If you’re not making good progress in learning English, maybe because you have not kept a balance between input and output. For some people, the problem is input. They don’t do enough reading. Some people rarely listen to English. They go to school, but do not read books after class. I asked my students of level 3 if they watch English TV programs regularly, most of them shook their heads. It’s terrible. Learning English should be an enjoyable thing to do, but many students struggle because of so many new words to remember and so many grammar rules to learn and exercises to do. This needs to be changed. Borrow some interesting, easy to read books from the library, some children’s books, I suggest. While learning English, try not to read anything in your native language. If you want to read news about your country, read it in English. For listening, watch your favorite English TV programs. You may want to order a DVR (Digital Video Recorder) from your cable company, and record the programs you want to watch and watch them at your convenient time. You also need an MP3 player, which is not expensive to buy these days, and download listening materials from ESL podcast sites (http://www.rong-chang.com/podcast.htm). The advantage of having an MP3 player is that you can listen to English anywhere, anytime, while walking, doing the housework, before going to sleep. All the time you spend listening to music should now be spent listening to English. Regarding output, you need to find opportunities to speak English. The most important learning principle is LEARNING BY DOING. Learning English is the same. You learn to speak English by speaking it. In a new country, try to make new friends. Learn how to start a conversation with a stranger. Go to parties on the weekend. When a salesman calls you, pick up the phone and talk to him, just make sure you don’t buy things from them. For writing practice, use your email often. Email your friends, your teachers. You can also find a pen pal to write to or chat with for English learning purposes (http://www.rong-chang.com/talk/talksign.htm).
September 5, 2007
September 3, 2007
Many English learners complain about not making much progress in learning English. One question they need to ask themselves first is: Have I kept a balance between input and output? Input means listening and reading; output means speaking and writing. For some learners, input is an issue. To learn English well, we need to read a lot and listen a lot. How much reading have you done? How much listening do you do every day? If you are an ESL/EFL student, you probably go to school twice a week or more. In your English class, you listen to the teacher, you do in-class reading, but there are other activities in class. Your English language input is probably only a few hours a week. This is not enough input to learn English well. Do you know how many new words an English student learn in a year? According to research, a full-time ESL student learns 2,500 new words a year in average. That sounds like too many new words. However it means only about 7 words a day. If you read in English, I’m sure you come across more than 7 new words a day. Therefore, don’t think you cannot learn 2,500 new words a year. You can. The problem is that in order to know how to use the word, according to research, you have to see the word being used in different contexts 7 to 9 times. This gives you some idea of how much reading and listening you must do. In-class time is simply not enough. You need to do a lot of reading and listening out of class in order to know how to use the new words and how to use the language.