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I'm an non-immigrant came to US for my research purpose. I am not a native English speaker. I have never taken English that much seriously, may be because I had no problem in speaking English and understanding others who speak in English to me.

I can comprehend, express myself and pronounce English good enough. But what I struggle at is with grammar.

I have seem most of Americans don't mind about English grammar, unless that makes no sense. And for most of the time people don't follow grammar despite english being their first language. But for me it's a big deal. I'm into academics and sooner or later a major part of my work will involve writing academic papers.

My question is, is there any natural way to learn English? I know that if I keep reading grammar books, then I will only improve my knowledge in English, but not actively use them when I actually take with others, or have to be consciously be aware of the concepts while writing/communicating with other. Is there any other technique or routine that I can put into practice so that I not only learn English but also start applying them naturally. To rephrase myself, I want to built my grammar intuition quickly.

closed as too broad by James K, Em., Glorfindel, Lamplighter, Brian Tompsett - 汤莱恩 Dec 30 '16 at 10:59

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • The best way is to keep practicing. Keep reading English books, talk to natives and ask them to correct you, if you make mistakes. Watch the News, or a few English series or movies. Beware of the usage of slang. Slang, when used are mostly grammar-less phrases. So be careful about that. Make mistakes and correct them. You get the hang of it soon. Cheers ! – Varun Nair Mar 3 '16 at 5:45
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    It is helpful to know what your native language is, especially when getting into grammar differences. Also if you can narrow down what specifically seems to be the difficulty, such as article use, preposition use, etc. And I would leave out the "quickly" (keeping in mind that even a native language takes about 15 years to learn to a fluent level). – user3169 Mar 3 '16 at 6:23
  • To further the point that @user3169 made, there is a fantastic resource here; esl.fis.edu/grammar/langdiff/index.htm. It highlights the differences between English, and other languages. This will help you identify common mistakes specific to your language, so that you can correct them. It contains 16 languages; without knowing your native tongue, I'm not sure if it has yours, but I encourage you to look at it nonetheless :) – Mr Chasi Mar 3 '16 at 10:19
  • My question is, is there any natural way to learn English? -- There are several, I think. But instead of mentioning any of those, I'd like to say that your problem, judging from your writing in this post, is not that you know too little about English; it's that you already know too much. IMHO, knowing too much is precisely what holds you back. There are two main ways to work around this: one is trying to see English afresh, as if you don't know it (which is easier said than done); another, which is a more common way, is using grammar books and sentence correction exercises. – Damkerng T. Mar 8 '16 at 4:25
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I have seem most of Americans don't mind about English grammar, unless that makes no sense.

That's very true, but rather unfortunate. I'm glad you have noticed this, and it doesn't stop there. We must, however, solidify our words into a form in which our thoughts are strongly conveyed: proper English. This starts with correct grammar.

As a native English speaker, I do not know what it's like to learn English as a second language. I can, however, provide a few suggestions:

  1. Read the classics. The use of language in these works remains relevant to this day.
  2. Work through a strong grammar textbook. Try to make the rules of English second-nature; these boundaries are there for a reason.
  3. Learn to diagram sentences. You'll at least be able to visualize how each word and phrase changes the meaning of a sentence.
  4. Start writing. This could be simply writing for yourself in a journal or self-assigned essay.
  • Thanks for your answer. I was wondering what are some of the online sources to find classic English drafts. – ikis Mar 8 '16 at 18:59
  • There are plenty of these, including Around the World in Eighty Days (Verne) and Julius Ceaser (Shakespeare). They have stood the test of time. – legowave440 Mar 8 '16 at 19:46
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    @ikis You can read whatever interests you (and I highly suggest doing so!), so don't let me discourage you from reading Verne or Shakespeare if that's what you want. But I recommend you see Shakespeare acted rather than read it if you can. And if you're mostly focused on the modern language, I suggest reading books written in Present-Day English. Grammar was different in Shakespeare's time (along with vocabulary, pronunciation, and so on). – snailboat Mar 8 '16 at 21:12
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I'm sure you know the basics of English grammar, ie you understand grammar terms, you can distinguish between useful terms, and terms that you don't find useful and that you are able to change as you like, and high-flying terms that don't help much. You can communicate in English and read English books. So you don't improve your grammar knowledge by working through a grammar. Most of it will be stuff you know. And it is boring to get grammatical things explained you already know.

The other way is more interesting. When reading you find structures or grammar points you are unsure about or that are new to you then consult your grammar and see if it has an item in its register and if the grammar can present the grammatical problem. It is a complicated technique to find things in a grammar you search an answer for. And not always grammars have an answer. As to use of prepositions or verb constructions a modern dictionary as Longman's DCE is often better. But a grammar can give an idea how verb constructions (with infinitive, participle, gerund, adjective) can be arranged in a reasonable way so that someone can handle such things.

It is worthwhile working with a grammar this way, it takes time but it really improves your understanding of grammar. And sometimes you will find some things in grammars that can be arranged in a better order or that can be described in better and simpler terms.

It is useful to work with two different grammars. Interesting to see how differently things can be explained in grammar.

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