Azhong's Writing Practice.

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Re: Azhong's Writing Practice.

Postby Linguaphile » 2020-06-23, 14:13

azhong wrote:
Linguaphile wrote:
azhong wrote:My high school is a historical one with a red-brick building and white pillars, ...


Hi. Thank you very much, and nice to meet you. This is Zhong from Taiwan. I love writing and take it a hobby to write in English.

Just to make sure, is the sentence above what you want to show me? I think it a bit awkward. I want to say the building is composed of red bricks and white pillars.

Thank you for your reply, and for your help again. Very helpful to me.

Yes, and hello! :D
Your original sentence said "My high school is a historical one with a building in red bricks and white pillars."

"In red bricks" is not how we would usually describe a building. I would call it a "red-brick building" if the building is built out of bricks or another possibility is to say "with red bricks" (which could be a building built out of bricks or could also be something like a wooden building with some bricks attached to the front as decoration).
So, actually, I can think of four different ways you could change it:

1. My high school is a historical one with a red-brick building and white pillars.
2. My high school is a historical red-brick building with white pillars.
3. My high school is a historical one in a building with red bricks and white pillars.
4. My high school is a historical one with a building with red bricks and white pillars.

They each have slightly different nuances, so you can choose the one that fits your meaning the best.

1. My high school is a historical one with a red-brick building and white pillars. - this describes a building of the school, but it leaves open the possibility that the high school may have other buildings or other facilities in addition to this red-brick building. (Probably my instinct was to go with this one based on the fact that high schools where I live tend to consist of a main building surrounded by several smaller buildings and outdoor spaces, but this is probably not the case where you are, so my choice was probably not the best one for you.) So it says the school has a red-brick building and white pillars, but allows for it having (or not having) other things as well.

2. My high school is a historical red-brick building with white pillars. - this sentence makes the high school and the red-brick building synonyms. The high school is the entire building and the building is the entire school.

3. My high school is a historical one in a building with red bricks and white pillars. - almost the same as the above, but if the building also contains other things that are not part of the school, this sentence would allow for that possibility. Also, unlike a "red-brick building," calling it a building "with red bricks" allows for the possibility that the bricks are just decorative and maybe the building is built out of some other material (such as a wooden building with a brick facade).

4. My high school is a historical one with a building with red bricks and white pillars. - this is probably the simplest correction to your original sentence, so I'm not sure why I didn't think of it yesterday. The use of with twice in a row ("with a building with red bricks") sounds slightly awkward to me but is not incorrect. It indicates that the school has a building that has some red bricks (structural or decorative) and some white pillars. It also leaves open the possibility of the high school having (or not having) additional buildings or outdoor spaces.

With the above four sentences I'm analyzing the meanings and nuances very closely. In real life people wouldn't notice those small differences all that much and it most likely wouldn't matter which of the four versions you use, in, for example, a normal conversation. In literature the nuances would be more important. The one I originally wrote sounded the most natural to me, but that's based on both my own personal language use and my own personal image of high schools, neither of which will be exactly the same as yours.

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Re: Azhong's Writing Practice.

Postby azhong » 2020-06-23, 19:59

Linguaphile wrote:My high school is a historical one with a red-brick building and white pillars.

Now I see. In this description the pillars are not inside the red-brick building but, instead, at somewhere else in the campus. The pillars here are not a part of the structure of the red-brick building. Am I right?

Also, thank you again. Your explanations are very thorough. What I am mainly aiming at is not really to write a piece but to learn natural expressions, instead, since I've never lived abroad. And your examples in different expressions are very precious to me.

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Re: Azhong's Writing Practice.

Postby Linguaphile » 2020-06-23, 20:50

azhong wrote:
Linguaphile wrote:My high school is a historical one with a red-brick building and white pillars.

Now I see. In this description the pillars are not inside the red-brick building but, instead, at somewhere else in the campus. The pillars here are not a part of the structure of the red-brick building. Am I right?

