Non-native Engrish smelling mistakes

Copy-editing for the non-native English speaker.

If English is not your mother tongue, you may be at a severe disadvantage when it comes to writing a proposal or a report, a CV or a blog, or publishing content for a website.

You have naturally had less experience with written English and so can benefit from proofreading and copy-editing services, especially from someone with translation experience.jigsaw

Since the internet has taken over the world, it is liberally peppered with huge examples of incorrect English. It is difficult enough for people with English as their first language to get everything right, so think how much more a non-native English speaker may need a proofreader to go over their translation with them!


Some examples of likely difficulties encountered by a non-native English writer:  

  • Some languages put the verb at the end of the sentence

While in English we would say: “I want to travel to London with my wife tomorrow”, a German speaker might translate it directly as:  “Tomorrow to London with my wife want I to travel”.

  • Mistakes with idiomatic expressions

“I’ll go with you as you’ve twisted my arm” doesn’t mean that you have been violently forced into doing something – it is more likely to mean gentle persuasion. But you wouldn’t attempt to re-organise it into something like “… you have twisted my wrist”.

“Starting from square one” has an unuttered but implied reference to the game of Snakes and Ladders. It would be nonsensical to try to re-shape the phrase with something such as “Moving on to square 2…” it doesn’t have the impact, and it’s just not something that is commonly said in English.

  • Language is evolving all the time, and what you learned a few years ago may have changed today

An example is in the use of the hyphen.

  • You may be unsure when it’s appropriate to “elide” words or letters

While it might be preferable in a report to say “it is”, in contrast on the web, which tries to speak the same language as its readers, you may find that “it’s” is perfectly acceptable.

But often, these are things that only a native English speaker, (and perhaps just as importantly, one with an “ear” for style and flow), will be able to determine.

A sensitive proofreader will be able to support your writing without undermining your creative and imaginative talents.  They recognise that you are writing about your passion, about what you know best, so just let the words flow onto your draft page. The gist is there, I will know what you are trying to say, and without tampering too much with the content and the important information you want to share, I can perfect your message so that it reaches your reader clearly in natural-sounding English – not a hint of a translation remaining.

I have the advantage of being able to speak a number of foreign languages, so will recognise when common language-hiccups have led you into a certain turn of phrase, and know how to undo it for you, and polish it to perfection!


Do let me know what you think!

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