Recently, I’ve made a couple of posts over at Readable Blog, my blog for English learners, in which I attempt to explain sticky grammar or word-choice problems. One is about “almost” vs. “almost all,” and the other is about the use of “funny.” Both are frequent problems for Japanese learners of English, and for good reason–they’re really confusing and hard to explain. I hope the examples I used are useful, although I think the explanations still need some refining. However, if you think my explanations are useful at all, please pass the links on.
One reason I’m grateful for my TESOL certification and MATESOL training is that these things are easier to explain now. This is why untrained native English speakers are not ideal English teachers: they can probably use these words correctly, but they don’t have much training or experience in explaining why or how. (I’m trying to convince my students and clients of this important difference between trained and untrained teachers, so that they’ll share that knowledge with their friends and family looking for language schools back home. Disclaimer: I know there are some untrained teachers who just naturally rock, but they’re few and far between!)
That said, these kinds of slippery differences are still really, really difficult to explain in useful ways. I sometimes accidentally leave out something important, or I include way too many details and just confuse my students. Sometimes, of course, the reasons can’t really be explained. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve truthfully said “There’s no rule for that” or “It’s idiomatic” or “You just have to pick this up by reading a lot” …
I hope I’ll improve as I get more experience. Got any encouraging stories of your own success? Please share!