Yes, that is what I was thinking of. The white pillars might be on (or inside? since you have mentioned "inside" in your response) the red-brick building or somewhere else on campus. The sentence isn't being specific about where the white pillars are.
It would be like if I was giving directions for how to find a building and part of my directions say "you will go past a red-brick building and white pillars". They would probably be two different things, and if I went past both of them, I'd know I was going in the right direction.
But if I say "meet me at my school; it's the one with a red-brick building and white pillars" the white pillars might be on the outside of red-brick building or on some other building on the campus. Even though the description doesn't clarify which meaning is meant, I'll still know I'm in the right place when I see either a red-brick building with pillars or a red-brick building near pillars. The school probably won't turn out to look exactly the way I may have imaged in my mind before arriving, but I'll still be able to recognize it when I see it. In that situation the fact that I may not know exactly where the pillars will be isn't so important.

azhong wrote:Also, thank you again. Your explanations are very thorough. What I am mainly aiming at is not really to write a piece but to learn natural expressions, instead, since I've never lived abroad. And your examples in different expressions are very precious to me.

I'm glad it's useful. When we are talking about nuances like this, English is pretty varied. What I envision when I hear these sentences is probably not exactly the same as what someone else envisions when they hear the same sentences (for both linguistic reasons and cultural ones based on individual life experience). For example, I live in a warm climate where schools consist of many buildings which students enter and exit throughout the day as they go to different activities. In colder regions schools are more likely to be a single building so that students don't have to exit the building during the school day to go to different activities. So, that colors my "image" of what you've written.

As a side note (a tangent, really, but I suspect you might be interested, based on what you've said), in some varieties of English the principal [director] of an individual school is referred to as a "building principal". In my variety of English (western US) that sounds rather strange because for us a "building" is not synonymous with a "school". So what would be called a "building principal" in some areas is called a "school principal" or "school site principal" here, never a "building principal".

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Re: Azhong's Writing Practice.

Postby azhong » 2020-06-27, 0:30

(A language practice. Thank you in advance for your assistance.)

台灣總統任期四年,在一月下旬和立法委員一起改選,由全國人民投票決定,上任則是在同年五月20日。可以一次連選連任。

The election of Taiwan president, voted by all people, was held in late January together with that of legislators. The winner takes their office later on May the 20th for a term of four years, and can elect and continue their position only once.

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Re: Azhong's Writing Practice.

Postby linguoboy » 2020-06-27, 0:54

azhong wrote:The election of the Taiwanese president[1], voted by all people[2], was held in late January together with that of the legislators[3]. The winner takes their office later on May the 20th for a term of four years, and can elect and continue their positionbe reelected only once.

1. "Taiwan president" reads like headlinese to me. "Taiwanese president" or "President of Taiwan" are less awkward.
2. This is a very awkward parenthetical phrase and I'm not sure what purpose it serves. Are you trying to specify that the president is chosen by direct election under universal suffrage? Then I would say that.
3. "General election" is a shorter term for a national election in which all or most legislators are selected.
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Re: Azhong's Writing Practice.

Postby azhong » 2020-06-27, 2:14

Like this?

linguoboy wrote:The election of President of Taiwan, chosen by direct selection under universal suffrage, was held in late January together with a general selection.

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Re: Azhong's Writing Practice.

Postby Linguaphile » 2020-06-27, 4:29

azhong wrote:Like this?

linguoboy wrote:The election of President of Taiwan, chosen by direct selection under universal suffrage, was held in late January together with a general selection.

It is direct election, not direct selection. It means that the voters directly vote for the person they want to hold the office, rather than an indirect election where they vote for a person or party who then chooses the person to hold the office.
"Universal suffrage" means that all people can vote (i.e. the ability to vote is not limited to a particular ethnic group, gender, class, etc.)

I'm going to address "chosen by direct selection under universal suffrage" in more detail below, but I'll mention some other things first:

The election of the President of Taiwan, chosen by direct selection under universal suffrage, was held in late January together with that of the legislators.

"General election" does technically mean the regularly-scheduled election at which the president, vice-president, and legislature are chosen. If you choose to use the term "general election," it would dramatically change your sentence because you would not need to mention the President of Taiwan or the legislators. And, since you longer mention the people who are being chosen, you would also have to remove the part that says "chosen by direct selection under universal suffrage".
It would become something like
The Taiwanese general election was held in late January.

