I've started learning English at secondary school. First topic I learned is the grammar rule. I did a lot of assignments about it likes doing the math. I think that I can do it well (I got a 600 points for TOEIC reading & listening test). I just realize that there are a lot of English sentences I know the grammar is using but I still can not understand the meaning and sometime it makes me stressful. I have read some emails at work and didn't understand anything. The tweet below is one of the example:

"The Mueller Witch Hunt is a total disgrace. They are looking at supposedly stolen Crooked Hillary Clinton Emails (even though they don’t want to look at the DNC Server), but have no interest in the Emails that Hillary DELETED & acid washed AFTER getting a Congressional Subpoena!"

Here, I can not understand what Trump meant. To be honest, I do not understand a lot of well-known persons' tweets. I can understand the grammar but I can not understand the meaning of sentences.

Do you have any suggestion for me to improve my understanding skill? What should I learn to improve?

  • Welcome to Language Learning Stack Exchange. What do you mean by "the grammar rule"? (Grammar has many rules, not just one rule.) And what exactly is the focus of your question? Understanding tweets? Or reading English texts in general? Please edit your question to clarify this. – Christophe Strobbe Nov 28 at 11:18
  • Is grammar like mathematics, or did you like doing the assignments as you did mathematics? – Tommi Brander Nov 28 at 12:35
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    This Tweet can very much be contextualized by US politics. It would help to understand which phrases from above that you would need explaining like "witch hunt" or "acid washed". Cut out some of the phrases and I could answer some. – Karlomanio Nov 28 at 23:27

I am myself not a native English speaker. I have found it fruitful to use the following technique while learning several different languages (German, Czech, English, French). All such languages share some key characteristics in their sentence structures.

The idea is to identify each main part of a sentence.

Often there are not that many main parts. If you become good at this, you will quickly get an overview of any sentence.

First, let's identify each part and group them:

[The Mueller Witch Hunt] [is] [a total disgrace]. [They] [are looking at] [supposedly stolen Crooked Hillary Clinton Emails] (even though [they] [don’t want to look at] [the DNC Server]), but [have] [no interest in the Emails] that [Hillary] [DELETED & acid washed] [AFTER getting a Congressional Subpoena]!

It might be clearer if we add some more space in between each and separate the sentences:

1 [The Mueller Witch Hunt] __ [is] __ [a total disgrace].

2 [They] __ [are looking at] __ [supposedly stolen Crooked Hillary Clinton Emails],

3 but __ [have] __ [no interest in the Emails]

4 [that] __ [Hillary] __ [DELETED & acid washed] __ [AFTER getting a Congressional Subpoena]!

Bonus (even though __ [they] __ [don’t want to look at] __ [the DNC Server])

I took the parenthesis out, as it is "a non-critical sentence within a sentence", which can be omitted. So, we can look at it individually, while the rest of the text still makes sense without it.

Now each part is clear. Let's categorize them:

1 [The Mueller Witch Hunt]who __ [is]action __ [a total disgrace]objective.

2 [They]who __ [are looking at]action __ [supposedly stolen Crooked Hillary Clinton Emails]objective,

3 but __ [have]action __ [no interest in the Emails]objective

4 [that]objective __ [Hillary]who __ [DELETED & acid washed]action __ [AFTER getting a Congressional Subpoena]!condition

Bonus (even though __ [they]who __ [don’t want to look at]action __ [the DNC Server]objective)

The pattern is easy to see. In general, a simple sentence will contain a who, which performs an action with an objective.

  • The who is the word in it's nominative case (the thing or person who the action is tied to). Sometimes one who covers several "sentences" (as in sentence 3, which is still using the who from sentence 2: They)
  • The action is the verb (or verb group). There can be multiple actions (as in sentence 4).
  • The objective can be many things: a comparison (as in sentence 1), an object (as in sentence 2 and 4), an intent (as in sentence 3) etc.

    • Note that the objective might be just a placeholder, a so-called pronoun (as in sentence 4, where the word that is a placeholder for the e-mails from the previous sentence). If you can't find the objective, look for such pronouns.
    • Note that the objective can be colorfully described with adjectives or other descriptive word ("total disgrace", "supposedly stolen..."). Don't worry about that; just group it all into one objective to keep things simple.
  • And of course, there can also be other more rare parts now and then, such as a condition (in sentence 4), which limits the entire sentence. Etc.

As you see, a sentence usually only contains 2 to 4 main parts. If you can quickly identify these main parts, then you quickly get the overview. With that overview you can then easily look at the action to see the tense (past, present, future), and you can look at the objective to see if it is an object or a comparison or alike.

Hopefully this will quickly make the meaning clear and ease your understanding. See this Ted Talk for further inspiration. Splitting sentences into blocks and parts, rather than focusing on individual words to start with, is of great use for me personally to get the grasp of complex texts.

It should of course be noted that texts like Twitter tweets, Facebook posts etc. that are written in colloquial (spoken) language may vary greatly in quality and consistency and error-percentage.

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  • Thank you. You made it easy. – Co Worker Dec 7 at 2:35

Tweets, especially by politicians and other celebrities are not written in the most correct grammar. Don't try to learn English from them.

Often it's even pointless trying to understand what they mean if you're not following closely. They all live in their own tweet bubble and many tweets are responses to other tweets.

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    I think the question is asking about how to better understand for example tweets, not if they are a good source for learning the language or if they worth understanding. – Tommi Brander Nov 28 at 12:37
  • TBH I did say I think it's hard to understand them unless you want to follow the whole argument closely. I'm not sure if it's worth editing my answer as my point is simply there is no good way to approach some tweeters if you're beginners to English – Milo Bem Nov 28 at 15:02
  • Yeah, I did not downvote, but I do think the question would be improved by mentioning a way of getting the necessary skills; maybe reading news for context and to acquire the vocabulary, or something like that. – Tommi Brander Nov 28 at 15:09

Understanding the tweet in question, and similar tweets, requires understanding both colloquial language and the immediate cultural context.

To learn the cultural context, read news. Celebrity news if you are interested in that, politics and economy if that is more interesting, and so on. I recommend reading them in the target language, but if that is too demanding, mix target language and your native language. In any case, read news about the event and people central to the culture or cultures of the target language. Reading Wikipedia and similar info pages on important people and events can also be helpful.

To learn to understand colloquial language, you need to be exposed to it. A strong command of the language and especially pronunciation helps, and words might be written as they are pronounced. Try reading and listening to colloquial language and interacting on a forum, chat, Discord community, etc. where people use colloquial language. Ask when you do not understand. I recommend doing this after you have a strong grasp of the target language; certainly enough to read the newspaper and Wikipedia articles mentioned above.

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