Upward social mobility

Upward social mobility

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In our fast-paced, technology-driven world, it is not an exaggeration to say that verbal communication plays an important role for climbing the professional ladder. Though incorrect use of language may convey the basic meaning yet it reflects poorly on the user. In each case you have an opportunity to impress others with your language skills and directly or indirectly enhance your career.

The list of common mistakes that people commit in social and professional situations is endless. Confusing prepositions is another malady especially in sentences, errors in use of articles or tenses. Apart from these common grammatical mistakes, people even get confused in using key expressions. There and many such expressions relevant in the use of English as they help in connecting ideas and conveying the right meaning. Thus in one sense, these expressions are the backbone of the language and individuals who wish to hone their skills, need to have a basic idea.

Mistakes are not just limited to grammar but also include vocabulary. For most people, vocabulary is all about the use of antonyms and synonyms taught in schools but it is in fact a vast area that includes knowledge of single and multi-word units. One of the commonest errors is confusing two words and then using them wrongly. Often the word is used to denote habitual action when its meaning is the exact opposite.

Not just single words but even phrasal verbs are a problem since one easily gets confused with putting the right particle after the verb “sign in/sign out” or sometimes putting a particle when it is not required. A related issue is errors made in written communication at the workplace especially emails. Excessive use of applications has caused many to write abbreviated sentences known as SMS language that reflects poorly on the language user creating a shoddy impression. Other common errors of writing are even seen in email communication such as the use of “revert back” when you mean to say “please reply.” Moreover, there is the danger of not using punctuation marks correctly, say a comma or a semi-colon, while writing which can lend an altogether new meaning to the text, often with disastrous effects.

There are many such mistakes that people make while using English. The demand to learn the language is natural since it is a global language. Yet what we need to realise is that for effective communication we need to master the basic concepts that will be helpful in speaking and writing. In other words, both knowledge and fluency are essential for a person.

Learning a language is challenging but it can be mastered with diligent effort. Some practical tips include reading newspapers, especially the editorial section and magazines on current affairs and finance. Such texts are useful in improving vocabulary, especially phrasal verbs and collocation of words. Knowledge of common errors related to grammar and vocabulary is crucial.

Another important area to work upon is key expressions. Checking the meaning and pronunciation of a new word or a vaguely familiar word on the Internet or in the dictionary is of great importance. Speaking with friends and family is also a way of developing fluency in the language besides watching films and television shows. BBC adaptations of literature are a good way to start and so writing a diary/journal about day-to-day thoughts and events. Attending workshops on communication or pronunciation are also a way to learn. With gradual practice, one can gain more confident and proficient in the use of English.

The writer is author of the book common errors in everyday English (Oxford University Press)

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