of that go and focus on the music and the sounds. (Though if you like, you are allowed to look up a lyrics translation once just to get a basic meaning of the song but don’t get stuck on meaning quite yet.) This is important for learners of all levels. If you’re a beginner it can help you start off good pronunciation wise and for an advanced learner it can help you in places where your pronunciation could still use a little improvement. Imitate the sounds as best as you can, advanced learners this is important: forget how you “know” it to sound (i.e. how you’ve always been pronouncing it) and just listen and repeat exactly what you’re hearing. Because sometimes what you “know” it to sound might not be accurate. I still remember in my Chinese class some people pronounced words wrong to the bitter end because in the beginning they’d started off incorrectly, the teacher eventually gave up correcting them so they assumed that meant they had it right, and it never quite left. (Know I have nothing against accents in foreign languages the goal is to do the best you can and just ‘cause it’s your best doesn’t mean you can’t set a new best :) Let these songs get mixed into your regular playlists and let them just become a part of life.

2. Reference lyrics: Don’t sit there with your eyes buried in the lyrics, but keep them handy. Long after you’ve gotten a good gist of the song without ever reading anything you can finally look at the lyrics. But use them to check out the parts you’re not quite sure on. Some sounds in foreign languages can be difficult to distinguish, perhaps the distinction doesn’t exist in your native language. Here’s your chance to kind of start to know what you’re pronouncing. You might find a few sounds you missed (or were omitted intentionally) in the song. There’s also sounds that you’ve been hearing the same but seeing them spelled you realize they’re different. You’ve been listening to this song for so long it won’t take you long to start hearing and imitating that distinction. You might also notice some sounds that are different from written and that’s just an aspect of the language (like Russian o going to a when it’s unstressed) but now you’ve got it down the right way long before you even looked at the spelling which often confuses pronunciation more than it helps. You can learn where the word breaks are and sentence breaks because they’re not always clear in music. If you can add the lyrics to your song (you can do this easily with iTunes/apple devices I don’t know about other devices) so you can have them for reference every time the song comes up on a playlist. Continue this step until you can basically recite the song and have a native speaker understand you. For languages with different alphabets or tones, here’s how you should approach it: alphabets/abjads/syllabaries should be left in the original writing system, it’s good practice for you to learn to read especially in places where letter and sound don’t match/can change. This would include Cyrillic, as well as the Arabic writing system and the many writing systems used to write the many languages in south and south east Asia. Add accents if accents are a thing you need (even if they’re not normally written in casual writing). If you’re learning Japanese it’s okay write out the pronunciation for Kanji, but it’s best if you do it in one of the Japanese syllabaries (Hirgana/Katakana) and keep the original Kanji just put the hirgana next to it in parentheses or something to help you get used to the kanji. Delete it when you’re ready. If you’re learning Chinese do put pinyin with proper tones underneath each line of characters. Tonal languages: it is very important that you make sure your tones now come into play, like I said before, by the end of this step you’re going to want to be able to basically “speak” the lyrics, and often tones can get lost in music but can be key in speech.

Photo: Example of some lyrics on my iPod

3. Learn meaning: Last but certainly not least, now it’s time to learn the meaning of this song you’ve known for like ever now. But don’t just look up someone else’s translation and roll with it. You don’t know who made that translation or if it’s even good. Now if you started this journey with a song at the same time you started your journey with a language you should have quite a bit of vocab and grammar under your belt. Go over the lyrics in the target language and try and figure out what you can figure out without ANY dictionaries or translators getting involved. Sometimes you’ll be surprised, even as a beginner, how much of it you can actually understand. If you need a dictionary or translator for a word here and there, use it. If there are whole paragraphs you don’t understand, leave them. No one said you have to know it all know. Who knows, maybe later you’ll come across this song again and suddenly have the vocabulary/grammar to understand more of it. Keep working on it until you’ve got it all.

