About

Hi. I’m Anil Yadav.

First about the website and then about me.

About Lemon Grad

The website, annually visited by more than 3 million learners and referenced by several scholarly articles, is focused on English Language Skills (grammar, punctuation, vocabulary, figurative language, writing, and speaking).

Why should you care about the website?

Content on the website comes from my experience of going through hundreds of books, several research papers and studies, and other authentic sources on English language learning and teaching. You’ll find some of these being referred to in the blog posts.

Content on the website comes from my experience of working with students, which enables me to provide unique perspectives and practical solutions. For example, I’ve even used algebra to explain complex things in English, these being two examples: difference between a sentence and a clause and common parallelism error in pairs and lists. You can find more posts specifically on my thoughts and experiences.

Content on the website comes from my experience of forensically scrutinizing real-world examples, a result of which is enumeration of these errors by experts on punctuation and errors by experts on pronunciation. That’s why you’ll find real-world examples in blog posts, which will help you bridge the gap between theoretical concepts and their real-world use. That’s why you’ll also find mentions of departures from rules, wherever applicable (experts commonly depart from rules in English).

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About me

My first serious brush with writing came while reviewing and improving others’ writing during my work as an admission consultant. In this role, I’ve worked with hundreds of applicants to renowned North American and European MBA programs such as Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, Chicago Booth, MIT Sloan, London Business School, and INSEAD.  Highly competitive, the admission process to these schools involves significant amount of writing in the form of essays, resume, and other communication. Here are two successful essays (essay 1 and essay 2), in case you’re wondering what they’re like.

Applicants to these programs are no average Joes. Many of them work at the biggest names in their industries. (For the uninitiated, applicants to these MBA programs usually have 4-6 years of work experience.) But their writing needs intervention, sometimes significant. And to make those interventions credibly and correctly, I had to up my own skills, which in the beginning I did mainly by scouring books such as Elements of Style by Strunk and White, a required book in my MBA program at University of Pennsylvania.

That was the beginning. As I tasted some success, I got drawn into the topic of writing, embarking on a journey to not just learn but also teach. I went through books, articles, studies, courses, real-world examples, and more to learn underlying fundamentals of grammar, punctuation, vocabulary, figurative language, composition, pronunciation, curriculum design, assessment, and so on. I even did a TESOL certificate program by Arizona State University, but nothing matches real-world experience.

In the real world, I volunteered at Freedom English Academy (now known as Freedom Employability Academy), a non-profit organization founded by well-known spiritual leader Deepak Chopra that imparts English Language skills to underprivileged youth (typically 15+ age group), to observe how beginners learn. What mistakes they make? What obstacles they face? Why some are quick learners and some aren’t? How their background affects their performance? I’ve referred to this experience in some of the blog posts.

Thereafter, I developed curriculum on communication skills – written and verbal – and trained faculty members and taught few batches of students at a national-level college with multiple campuses. The two-semester curriculum is predominantly application based and has been designed keeping in mind what communication challenges undergrad and grad students face in the professional world. Outside of formal system, I’ve taught grammar, vocabulary, writing, and pronunciation to Grade 6-12 students. With them, I used images as a teaching tool to astounding effect. I’ve referred to these experiences in several blog posts.

Talking of real-world experience, almost as a hobby, I dissect impressive sentences from popular books and dailies such as The New York Times, Washington Post, and The Guardian to understand how they’ve been constructed from the elements we learn in grammar and punctuation. (In the process, I’ve also critiqued punctuation of prominent publications, organizations, and personalities and grammar books from popular publishers.)

During this journey, I’ve run quite a few experiments in learning as well as teaching. The two major ones in learning have been bulking up my active vocabulary and improving pronunciation.

My endeavor to improve my own vocabulary and pronunciation

I’ve built a massive active vocabulary and lapped up almost all words I was prone to mispronounce. (For those who don’t know what active and passive vocabulary is, passive vocabulary is the one you can understand while reading and listening, but can’t use in speech and writing. Active vocabulary, in contrast, is the one you can not only understand but also use in speech and writing. As you might have guessed, active vocabulary matters much more.)

In both the endeavors, besides following what studies recommend as best practices, I added my own nuances to achieve high retention. In pronunciation, for example, my retention has been 95+ percent even after two years and so effective that I can catch mispronunciations even in polished speakers without consciously focusing on their pronunciation, a sign of deep embedding. I’ve seen high retention rates in pronunciation among students, even though they didn’t show the required discipline.

I’ve detailed these experiences here:

How I’ve Added 8,000+ Words to My Active Vocabulary?

How to Build Vocabulary You Can Actually Use in Speech and Writing?

How I Corrected My Pronunciation of 3,400+ Words?

How to Improve Pronunciation in English?