(Or maybe Linguoboy had something else in mind when he suggested using "general election" in your sentence.)
I'll be honest, if it's changed into what I wrote in that last version, I think that's too much of a change from your original sentence. It leaves out too many details that your original sentence included, and I think it would be rather complicated (but not impossible) to try to work 由全國人民投票決定 back into it if you want it there.
I suppose you could just say "The general election of the President of Taiwan...." and include all the other details, but I don't see what the point of changing it to "general election" would be in that case. It wouldn't really add anything you aren't already saying elsewhere.

So now let's come back to this:
azhong wrote:由全國人民投票決定
became
azhong wrote:voted by all people
and then was changed to
linguoboy wrote:chosen by direct election under universal suffrage

"Chosen by direct election under universal suffrage" is of course correct, but it sounds stilted (unnaturally formal) to me. If this sentence were written for a textbook or television documentary it would be fine. In most other contexts I would look for a less formal way to say it.

Trying to keep that same meaning, this is what I might say:
The election of the President of Taiwan, directly chosen by universal suffrage, was held in late January together with that of the legislators.

Or, if it is not necessary to emphasize exactly who can vote, I'd probably say:
The election of the President of Taiwan, directly chosen by the electorate, was held in late January together with that of the legislators.

The electorate is another way of say "all of the people who are eligible to vote".
This last sentence is what I think I'd be the most likely to say myself. Normally I don't need to indicate that there is "universal suffrage" because in the US it is generally understood without needing to be said*. I'll let you decide for yourself whether it needs to be said in your sentence or not. :D

With those changes, the whole thing would now be:
The election of the President of Taiwan, directly chosen by the electorate, was held in late January together with that of the legislators. The winner takes office on May 20th for a term of four years, and can be reelected only once.



*exceptions exist but they really aren't relevant to this grammar discussion. In any case, despite those exceptions it is still considered "universal suffrage" and that fact still doesn't need to be stated each time we mention elections.

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Re: Azhong's Writing Practice.

Postby azhong » 2020-06-28, 4:22

(A practice to strengthen my memory of your emendation. Thank you in advance for your assistance.)

After a general election in January, the selected Taiwanese President takes office in May for a four-year term, the same as that of the legislatives, who take office earlier in February, though.

The office building for the President, built in 1919 when Taiwan was colonized by Japan and is a cultural monument now, has a fine red-brick facade decorated with many white horizontal sashes.

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Re: Azhong's Writing Practice.

Postby Linguaphile » 2020-06-28, 5:03

Almost perfect! Just a couple of small suggestions.

azhong wrote:After a general election in January, the selected Taiwanese President takes office in May for a four-year term, the same as that of the legislators, who take office earlier in February though.

The office building for the President, built in 1919 when Taiwan was colonized by Japan and is a cultural monument now, has a fine red-brick facade decorated with many white horizontal sashes bands.


The word "sashes" almost always refers to something made of cloth. "Bands" describes the marks on the building.

For "built in 1919 when Taiwan was colonized by Japan and is a cultural monument now," you need parallel structure (which means you need to have the same grammatical forms for the two parts of the sentence, the part before the word "and" and the part after the word "and").

You can achieve that in one of two ways:
    "The office building for the President, built in 1919 when Taiwan was colonized by Japan and is a cultural monument now...."
or
    "The office building for the President, which was built in 1919 when Taiwan was colonized by Japan and is a cultural monument now..."

Basically, if you have a form of the verb "to be" in the second part (after the word "and"), you should also have one (or some equivalent verb form) in the first part before the word "and" as well. The solution is either to add it to the first part, or to remove it from the second part, so that the two parts have similar grammatical structures. That's why either of my two sentences are okay and your original one is not.

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Re: Azhong's Writing Practice.

Postby azhong » 2020-07-15, 4:01

(Is the passage below oral and natural enough? Particularly, I'd like to know if the tone flows smoothly and has emphasized the point. Thank you in advance for your assistance.)

At the beginning I said to her I loved her, although I actually did not, and thus we got together. At the end I didn't say I loved her even though I really did, for, you know, years had passed by. And then we got separated.

