Living Abroad

From Twitter:


1. One of the things that’s hard to get used to living in Japan is:

a. how close things are.

b. things how close.

c. things so close here.

The answer is ‘a,’ because it is a com construction best follows simple grammar: S + V + Complement (though this is reversed when using ‘how’ as a value reference to a quantity, in this case, in relation to distance):

Complement + S + V : How close (meaning “so close”) + things + are

Options ‘b’ and ‘c’ have no verbs, so cannot complete the sentence.

2. A thing that’s hard to get used to living in the US is:

a. no Family Mart close.

b. no Family Mart is close.

c. no near mart.

The answer is ‘b’ because it best follows simple grammar:

(no) family mart is close (S + V + Subject Complement)

Choose: Proximity*

From Twitter


a. The first time, / b. At first, / c. For the first time, … when I came to Japan, I was lonely.

The best answer is ‘b.’, because this phrase means something experienced in an initial instance–the conditions around which continued for a time; or it means something was done that was not done before, and it was done additional times after.

‘C’ means something was done and/or experienced causing certain feelings and results, but that those feelings and/results changed thereafter–and that this difference will be explained shortly.

‘A’, though not wrong, represents a kind of phrase–because of the comma and the use of ‘when’ after it–that presents an unnatural (or non-fluid break in the ) flow of the sentence, specific to spoken English, which requires context and intonation to be fully understood without confusion; and this phrase is adverbial, however is followed by an adverb. Placing them side by side is a possible challenge to the non-contextual expression of this construction (say in written English)–unless understood as dialog, with quotation marks. So this (while often done) is not the best answer for a grammatically and style-correct version of the idea being expressed. Basically, it is only acceptable in spoken English or idiomatic/dialect–in dialog.

*Proximity means distance between or from.

Narrative: The New Student

From Twitter

I’_ _ student. I _ to _ my English. I _ you have _ teacher who_ , _ poems and essays and _ fun. He _ immersion _ conversation are _ important _ grammar.

  • be
  • was
  • ‘m
  • an
  • came
  • a
  • shows
  • more
  • heard
  • then
  • who
  • is
  • than
  • has
  • draws
  • improve
  • and
  • have
  • the
  • writes
  • thinks


I’m a student. I came to improve my English. I heard you have a teacher who draws, writes poems and essays and is fun. He thinks immersion and conversation are more important than grammar.

Vocabulary And Philosophy

From Twitter:

S: Why can’t I speak English?

T: Daily you need immersion–story, talk shows, native conversation and to stop focusing on grammar.

S: Why?

T: It’s peripheral, map learning, not language–which is intuitive, human.

Here ‘peripheral’ means:

a. wrong

b. extra

c. unimportant

The answer is ‘b’. The meaning of peripheral is actually on or at the limits of, on the edge of or just outside of

What is meant here is not that grammar is unimportant, but that it is a method of setting down or establishing rules for consistency in language. Grammar did not come first–language did. And so it is felt that language is natural and thus can be understood naturally. Indeed, the research of linguists shows that human beings have an innate and evolved ability to comprehend grammar. The point is students may need to understand grammar, but to become fluent they have to know when to depart from grammar and start trusting their brain and their daily use of the language. This is how to develop fluency. Not by turning every corner by looking at the map, but by trusting the instinct and exploring without it.

Who or That?

From Twitter:

The answer is ‘who’.

‘Who’ should be used–not ‘that’–when referring to people.

However, ‘who’ can also be used to refer to nouns such as countries, like this:

The nation whose people respect laws more than ethnicity can be a republic.

And the answer to the question ‘who said “A democracy if you can keep it?”‘ is Benjamin Franklin. The question he was asked, by a crowd which saw him departing from the Constitutional Convention, was ‘what kind of government have you given us?’