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How did Ayn Rand master the English language?

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English was not Ayn Rand's first language. Yet The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged were written in perfect English. How did Ayn Rand master the English language?

I'm looking to learn from her. Hope someone can answer my question. Thanks.

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English was not Ayn Rand's first language. Yet The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged were written in perfect English. How did Ayn Rand master the English language?

I'm looking to learn from her. Hope someone can answer my question. Thanks.

Judging from here epistemology on the nature of concepts, the multi-lingual aspect probably contributed greatly to that accomplishment.

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English is my third language. One learns a language (like anything else) by studying and continuing to improve. It helps if one uses good examples, such as reading well-written books and listening to well-spoken people.

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I'm looking specifically for Ayn Rand's method of learning and mastering the English language. But if you have any advice, or better, books to recommend (hopefully a good book on grammar), I'd be glad to hear it.

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Dear Individual - there are lots of grammar books. Just get one or two that you like best. There is no such thing as an "Objectivist Grammar Book." And there's no magic to improving your grammar. Be an Individual. Act.

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Dear Individual - there are lots of grammar books. Just get one or two that you like best. There is no such thing as an "Objectivist Grammar Book." And there's no magic to improving your grammar. Be an Individual. Act.

There is a course on grammar that was given by Peikoff decades ago. It's available here:

http://www.aynrandbookstore2.com/prodinfo.asp?number=LP05M

Pretty hefty price tag, though.

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I'm looking specifically for Ayn Rand's method of learning and mastering the English language. But if you have any advice, or better, books to recommend (hopefully a good book on grammar), I'd be glad to hear it.
There is no record of the "how". Rand was well-educated, from which (in the day) it follows that she would learn to write English well. I can't say that I've noticed anything disfluent about your writing. Once you make the basic transition to "writing grammatical English", then you have to learn to write good style (and native speakers also have to learn that). The only way to do that is inductively, by reading good writing, and then writing like that. Grammar books are generally not much use for that, and what you really need is some type of material that address the specific problems of your writing.

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David, just one thing about grammar books. The ones that go into the latin roots of words are invaluable. I learned so much (wish I'd had latin in school). My word usage and my spelling improved a thousand percent. I say they are worth the purchase and study.

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English was not Ayn Rand's first language. Yet The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged were written in perfect English. How did Ayn Rand master the English language?

I'm looking to learn from her. Hope someone can answer my question. Thanks.

Hello,

There is a chapter in an essay on the writing of Atlas Shrugged that talks about this point. It is an interesting interview of Mary Ann Sures, who was hired by Ayn Rand in the fall of 1956 as typist and proof reader. It would be too long to write it in this answer, but I can tell you that Mary Ann Sures worked the whole day with Ayn Rand in her appartment in New York. Marry Ann Sures worked a lot on the rewriting of the John Galt' speech, between other things.

So I give you the useful references you are looking for.

Essay on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, edited by Robert Mayhew, Lexington Books, 2009, ISBN 978-0-7391-2779-7, Chapter 5, titled Working for Ayn rand: Selection from Facets of Ayn rand, Mary Ann Sures, pages 113-123.

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Dear Individual,

English is not my first language either. I've studied it in a school setting, coerced, to no effect, and then I decided to study it on my own. As David correctly points out, once you master the grammar, which it would seem you have, the you cease to be in disadvantage.

I think it is no coincidence that Ayn Rand's prose is innovative within its classicism, and that she had to write in a third* language (thus necessarily conscious of every word), dictionary on hand.

What's your first language? Mandarin? In this context that should be an advantage to you over native English-speakers. While Russia in the easternmost sphere of the Greco-Roman world and California the westernmost; Singapore is the most "Greco-Roman" example of the Chinese world.

*I'm sure she spoke and read French in addition to Russian, well before learning English.

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Mmmm.... I get the feeling from the answers posted here that comanding English language to the point of being able to write a novel is just something expected from an intelligent, well-educated person.

I beg to differ.

To be able to write like Ayn Rand did requires an extraordinary intelligence.

It takes much more than just Grammar or vocabulary: uou must know what word to use and how to use it in very specific contexts with surgical precision.

Ayn Rand was a very gifted woman and it would be unfair to state that most of the people that would dedicate a similar amount of time and effort to learning the language would get equivalent results.

Edited by Hotu Matua

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I also would love to know this. It wasn't just her writing, but her speaking. She spoke without making any grammatical mistakes. I know she had 20+ years living in America, but there are plenty of people who live and work in America for that long and never learn the language properly. She must have had a method for learning. She knew English, French and Russian, and she could read German well enough to translate philosophy articles Peikoff gave to her in German. Mastery of English as a second language is in itself an admirable and formidable achivement.

Edited by Peter Morris

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Tourist in New York asks a local, "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?"  Local answers "Practice, practice, practice!"

Edited by Reidy

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Reidy really hit it with his answer, Peter. Which way should you practice? The way that interests you the most!

Rand likely learned English so well because it was her favorite language. Some vague sources on the web say one of her methods of practicing was to write the stories for silent films. But, if she really loved the language, she probably used many opportunities to practice -- not to mention, everyone around her spoke English.

From another Objectivist forum, there is a thread which roughly documents here waning and strengthening use of French, depending on her life circumstances. Apparently, she learned that language at a young age, which was typical for Russians. The thread is found here: http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?showtopic=11387

So, as Reidy said, *practice*!

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I also would love to know this. It wasn't just her writing, but her speaking. She spoke without making any grammatical mistakes. I know she had 20+ years living in America, but there are plenty of people who live and work in America for that long and never learn the language properly.

The answer is in what those other people are doing wrong, not in looking for any kind of extraordinary quality those who do it right have.

After all, hundreds of millions of people manage to learn English just fine.

What those people you mentioned are doing, that's specific to them, is

1. not read a lot of native materials

2. speak from day one of the learning process (no choice, they're usually immigrants)

3. converse mostly with other immigrants, who speak poorly as well

For the most part, by no fault of their own, mind you. Immigrant workers are busy, isolated from hostile natives, and forced to try and communicate before they're able to do so correctly. But, of course, over 20 years, corrections should be made. But that requires unusual effort, once you've developed bad habits.

Regardless, those are the traps to be avoided. Instead, one should read a lot, or otherwise expose themselves to massive amounts of native materials (radio works great as well), produce the language carefully early on, converse with natives instead of people who are also in the process of learning the language.

As an aside, a common misconception is that one can speak correctly by learning and paying close attention to the rules. On rare occasion, the so-called "rules" of a language (they're not really rules, because languages aren't governed by rules, they're just attempts at describing a language) can be used to figure out how to say some things correctly, and how to avoid some common errors, sure. But that's rare, usually one must learn by copying people who speak correctly.

There are a thousand and one ways to practice, and many people practice a lot and end up just drilling in the wrong thing. Practice is too vague. I want to know her methods.

I'll just expand on the above list:

Ideally, you have to focus on input over output (and correct, native generated input, not textbooks or the writing/speech of fellow immigrants/students). Especially early on.

If that's not possible, you must produce the language carefully, preferably in writing where you have the time to take care and not make (and then repeat) mistakes.

When it comes to conversation, at the least you must avoid people who are speaking the wrong way. You have to converse with people who are fluent (preferably natives) and who, in a perfect world, are kind enough to correct you.

If I were to speculate about Ayn Rand, she, as a writer and an intellectual, no doubt read and wrote a lot more than she talked. And when she talked, she didn't talk with other Russian immigrants, she socialized with natives (and fellow intellectuals, at that).

Edited by Nicky

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