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Re: Azhong's Writing Practice.

Postby linguoboy » 2020-07-15, 13:28

azhong wrote:(Is the passage below oral and natural enough? Particularly, I'd like to know if the tone flows smoothly and has emphasized the point. Thank you in advance for your assistance.)

At the beginning I said to her I loved her, although I actually did not, and thus we got together. At the end I didn't say I loved her even though I really did, for, you know, years had passed by. And then we gotseparated.

"Got separated" is an informal passive. It could be appropriate here if you're implying that some external force separated you, but normally it's used, for instance, if two people are moving in a crowd of people and get pushed apart by those around them. [I see that you're going for parallel structure here, but "together" and "separated" are different parts of speech so their respective uses with "get" is not the same.]

"although", "actually", and "thus" all strike me as more characteristic of formal writing than informal speech, as does "did not" in place of "didn't".
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Re: Azhong's Writing Practice.

Postby azhong » 2020-07-16, 3:09

linguoboy wrote:"although", "actually", and "thus" all strike me as more characteristic of formal writing than informal speech, as does "did not" in place of "didn't".


How about this one, please?

At the beginning I said to her I loved her, but to be honest I didn't, and after that we got together. At the end I didn't say I loved her even though I really did, for, you know, years had passed. And then we separated.

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Re: Azhong's Writing Practice.

Postby Linguaphile » 2020-07-16, 4:33

azhong wrote:
linguoboy wrote:"although", "actually", and "thus" all strike me as more characteristic of formal writing than informal speech, as does "did not" in place of "didn't".


How about this one, please?

At the beginning I said to her I loved her, but to be honest I didn't, and after that we got together. At the end I didn't say I loved her even though I really did, for, you know, years had passed. And then we separated.


Since you're going for oral language, different people are going to say it different ways. There's not anything wrong with what you've written. However, I myself would probably say "In the end I didn't say I loved her even though I really did, because, you know, it had been years."

But you are at a point where those changes are more a matter of personal preference and/or regional usage. What you have is also fine, but using my own native English as a model, it doesn't sound completely natural as spoken language. To a different speaker, your version might sound more natural than it does to me.

It doesn't sound non-native... to me it sounds just slightly too formal and unnatural. It reminds me of the kind of thing you might hear in a voice-over at the beginning of a movie, where an off-screen speaker is giving the audience some background before the movie starts. You can tell it's meant to sound conversational, but it still sounds a bit scripted rather than like spontaneous speech.

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Re: Azhong's Writing Practice.

Postby azhong » 2020-07-16, 8:53

Linguaphile wrote: "In the end I didn't say I loved her even though I really did, because, you know, it had been years."

Is it a thumb principle that for is always more literary and formal than because?

And, another practice below. Thank you again in advance.

A mist of somberness covered Jim during his girlfriend's funeral, that I did have seen. But I felt, and I still feel so now that something was not right on him, which I can't pull out precisely, though.

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Re: Azhong's Writing Practice.

Postby linguoboy » 2020-07-16, 14:46

azhong wrote:
linguoboy wrote:"although", "actually", and "thus" all strike me as more characteristic of formal writing than informal speech, as does "did not" in place of "didn't".


How about this one, please?

At the beginning I said to her I loved her, but to be honest I didn't, and after that we got together. At the end I didn't say I loved her even though I really did, for, you know, years had passed. And then we separated.

The thing that stands out to me is "said" in the first sentence where I would have used "told". Maybe it's just because I'm used to speakers of Standard Average European overusing say to because it corresponds closely to their native idioms (e.g. sagen zu, decir a). But I see that you're going for strict parallelism and "say" sounds better than "tell" in the second sentence. Like Linguaphile says, it's mostly a matter of personal preference at this point.

azhong wrote:
Linguaphile wrote:"In the end I didn't say I loved her even though I really did, because, you know, it had been years."

Is it a thumb principle that for is always more literary and formal than because?

The idiomatic expression is "rule of thumb". And I would say, yes, for used as a conjunction is always literary.

azhong wrote:A mist of somberness covered Jim during his girlfriend's funeral, that I did have seen. But I felt, and I still feel so now, that something was not right onwith him, which I can't pull out precisely, though.

