October 8, 2012

Learn English Grammar with Twitter, Really?

Learn English Grammar

Twitter is the wild, wild West of English Grammar.

As far as grammar goes, Twitter is kind of like the wild, wild West for English learners. There are many law abiding tweeters, but there are many others who make up their own rules. In addition to doing typical English grammar exercises, observing users on Twitter is actually a great chance to learn English grammar.

Take a trip with me today to the wild West town of Twitterville. We’ll visit three buildings so you can observe the grammar used in each to mimic in your own tweets.

Learn English Grammar by Observing, Not Memorizing

First of all, what is grammar anyway? My college linguistic’s professor would love me for quoting her. She described grammar as any set of rules to guide communication as it is defined by a certain group of people. In other words, as long as you talk and write like everyone else in your group,you are using correct grammar.

That may be what grammar really is, but it’s not how we define it now. At some point in history, people had to decide on a standard form of language to make it easier to teach others and share knowledge. This probably happened when Latin was no longer spoken by anyone but was still a major language for churches and political relationships.

On Twitter, however, proper grammar is back to being what the group says it is. You can find everything from strange spelling, double negatives, and slang that very few understand, to proper, professional English that is recognized by anyone as ‘good English’.

Instead of memorizing English grammar like you usually do, Twitter makes it possible to remember by watching and doing.

The Places to Know in Twitterville

Staying with our wild West image, here are the three ‘places’ you can go to observe how people talk, and what you can expect to find in each one. Based on your own goals for learning English, keep these things in mind when learning grammar forms on Twitter.

I suggest that you make a list for each of these ‘places’. As you observe the different users, try to learn more about English grammar by understanding how they say things differently.

Learn Proper English Grammar

The Courthouse

Everything being said in the county courthouse is professional. This includes tweets from news source, well known bloggers and writers, and anyone else using Twitter for academic or professional purposes. They will always use very good grammar. It might be casual a lot of the time, but it will always be accepted as proper grammar. These guys and gals are following the rules. Copy and learn from them, and you’ll have no problem using your English anywhere you go.

Learn English GrammarTown Hotel

The hotel is where you run into people like actors, comedians, and musicians. What I’ve noticed is that these tweeters are representing themselves. How they tweet and the language they use will depend on if they are always someone in character (like comedians), or if they want to be accepted by the largest audience as possible.

Because they are representing themselves, they will all have a unique way of tweeting that is true to their character. If you’re a fan, you’ll probably know what to expect.

These people are great for getting cultural insight. You can learn what’s popular now, and what people find funny.

It’s difficult to understand humor in other cultures, though, so keep that in mind. Just stick with it for a while!

Learn English GrammarThe Saloon

The saloon is where you can find the normal, everyday people who want to have a good time. This is where the English being used can get very rough and difficult for learners to understand. While these tweeters might be professionals during the day, they might not be using Twitter in a professional way at all.

You can pick out these people easiest by looking at their bio. If they mainly use Twitter with their friends and don’t mention their profession, their tweets might not use the best grammar. You can also look at number of followers. If they don’t have that many followers, they are probably just tweeting with friends.

One thing to keep in mind is, just because they are not at the saloon to represent their professional self, that doesn’t mean they’re going to be using bad grammar. The only way to really know is to follow them and compare their tweets with those of people in the courthouse.

I hope you enjoyed this post. It shows why I think Twitter is such a fascinating place. Although it’s a global network, it shows us how much people really group together and communicate in a way that the group understands and expects. If you keep this in mind when practicing English on Twitter, I think it will really help you learn English grammar and all that it means much better.

When you want to practice any new grammar you learn on Twitter, remember to use these two simple tips when starting conversations. It will help you get more followers, too!

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