As you can see, the volume (8,000+ and 3,400+) is huge, but anyone can pull it off with discipline. If you want to undertake any of these endeavors at whatever volume you want, I can tell you from my experience that acing pronunciation is far easier than building active vocabulary.

Few of my observations

1. Grammar has less role in writing than most think

Grammar has less role in writing than most people think, and grammar has much, much less role in speaking than most people think. And a significant part of what is required can be taught as chunks without using grammatical terms.

2. Grammar is not an end in itself

Many see grammar as an end in itself. In reality, it’s only a means primarily to read and write and secondarily to speak. In the real world, people look at your communication (writing and speaking) – and not grammar. If you write well, you’ll be good in grammar. But vice versa is not necessarily true.

3. Far, far more people stand out negatively in writing than in speaking

Far, far more people stand out negatively in writing than in speaking. (It’s just that most aren’t aware.) One reason, as explained in point #9, is that writing is intrinsically more challenging than speaking. Second reason is that writing, unlike speaking which is transient, is captured in hard or soft copy and hence attracts greater scrutiny.

4. Very, very few can use comma correctly

Very, very few can use comma correctly outside its few routine uses. Even reputed news dailies err on this count, this being an example: The mishap, which happened at around 11.45 pm has been captured on a CCTV camera installed outside a shop in the market. As it’s the most-used punctuation mark, any improvement in its use can bring disproportionate benefit to your writing.

5. Regular readers are better writers. (We all know that, isn’t it?)

Regular readers are better writers. (We all know that, isn’t it?) That’s because, over a period of time, they subconsciously pick few patterns and rules, one of the most common being -ing appendage at the end of a sentence. (Example: Tom hit the ball hard, sending the ball out of the stadium.) What I’ve seen is that subconscious absorption sometimes leads to half-knowledge, leading to hits as well misses. In other words, regular readers take risks in writing more advanced sentences that they’ve gained through subconscious absorption, but they get some right and some wrong. Because they already have a feel for advanced sentences, they, as compared to non-readers, can quickly improve their writing with little intervention.

To give a parallel from vocabulary-building, Norman Lewis in his book Word Power Made Easy mentions that ‘adults who are no longer attending school increase their vocabularies at a pace slower than twenty-five to fifty words annually’, which is a sharp contrast to many hundreds a year by ten-year-olds. Why? Adults accumulate words subconsciously; kids, purposely.

6. Regular readers have better vocabulary, but…

Regular readers have better vocabulary, but reading benefits their passive vocabulary much more than their active vocabulary. Noticeable difference to active vocabulary can be brought about mainly through deliberate effort. Read this (paraphrased) from Scott Thornbury, an ELT teacher and educator, about his Spanish vocabulary:

I read an average of 5,000 words in Spanish a day and have been doing this for 25 years, exposing me to about 45,000,000 words in total. This has had only fairly negligible effect on my productive [active] vocabulary, although I do think I’m a better reader than 25 years ago. That is to say, reading begets reading, not words.

7. Images can be a powerful tool to teach grammar, vocabulary, and writing

I’ve used images to learn and teach vocabulary and writing. It’s an excellent way to take theory close to reality, making what you learn usable.

8. Almost all non-native speakers mispronounce

Almost all non-native speakers mispronounce, degree varying of course. We all learn pronunciation mainly by absorbing what’s being said around us, but (no prizes for guessing!) non-native environments abound in mispronunciations, which are absorbed and then passed on. The biggest challenge people face in improving pronunciation is to know what words they mispronounce.

9. Most non-native speakers struggle to speak in English not because English is challenging

The main reason why most non-native speakers struggle to speak in English, despite badly wanting to, is lack of regular speaking – even if it’s for ten minutes a day – over several months. And the main reason for not speaking regularly is not grammatical incompetence. The main reasons are lack of non-judgmental environment, peer pressure, and fear of making mistakes, each of which can be overcome or bypassed with little effort.

(From pure grammatical perspective, speaking is far easier than writing. Speaking requires simpler sentences and allows for repetitions, fillers, and fragments, which are frowned upon in writing. Writing, on the other hand, is rule- and convention-based. Evidence in this regard is provided by underwhelming writing skills of grades 8 and 12 American students (only about quarter perform at proficient level), almost all of whom can speak English fluently because it’s the first language for almost all of them.)

Others

Outside work, I’m an adventure-travel enthusiast. I’ve traveled on roads-less-traveled (literally because, among others, it includes loneliest road in U.S.), trekked in Himalayas, and camped in dense forests. I believe you can learn plenty by travel in general and offbeat travel in particular. Few lessons from some of my memorable trips are:

Four Lessons This 15,000-Kilometre Road-Trip Taught Me

Two Lessons I Learnt in Grand Canyon Road Trip

One Step at a Time: That’s How I Survived Extreme Cold and Hunger at 15,000 Feet