"I did have seen" is ungrammatical. Either you did see it or you have seen it. "Have seen" implies to me that the funeral wasn't the only occasion where you saw this "mist".

"Pull out" can't be used in this context. Maybe what you mean is that you can't put your finger on it?
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Re: Azhong's Writing Practice.

Postby azhong » 2020-07-18, 2:16

(Thank you in advance for your assistance.)

When taking her walk along the pavement this Saturday morning, Jane found a pink collar hanging on a pillar of the park fence. It was the collar she bought for her missing cat, a wandering kitten in this very park before she met it and took it home.

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Re: Azhong's Writing Practice.

Postby linguoboy » 2020-07-18, 16:16

azhong wrote:When taking her walk along the pavement this Saturday morning, Jane found a pink collar hanging on a pillar of the park fence. It was the collar she bought for her missing cat, a wandering kitten in this very park before she met it and took it home.

Grammatically, there's nothing much to comment on except maybe the form "bought". According to traditional grammar, it should be "had bought" in this instance because the buying of the collar was completed before it was lost and found again, but the simple past is common in colloquial American English as part of the ongoing loss of the perfect here. "Pavement" instead of "sidewalk" suggests you're going for UK or Commonwealth English, though, where the perfect is better preserved.

I might prefer "post" to "pillar" since "pillars" usually support something (like an arch or an upper storey) while "posts" are often freestanding, but it's hard to choose without seeing the fence you have in mind. Stylistically "a wandering kitten in this very park" is odd since "wandering kitten" isn't a collocation. I might say instead "a kitten she found wandering in this very park, which she then took home". (The simple past sounds fine here, but you could also say "she'd found".)
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Re: Azhong's Writing Practice.

Postby azhong » 2020-07-19, 6:01

(Thank you in advance for your assistance on my language practice below.)

It had been lasting for quite a while; the sound of the ink stick grinding on the inkstone reigned over the six-tatami room. Not a sound from the next room could be heard, where his wife had been decorating the shrine. Keigo wondered if it was over.

ink stick 墨條 (or ink bar?)
inkstone 硯台
grind 磨(墨)(or rub? mill?)

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Re: Azhong's Writing Practice.

Postby linguoboy » 2020-07-19, 9:17

azhong wrote:ink stick 墨條 (or ink bar?)
inkstone 硯台
grind 磨(墨)(or rub? mill?)


azhong wrote:It had been lasting for quite a while; the sound of the ink stick grinding on the inkstone reigned over the six-tatami room. Not a sound from the next room could be heard, where his wife had been decorating the shrine. Keigo wondered if it was over.

Once again, the grammar is fine and the problems are mainly stylistic.

1. For “lasting”, I would prefer “going on”. “Last” tends not to be used in the progressive since it’s inherently durative.
2. I’d prefer a colon to a semicolon here because the following sentence is equivalent to the “It” of the initial one.
3. It sounds better to have the subordinate clause directly follow its antecedent where possible, i.e. “the next room, where his wife…”.
4. It’s very odd to use “it” in the last sentence to refer to his wife’s activities as if they were some impersonal phenomenon. I’d prefer something like “if she was finished” or even if “the work was completed”. (Come to think of it, it’s also odd to refer to the sound of grinding ink impersonally as if we don’t know the agent when presumably it’s Keigo. But I’m sure you have your reasons.)
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Re: Azhong's Writing Practice.

Postby azhong » 2020-07-19, 13:23

(Again, thank you in advance for your assistance.
This is a translation practice. I don't plan to translate the short novel over. I can't, either.
The first paragraph has been revised by removing the impersonal narrative.)

Keigo had lasted grinding ink for quite a while; the sound of the ink stick grinding on the inkstone reigned over the six-tatami room. Not a sound could be heard from the next room, where his wife had been decorating the shrine. He wondered if she was finished.

After finding the color strong enough, Keigo stopped, put the ink stick down and took up a calligraphy brush. He dipped some ink with the nib, then closed his eyes softly. He had decided what words to write.


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