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English Expert Column
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Updated : 2016.04.05  16:09:51
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  Reading. It is the process of decoding symbols in order to derive meaning. Believe it or not, your brain is decoding English right now and putting pictures in your mind. I use reading a lot in the classroom. One rule that I like to follow is that if a page has five words that a student does not know, that text is too hard and should not be used. That rule is appropriate for a class.

  But if you are ready for the ultimate challenge, you can actually read anything you want and learn a lot by doing it!

  If you want such a challenge, there are a few rules that you will have to follow:

  1. Forget about the meaning of the text—not entirely but initially.

  2. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else on the planet. Don’t compare yourself to your friend who got a 900 on the TOEIC test and certainly don’t compare yourself to a native speaker who can read a page of English in one minute.

  3. Don’t judge yourself for using a lot of time to understand a very little bit. Imagine that you are the first person on the Earth to discover English and it is up to you to decode this very complex language. The time that you use should not be measured. Just read.

  4. Stay curious and stay positive. If you start to lose your curiosity or positivity, move on!! There are more sentences ahead that you will understand. Find those!

  With these rules in mind, what you are doing is absorbing the language as you did when you were young. Rather than reading a text for its meaning—like what a native speaker does without even thinking—turn on your language learning brain and observe yourself decoding symbols in this strange language. Learn about how English conveys meaning rather than the meaning of the story.

  By doing this, not only will you be reviewing words that you already know, but you will be observing the complex relationship these words have to each other. Often even native English speakers cannot tell you why a certain word order exists. I am speaking specifically about words like at, from, for, to, with as well as other prepositions. As you read verbs that you know, make note of the prepositions that surround those verbs and suddenly you will realize that you won’t need to study prepositions. Prepositions were never meant to be studied in isolation but rather within the context of the words and sentences that come before and after.

  For that matter, none of English was meant to be studied in isolation, so I will encourage you to read as much real English as possible. (English in grammar books doesn’t count!) Look at the symbols and observe how those symbols are grouped. Absorb the structure and the placement of the words. Make notes. Use a dictionary. Allow confusion to exist. Focus on what is not confusing. Stay super curious and positive. Good luck!


Professor Michael Wesorick

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