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The Gachon Herald
English expert column
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Updated : 2013.02.21  17:29:27
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am often asked by students how they can improve their English. I won't be revealing any secrets today. Instead, I want to revisit two basic skills that are necessary when learning any language: reading and speaking.
  Students often feel pressured into reading English books that they are not really interested in because they read an article or heard from a friend that it would help them improve their vocabulary. I would never deny the importance of reading, but think about how much more effective it would be if you actually read something that you truly enjoyed, especially if it was going to be in a foreign language. Many students admit how they started a book only to give up after barely making it through a chapter. This wouldn't happen as frequently if the book actually engaged you and you were able to understand what you were reading.

  Reading level-appropriate material is also important when choosing a book. Students often feel discouraged when they start reading something they cannot understand without looking up the words in the dictionary every other sentence. Just as a new driver doesn't learn to drive in a Ferrari, a new reader shouldn't start with the latest bestseller. Books for teens are often a good choice if you want to ease into reading.

  To improve English speaking skills, students often spend thousands of dollars going abroad to study to immerse themselves in an English-speaking environment. Often, they come back more confident in their speaking skills. If this option is not available to you, you can recreate your own overseas experience by joining an English speaking club. There are dozens of different clubs to choose from online and even on campus. It is very helpful to meet others who share your enthusiasm and motivation for improving your English speaking skills.

  If you're a little shy, however, you can practice speaking English in the comfort of your home by doing some simple exercises. For instance, you can record your own voice and play it back to hear your pronunciation mistakes and to check for volume and speed. Are you speaking loud enough or too quickly? Intonation, speed, and emphasis of words are key to speaking conversational English. Listening to yourself speaking English can help you become more aware of areas for improvement. Another simple exercise is to write down questions on cue cards and to practice answering them out loud. Learning to answer questions can improve comfort level in speaking and vocabulary.

  Whether you choose to work on your reading or English speaking skills, the most important thing you must have is patience. Developing English skills requires a lot of practice so it is important to not be too hard on yourself and to be patient. With hard work and practice, you will get there!

-Professor Hannah Yoo

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