It’s important to remember this is just my own personal way of doing it. I’m sharing it because who knows, someone else out there might find it useful too. Often I feel like with music, particularly foreign music, it’s good to split it into pieces of sounds/words/meanings in that order. And when it is you work on the next part is up to you. Some of you might complete all these steps for one song in like a week. Others might keep at it for months. Work at your own pace. But if you’re going to spend extra time on any step, pick the one that matches your goal. If your goal is to help pronunciation, focus on the sounds step the most, words the second most, and meanings the least. If your goal is vocabulary/grammar then obviously you would prioritize them differently.

anonymous asked:

Dear Sam, I have a question about fanfiction-commenting etiquette. You reminded me of another Discfic that I really enjoyed, but have a petty nitpick with: The verb 'dating' is used to describe a couple's relationship, and it jerks me right out of the story because it seems far too modern and American to fit Terry's writing style. But I'm not their beta, so it feels rude to come in to a finished work and start criticising tiny things like that. Is that a thing writers want to hear from randos?

I have two answers for you, Anon, the short and the long. 

The short answer is: No. Don’t do it. It is petty and nitpicky, as you yourself said, and the instinctive sense that it’s rude is a good one – listen to it.  

The longer answer is that while it depends on the author – some do like fixit feedback and will ask for it – general fannish culture says that it’s rude, for a number of reasons. This was not always the case; when I came into fanfic, constructive criticism was encouraged, and writers knew what they were in for when they posted. However, fandom has become younger on average since then and fanfic has become much more accessible. Fandom has also become safer for many forms of expression, both self-expression and literary expression, in part because people started realizing that unasked-for advice wasn’t necessarily the best policy. 

All of which led to a change in fannish culture, in my estimation for the better, though it took me a while to adjust to that. We now more fully recognize that the creator has the right to create the art they want, and if they aren’t selling it to you or forcing it on you, your right to dictate the content of their work pretty much drops to nil (though calling out *ism is a pretty widely accepted exception, because that is a material harm rather than an annoyance spurred by a difference of opinion). If a single word is enough to throw you out of the story, possibly you are reading with too little tolerance given that what you are reading is free and unvetted by authority. If you wouldn’t go up to a stranger and tell them that their hat doesn’t go with their outfit, don’t do it. And if you would do that, you’re a jerk.

You may see it as wanting to help them improve, but you have no evidence, unless they specifically request help improving, that they want any help at all, let alone yours, or that they have a desire to improve. Not everyone – indeed, I think, not most fan authors – writes with the aim of improving their prose. They write because they want to tell a story, or share a fantasy, or interpret a character in a way that gives them and perhaps their readers pleasure, but this isn’t high school, and if it were, you have not been hired as teacher.  

Also, I would be dead sure Pterry never used the word dating before you correct it in someone else’s work, because it’s not that hard to text search his ebooks, and it would be very embarrassing for you to have spoken in authority and then be proven wrong. None of us are the be-all and end-all of knowledge when it comes to canon, and “the canon wouldn’t contain that” reeks, even more so than grammar and spelling corrections, of gatekeeping.

So in the end, treat fanfic as you would anything else: wait to be asked before you offer criticism, if for no other reason than that it’s the prevailing cultural norm and you like being friends with people instead of being labeled That Fan. And if you find it difficult to read a fanfic because of one word, perhaps you should mark that person’s name and simply not read their work. 

Signs Your Book Isn't Ready for Submission

It’s really difficult to know whether or not your book is ready for submission. Even after you’ve revised it a dozen times and had beta readers pore over it, there’s still that lingering doubt that your book isn’t ready.

Some authors spend years trying to get one book that is submission ready, because, more often than not, their first books aren’t going to be the books that receive contracts. However, there are a few things you can look at in your book after all is said and done to make certain it is submission ready.

