Keywords: Proofreading; Spelling; Grammar; Punctuation; Editing; Editor; English; Language

I was trying to learn French for a while. They didn’t teach French in my school, so I was coming to it at a fairly late stage, tired of embarrassing myself trying to order in Paris restaurants. I signed up for a course of lessons and one of the things that my teacher suggested was to start reading children’s books to help build vocabulary and become familiar with the words that matched up to the pictures. I tired the Tin Tin comics (because I love them) but they were too hard. I also tried the classic stories of Le Petit Nicolas but again the language used was too complex for my limited understanding. I had some success with Babar the Elephant, but the one that I enjoyed the most was the series of Barbapapa stories. This strange family of shape shifting blobs are incredibly loveable. I dreamed of adopting a Barbapapa.

While reading the French children’s stories definitely helped me a little in terms of being able to identify words and build some basic comprehension, I’m still a long way from being able to hold much of a conversation in French. It made me think about people learning English and how hard that must be. Getting to conversational stage is hard enough, but then having to try and write in English must be nearly impossible. English is my first language but I always use a professional proofreader or editor to check my work – there are so many strange rules about spelling, punctuation, and grammar that no amount of reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar is going to prepare you for writing a formal document or report. It is a good story though, and fun to read.