Learning English for Non-English Speaking Individuals

By AM Sabirul Islam

Being an instructor for a foreign language is not easy, and especially if the language is English, which everyone wants to learn due to its usability.

Bored of nothing to do, last weekend I visited yahoo chat-room to get acquainted with some other instructors or persons in my field and exchange knowledge. Maybe even pick some helpful tips during the conversation. Not long into the chat-room I met this wonderful American lady who is currently employed in Bangalore as a Language Consultant. Her core responsibility was to eliminate the Indian English accent people there are so much into, and substitute it with American English. This is needed so that the call centers can better serve their US clients that largely consist of chain of Hotels.

We had a brief but extremely helpful conversation relating to her experiences, views and mode through which she guides her class. During our conversation she pointed out, to which I agree 100%, that most of them who take her classes are quite versed with English as a language. Simply put, they know more about English than they actually have confidence for. Of course, here I put in my experience about those attending my sessions and also people external to our organization who frequently seek my opinion and advice seem to be in the state as her students.

In light of our experiences, understanding and communication deficiencies we face while we use English as a language is due to the lack of practice. This she pointed out, and as you can understand that I completely agree, is the main reason why we quite often meet those who feel that they are not well versed in the language.

Truth be told, most of us, those of us having formal education at least, have enough exposure to, at least, start with English as a language. With enough vocabulary, listening, reading, writing and understanding abilities as needed. However, to boost up our confidence in English here are some suggestions:

1. Make reading a regular habit.

Read an article, a book or any other reading materials at least for 30 minutes. If you feel that your English is weak and you do not have the determination to improve it as much, employ at least 15 minutes to this task. True, when you start you may fumble and may not be able to cover that much of text in terms of quantity. But gradually as you proceed, you most certainly will find reading quite easy and will be able to cover more as time goes by.

2. Do not worry about what some words mean.

At this point it is best not to worry about understanding each and every word. English is a rich language with millions of words and it is quite impossible to know each and every English words. If you can manage it, of course, you can call yourself a Dictionary and get your place in the Guinness Record.

The trick at this stage is to find a material that you feel comfortable reading. A magazine or a book the language of which is easier for you to understand will be good enough, rather than taking up Shakespeare simply because it is available.

You may require reading a paragraph a number of times to get the meaning during the beginning depending on the complexity of the subject the material is about, or the order of presentation. But soon you will get the hold of it.

My view is, keep yourself away from tech books. Simply since you have your MCTS exam coming up shouldn’t be an excuse to think that it is general English reading. It in now way is any where close to it.

3. Reflect on what you have read.

Once you are done reading your assigned time, make it a habit to try to reflect on what you have read. Try to think what the author wanted to say, and try to grasp the essence of arrangement of words and presentation of thoughts. No two writers have the same style of presentation. And it is quite obvious that you will develop your own in time. But reflection on what you have read gives you the opportunity to review your material, re-understand and instantly mold your pattern of thinking to the way idea was presented in the text.

4. Make sure you stick to your routine.

It is advisable to first make a habit of reading in relation to time. In other words, reading for 15, 30 or 45 minutes daily rather than 30, 50 or 100 pages a day. The reason for this is simple. Depending on your strength in English, 1 average page of novel may take up say 5 minutes to read when you begin your venture towards mastering English. But gradually when you move in time the same amount of content will probably take up 1 minute or so. So it is important to review your strength regularly. And as you become more proficient in language, you may shift from targeting time to targeting the number of pages you cover. This will enable you to read fast and understand as you pace up.

5. There can be no substitute to writing.

Just as authors reflect their thought in text that we read, it helps to take up notes on what you read. Try to make this a habit as well for the time being. The main purpose of this writing is to help you strengthen your writing skills as well and align your thoughts to reflection on paper in English. So how and when do you take notes? My advice is in-book and off-book notes both.

While readying keep a pencil in your hand so you can mark difficult as you come across them. The trick is to read a sentence with difficult word, then underline the word itself, then read the sentence again. See how I didn’t’t tell you to refer to the dictionary at this point. You should concentrate on reading and underlining only, with objective to understand the complete reading target.

Once your reading target is achieved you may, and in fact should, refer to a dictionary to find the meaning of the word you underlined. You may come across multiple words. In which case, you will need to find out the most appropriate meaning in this context. Once that is done, go to where you have underlined the word and with your pencil, and of course in your own words write down the meaning of the word in the border space, or on top or bottom space of the page.

Now that you completed the in-book notes, its time to go for off book note keeping. Maintain a writing pad or some other writing material and keep it with you when you read. Once you have completed your reading, close your reading material and try to write down what you have read, in your own words of course. This will help you put your thoughts in words and in black and white. It always helps if you go one step further and review what you have written, trying to enhance it further. This will assist in you structuring your writing and develop your own style of presentation.

6. Watch documentary or news.

News and documentaries is arena that uses English in a well structured way and in a manner that is easy to understand by all. Take out a time in day to watch a documentary or news; again you can assign time to it depending on your daily schedule.

7. Discuss with others.

It always helps to form a group. You can share your reading materials and what you have read and understood. You can also share your views on an author, his writing, stories or even news or documentary you have seen. This will help you develop your understanding better if you are sharing the same material and opinion on it. It will also allow you have a glimpse how others understand the way a material is written and the way you present your thoughts and understanding. You can also share notes so that others can modify and make it better. At the very worst, if they can’t make it better through modification, you will be able to know another structure of presentation of your writing. Again this opens a new dimension for you.

AM Sabirul Islam - EzineArticles Expert Author

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