  1. Long prose. I remember in middle school we had to write a descriptive essay about something we thought was important. I wrote about my visit to Savannah, and the teacher wanted long, prose-y description. I wanted this story to be entered so badly in a writing contest, but the girl whose story ended up being chosen was chosen because she had the best, flowy prose. I failed this assignment because my descriptions weren’t flowery enough. I also remember in the eighth grade working on our descriptions for some writing test we all had to take and pass. I was describing ice cream, using ridiculously long words to do so. My teachers all praised me then, but that kind of prose isn’t acceptable in a novel. That kind of prose never should have been acceptable in school to begin with, especially for aspiring authors.
  2. Vague references. Some writers love to show off their literary knowledge by plugging in vague quotes of stellar literary writers your average reader may not have even heard of. They often do this at the beginning of chapters. Sometimes this can be meaningful, especially if your readers can connect the quotes to that particular chapter. But if there is no connection, they’re often annoying. Some writers will even use famous literary characters as a contrast to their own, but it can become so overbearing, especially if this character is constantly mentioning this literary character.
  3. Episodic storytelling. You need to at least have a basic idea of what the plot of your book is going to be, or else you’re going to fall into the trap of making each chapter seem like the episode of a television series instead of each chapter flowing smoothly into the next–even when you’re switching POVs. Did I tell you beta readers aren’t perfect? Sometimes they don’t catch this, especially if these episodic arcs are entertaining. But publishers and agents and the like want you to have a cohesive plot. So your chapter does not need to read like a single episode. It needs to read like it’s part of a much bigger plot–and it should be.
  4. Trite openings. Again, beta readers are imperfect and probably won’t always catch trite openings, especially if they’re not familiar with what trite openings may be. Publishing professionals, on the other hand, are familiar with trite openings because they’ve pored through hundreds of thousands of manuscripts, trying to find the perfect, publishable one. Some trite openings I can recall are ones that open with the weather or a character waking up from a dream. Those are probably the most common ones publishing professionals come across. Sometimes they can be effective, but they’re often not.
  5. ‘You’ plug-ins. Sometimes it’s obvious when you’ve put your opinion about a certain issue in a book. This takes away from the story itself, and the reader may even grow to dislike you, especially if it’s obvious the entire book is about you and your opinions on certain matters. For example, if you’re a gay writer and you’re writing about the gay experience, readers don’t want to read a character ranting about straight people, because then it becomes obvious that you’re the one ranting about straight people and not your character.
  6. Dialogue info dumps. Info dumps are too much information that is being delivered upfront. Newer writers can be guilty of this in exposition, and are especially guilty of this in dialogue. For example, if your character is talking to another character about how the world runs, you don’t want your character spending paragraphs upon paragraphs developing the world through dialogue instead of you developing the world through the characters’ experiences.
  7. Tom Swifties. You know that thing going around the internet that says 'said is dead?’ Well, it’s really not dead at all. I don’t care what other writers tell you. It’s fine to use words other than 'said’ once in a while, but as an editor of a lit mag, I can promise you that if you use a bunch of other tags other than 'said,’ it becomes incredibly annoying and is something I would reject right away. So don’t listen to the naysayers who claim said is dead. Said is your best word, and I rarely use any word other than 'said’ in my own stories. Sometimes I don’t even use dialogue tags at all, especially if the action is enough to convey the tone of the dialogue.
  8. Mary Sues. Mary Sues are perfect characters with no flaws. Nothing bad ever happens to them. Every character in the book loves them. And they always save the day. These characters are downright boring and are to be avoided at all costs.
  9. Word usage. If you’re unsure of a particular word’s meaning, or if you’re using a word correctly, you need to look it up. Just because Word gives you a bunch of synonyms for a particular word doesn’t mean those synonyms mean the same thing as the word you’re looking to replace.
  10. Spelling and grammar. Poor spelling and grammar is a guaranteed rejection. In fact, when I used to choose fiction pieces for my lit mag, if the pieces required more editing than a short story should need, I rejected them. If there are too many commas being used incorrectly, I’m not going to bother with that piece. I want a short story that doesn’t need too much editing. Of course, with novels, they’re still going to need a lot more editing by publishing professionals than short stories will, but a book littered with spelling and grammar mistakes–blatant ones–is going to be rejected from the first page.

You know my Ask Box is always open!