Ethnic(ity)

😦 Different ethnics will have different languages to communicate.

flag-of-indonesia This is one of those situations where the English word has been borrowed and its use altered. In this case what was in English an adjective has been turned into a noun.

English offers two word forms – ethnic (adjective), ethnicity (noun):

🙂 Different ethnic groups will have different languages to communicate.

🙂 People with different ethnicity will have different languages to communicate.

And by the way, how exactly do you describe your own ethnicity? Comments below!

@eapguru

Are the benefits beneficial?

😦 Constructing impressive buildings benefits more for visitors than local people.

flag-of-indonesia This is another word that gets partly lost in translation. Let’s look at some possible improvements.

Benefit – verb

Constructing impressive buildings benefits visitors more than local people.

The verb ‘benefit’ is transitive, no preposition. Notice the position of ‘more’ in the comparison!

Beneficial – adjective

Constructing impressive buildings is more beneficial for visitors than for local people.

The adjective ‘beneficial’ may be followed by a preposition phrase – usually ‘beneficial + for’ (except “When attempting to lose weight it is more beneficial to exercise than to diet.”).

Without a comparative you might also write:

Constructing impressive buildings is beneficial.

Benefit – noun

The benefits to visitors of constructing impressive buildings are greater than the benefits to local people.

The noun ‘benefit’ – when applied to people (visitors) – is followed by ‘to‘.
When applied to things (constructing impressive buildings) it is followed by ‘of‘.

@eapguru

(And) besides

Besides…
And besides…

These are often used inaccurately as they don’t translate well from other languages.

Besides

Let’s use besides to modify the following argument:

I don’t think we should go to the cinema tonight. First of all I don’t like the film. Secondly, there is an unusual amount of traffic in town. Finally, we don’t have any money.

Here there are three supports for not wanting to see the film:

  1. I don’t like the film.
  2. The traffic in town is heavy.
  3. We don’t have any money.

The same argument could be expressed using besides, as follows:

I don’t think we should go to the cinema tonight. Besides not liking the film and the unusual amount of traffic in town, we don’t have any money.

The second sentence (the supports) can be represented:

Besides + claim(s) [expressed as noun phrases] + , + final claim [expressed as a sentence].

In this case ‘besides’ simply means ‘as well as’.

And besides

Here the meaning is a little different:

I don’t think we should go to the cinema tonight. First of all I don’t like the film. Secondly, there is an unusual amount of traffic in town. And besides, we don’t have any money.

The claim introduced by and besides is much stronger than the preceding claims. In fact, it is so strong that it is really not necessary to consider the previous claims. If we have no money, then there’s no way we can go to the cinema!

Again, it’s useful to diagram the structure:

Weak claim(s) + And besides + very strong [and final!] claim

Here the meaning is more than just ‘as well as’. ‘And besides’ introduces a very powerful claim that makes all other preceding claims redundant.

@eapguru

The use of ‘usage’

😦 The usage of technology is very important to learn effectively.

OK this is a tricky one. I’ve searched online for an answer but could find only one that is useful for IELTS candidates and EAP students. I’m going to borrow heavily from this person’s post. Unfortunately I cannot include an attribution because link added to the post is no longer active.

When we refer to ‘word usage‘, we mean the ‘conventions’ for using words: “This text describes the principles of word usage.”

By ‘conventional’ use, we mean:

  • how a word is conventionally used in a certain communicative context
  • how a word is conventionally used next to other words in a sentence
  • how the same word is conventionally used in a particular language (The Indonesian meaning of ‘convenient‘ is not quite the same as the English meaning.)

When we refer to ‘use of words’, we mean only the employment of words: “He is noted for his frequent use of wrong words.”

People frequently use usage when they should use use. The noun usage should not be substituted for use when the meaning is ‘the employment of’ – even if you think it sounds more sophisticated.

Neither of the following is correct:

😦 “the wise usage of computers saved the company money”
😦 “usage of insulation can save fuel.”

