Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tip O'Day #311 - A Language Barrier?

Guest blogger Blake Stevens on using a non-English speaking reviewer and editor.

The English language is something that most of us have intuitively learned as an early child. While some of us have studied the language more formally at school, most of us are ignorant of basic grammar, proper use of tenses, yet alone how to structure a paper. Therefore, we lack a lot of what it takes to be a professional writer.

I have had to learn 'proper' English the hard way as an adult through my business writing and consulting, and it has improved significantly over the years, but being a proficient, technically correct writer still does not come easy for me. Since English is my first (and mostly only!) language, I also write in a style that is more parochial, and I lack a trained understanding of how the language is properly constructed. I also find in basic proofreading that because I was the author of the text, that when reviewing it, I am glancing over it too quickly and miss a number of simple typos, in addition to more complex issues such as consistent use of tenses, pronouns, etc.

One of my friends lives overseas and English is his third language. He has had to learn English as a language through formal training and in many ways understands the grammatical structure better than I do. While I am far more experienced in the use of the language, he is far more formally trained. This allows him to pick up on things that slide under my eyes without notice. While his lack of experience in English does limit him from completely editing the book on his own to make it 'close to perfect,' he is uniquely positioned to pick up and correct a number of items that my other reviewers - who have English as their primary and first language - have missed. I have found this invaluable and would recommend that everyone have a non-English speaking native on their review team!

Blake Stevens is author of Still Stupid at Sixty and you can learn more about him at his blog.


  1. Wow, this is a very interesting perspective. I only dread to think of what a non-English-speaking reader would make of some of my writing! LOL

  2. Thanks for the good feedback Jonnie. I just happened to stumble upon this myself.

  3. Well Jonnie, there's one easy way to find that out ;)