While the majority of international communication happens in English, a lot of these people, who communicate in English on a daily basis, aren’t very comfortable in English as it is not their native language.
They therefore sometimes struggle to express themselves correctly in English, only to be dismayed that native English speakers can immediately notice the flaws in their writing.
Microsoft Research has created a useful online proofing tool to help people who use English as a foreign language.
This tool, called ESL Assistant, is a web service that analyzes text for common mistakes that non-native English speakers, especially those from Southeast Asia, often make in their writing such as the choice of determiners and prepositions.
Type some English sentences into the text box and the tool will look for possible problems in your writing and indicate them with wavy green underlines.
Once it identifies possible mistakes in your writing, the tool will generate suggestions to correct the problems. What’s even more interesting is that the tool will find real-world examples of both the incorrect and correct usage from other web pages on the Internet using Bing.
You can just hover your mouse over the suggested phrase and the search results in the two Bing windows will change automatically.
Anyone can use the ESL (English as Second Language) Tool to check their emails and other writings for errors online though the site does require the Silverlight plugin.
Another way to use it it to download the ESL addon for Microsoft Outlook and integrate the web service into your email program.
There’s a bit of a privacy issue here because when you click the ESL Assistant button in Outlook to check your message for errors, the program will send the entire text of your email to the ESL website where you can review it for problems. Also, if you correct errors online, you will have to copy the text back into Outlook manually.
Although ESL Assistant will not catch or correct all errors, it often finds problems that are overlooked by normal spelling and grammar checking tools. This makes it a great tool to expand your options and make sure that your English sounds as correct as possible.