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A lot of the friends that I’ve been making recently are from Japan, and so the topic of language acquisition naturally  crops up in conversation. “Joseph, why is your Japanese so good,” they’d ask. “What can I do to improve my English?” As both an English major and an amateur linguist, my answer is usually something like:

“access as many forms of media as possible. Watching sitcoms will give you natural expressions for natural situations. Reading novels and magazines will give you the breadth of vocabulary for sophisticated discourse. Speaking with native speakers will give you first-hand opportunity to practise and revise your speech patterns.”

But internally, my answer is simply a word: Rhetoric. Rhetoric is the secret success to any language learner. It’s the secret success to any speaker or writer, to any one who communicates effectively. And yet, it’s the one thing in language acquisition that is never explored. Everybody gets fixated on grammar and vocabulary, without considering the wide-ranging applications of rhetoric.

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Glossary

COCA - Corpus of Contemporary American English
L1/L2/... - Primary/Secondary Language
NNS - Non-Native Speaker
NS - Native Speaker