In both of these examples, use is the appropriate word.

Returning to our opening example, we need:

🙂 The use of technology is very important to learn effectively.

usage

Even better, avoid ‘use’ altogether and begin with a more coherent theme:

🙂 Technology plays an important role in effective learning.
🙂 Learning is more effective with the help of technology.

Incidentally people also write utilisation when they mean use. That’s another one likely to get you into trouble, so just avoid it. Use is all you need!

@eapguru

To show purpose, that’s why!

😦 I would like to study abroad one more time, especially for achieving a doctoral degree.

flag-of-indonesia This is an Indonesian translation for ‘untuk’ as a way to explain purpose.

In English the answer to this kind of ‘why’ question is nearly always ‘to + V1’:

🙂 I would like to study abroad one more time, especially to achieve a doctoral degree.

Questions that focus on purpose include:

  • Why do you want to..?
  • Why did you..?
  • What did you (do that) for?

In these examples the answer – ‘To + v1..’ is sometimes referred to as ‘the infinitive of purpose‘.

‘For + noun’ is used to explain some kind of function:

A: What’s that machine for?
B: It’s for pounding rice. (function)
A. Oh. I see. But why use a machine?
B. Maybe to save time. (purpose)
A. Ah. Right.

flag-of-indonesia Indonesians – next time you want to translate ‘untuk’, stop and think. Are you talking about function or purpose?

@eapguru

When is a school not a school?

😦 I have also been a teacher in one of high schools in Padang.

flag-of-indonesia This is a common mistake made by Indonesians desperate to translate ‘salah satu’ or maybe ‘sebuah’.

In English, when we want to communicate ‘one of many’, we use the indefinite article ‘a/an’:

🙂 I have also been a teacher at a high school in Padang.

This is sometimes called ‘generic’ reference. The school in the example is not a particular school – we don’t yet know the name of the school, its address, etc. So far we’re just imagining a typical school. The image of the school in the writer’s mind will not be exactly the same as the image of the school in the reader’s mind, and that doesn’t matter.

I might use ‘one of’ if I’m introducing more specific information about ‘a’ school. For example:

🙂 There are many schools in Padang. One of them is close to my house.
(information about the location of the school)

🙂 Only one of the schools in Padang offers an international curriculum.
(information about the curriculum of the school)

🙂 I studied at one of the best schools in Padang.
(information about the quality of the school)

Notice also that ‘one of’ is followed by certain words, in particular:

  • the / them (pronouns)
  • these / those (demonstratives)
  • my/his/their (possessives)
  • superlative adjectives

For more examples, click here.

As a general rule – if you’re talking generally (generically!), use ‘a/an’ for countable nouns. For uncountable nouns use ‘some’.

@eapguru

Not everything is ‘convenient’

😦 Physical shops are more convenient than online stores. Firstly, in physical shops customers are able to touch goods and try on clothes. Secondly, shopping in physical shops can be a social activity.

There is a category of physical store aptly named ‘convenience stores’. Many countries have 7 Elevens. In Indonesia we have Indomaret, Alfamart and Circle K.

flag-of-indonesia Indonesians might call a shop that sells everything at a low price ‘convenient’. However, the prices in convenience stores like Circle K can be quite a lot higher than average. These shops inflate prices precisely so that they can offer ‘conveniences’:

  • they are numerous, especially in cities
  • they have ample parking if they are situated on a road
  • they can even be found inside large shopping centres
  • they stock items that most people need on a daily basis
  • they provide fast and efficient service

These are all features that most people would consider ‘convenient’. In English if something saves you time and effort then it is ‘convenient’. Being able to touch goods is not a matter of ‘convenience’. It may be practical, but it is not what most people would call ‘convenient’, and neither is meeting your friends when you go to physical stores.

For your convenience, here are some definitions of ‘convenience’, as well as some pictures of convenient things.

@eapguru