Monday, July 13, 2015

How to Be Good at English (Part 2)

As I'm getting older (and so everyone is), I'm becoming more and more aware of the importance of this wide spoken language – English. My international friend base is continuously expanding and it is English that unites us. I've already written an article about how to be good at English; however, this piece of writing contains more personal and detailed information. Curious? Here they are, four techniques I use to boost my English proficiency!

1. Watch videos online

Oh, come on! We live in the Internet era and myriad online videos are waiting for you to be watched! The site I visit is – as you might have expected – YouTube. Firstly, I watch videos without subtitles, trying to get the message. Then, if there are any words I couldn't catch, I watch the parts which they are in with a subtitle on. Your pronunciation awareness will certainly increase – you'll know which syllable the stress of a word is on, accustom yourself to connected speech, etc. You could watch Ted Talks – I've seen some people giving engaging speeches – as subtitles are provided.

2. Read novels

You might be thinking, Why novels? The quick answer is because they contain lots of words, or in other words, a great amount of language. I used to hate novels, actually, but I ended up falling in love with them after realizing their efficacies. If you want to learn a language, you have to expose yourself to as much language as possible – and novels would be your great helpers. By reading novels, you get hosts of new words, new collocations, new idioms, etc. Don't know the meaning of a word? Before looking it up in your dictionary, which is something you should keep at hand, try to guess it by looking at the context – look at the words and/or sentences surrounding it. For example, take a look at this text:

John went into the forest and saw a XXXX. Strangely, it didn't bite him; it passed by him instead.

What is XXXX?

Premise 1: It was in the forest.
Premise 2: Strangely, it didn't bite.
Premise 3: It passed by John.

Conclusion: XXXX might be an animal (based on the fact the pronoun 'it' is used and points 1 and 3: animals are common in forests and moving is an activity typical of an animal) and it was probably a predator (based on point 2: the writer had expected XXXX to bite John).

On top of that, reading will increase your grammatical accuracy awareness. Unconsciously, you'll realize the existence of new structures and your brain will click when people use them incorrectly!

Tip: Find a novel that is right up your alley. You don't want to fall asleep when reading it!

3. Talk to yourself

What? Yeah, it seems strange. But since I can't find a language partner – I hope you have found one or will – I myself am my language partner. One 'trick' I use is to create sentences (about 4–5) every time I learn a new phrase, structure, or anything. For example, I would say to myself something like "Have ever you visited Saigon? She's been my girlfriend for two years. Mr. Masrani has worked for his company since 2010," if I were learning about the present perfect simple. I would always strive for a high level of fluency before I move on to the next point. Sometimes I also combine several grammar points, for example by telling a story that comprises a number of tenses. Other times I use an idiom with different tenses. Basically I do lots of experiments! This method turns out to be very effective to me, and you could give it a shot.

4. Write a blog

Yeah, actually what I'm doing now is one of the ways to brush up on my English – to practice writing. By writing a blog, I can make use of all the English things I've learned in a free and creative way, while being able to express my ideas to the public at the same time. And another piece of good news is it is gratis – I created this account without any rupiah or dong.

You may have noticed that all these points relate to the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. However, don't limit yourself! Besides these, I also do other English-enhancing things like reading news items online and enlarging my vocabulary through websites such as Espresso English. Another important thing is to make sure your effort is as closely related to your interest as much as possible since you will progress faster. I wish you all the best on your English journey!
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