In Don’t Analyze the English Language Too Much – It’s Not Good for Your Fluency! I questioned the usefulness of asking a lot of questions during your quest for English fluency.
Q: “Can I use the preposition ‘in’ instead of ‘at’ if I say things like “I’m at school at the moment”?
A: “Well, not really, normally ‘at’ is used when you say that you’re at school. Just stick with ‘at school’!”
Q: “But I’ve heard people say ‘in school’ on certain occasions, does that mean it’s wrong?”
A: “It’s not wrong. If you want to explain that you’re in school as opposed to being employed, for example, you have to use the preposition ‘in’”.
Q: “OK… Is that the only exception? Are you sure you don’t say ‘in school’ in any other situation?”
A: “Well… I can’t really think of any right now, but there might be some other occasions, it really depends…”
Q: “But how am I supposed to speak correctly then? What if I’m saying ‘at school’ and it’s wrong? I want to be aware of all differences between the two prepositions and when each of them is used! I’d better do some online research on the subject!”
You just witnessed a typical foreign English speaker who wants to leave no stone unturned when in doubt over the usage of a certain English word.
If you read my previous blog post – you can read it HERE – you’ll know that such questioning carries the risk of ruining your fluency because of the constant over-analyzing.
The more you’re trying to categorize and structure your English, the bigger the chance that it’s going to turn into a permanent habit, and that’s when your fluency might go out the window because…
…you can’t possibly perform the two tasks simultaneously – SPEAK ABOUT THE SUBJECT and think about WHAT AND HOW TO SAY IT!
Having said this, however, I admit that a healthy interest about certain aspects of English word usage is only normal. After all – that’s how we learn new things, and if you ask a few questions to other people about how and when to use this or that particular word or phrase, you’re going to improve your English fluency much faster.
But when I start getting questions like this one – “Why the two words ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘discomfort’ begin with different prefixes? I keep mixing them up, so why can’t they begin with the same prefix to keep things simple? Why? Why? WHY?!” – I can’t keep my cool anymore.
Such questions are serving no purpose at all, and you’d be so much better off stopping asking such questions. Just memorize and learn the respective words and expressions instead of trying to make sense of all the English language irregularities!
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