I. Reading and Listening
by Owen Fourie
Steps 1 – 2
People who are learning English, particularly as a second or foreign language, will find these steps useful.
For those who are determined to improve their English usage, these steps will be beneficial as
- a private course if you are in business or any other walk of life where English is used;
- a supplement to your college work, if you have the time;
- a private course if you are not yet in college, or if you are not going to college at all;
- a supplement to your high school studies, if you have the time.
There are, as the title indicates, eleven steps to improve your English writing skills. These steps will come to you in a short series of articles. These are things that you need to do, so use this blog and this self-help category as a reference point for your personal development.
Step 1: Read English
To write well, you have to read much. You have a daily requirement of food and drink in order to live and function. Reading English is a daily requirement if you wish to write in this language.
Read as many stories as you can find. Short stories, novels, and plays will provide an enjoyable way to become familiar with written English.
Avoid reading books on the Internet. The text is not always accurate, and there are too many distractions when you are on line. It is better to have an actual book that you can read without interruption.
The most inexpensive way to acquire the books you need is to become a member of your nearest library. Librarians will be glad to assist you by recommending good literature and showing you where to find these works.
It is possible to borrow more than one book at a time. You might find, though, that it will be better to focus on one book and read it from cover to cover. The return date will help you to discipline yourself to accomplish the reading in a set time.
One way to do this is to
- look at how many pages there are in the book (let’s say there are 300 pages);
- look at how many days there are from today to the return date (let’s say there are 20 days);
- divide the number of pages by the number of days, so 300 divided by 20 gives you 15 pages per day that you need to read;
- keep a tabulation of the dates and the page numbers, so that you will easily see where you should be on any particular day:
|Title of Book, Author|
|Day #||Date||Pages||Pages actually read|
In the third column, you have your daily goal. This is what you should read. In the fourth column, you record your actual performance. As far as possible, you try to meet your goal.
There will be days when you will fall short, but the listing of your goal in the third column will help you to reach the mark that you have set to complete the book by the date it has to be returned.
If, for some reason, you are unable to make use of library facilities, you will find that used books can be purchased quite cheaply from Amazon.com. If you can afford it, Amazon’s Kindle is a portable e-book reader that you might prefer to use. Of course, you should still set daily goals and a deadline for completion if you elect to read books using this device.
Step 2: Listen to English
If you want to write well, it is not enough to read English. You need to hear it being spoken by people who are required to use it correctly.
We have an advantage today in being able to listen to radio on the Internet.
Here are some links:
Mostly British English:
- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world/ and look for any link to Live BBC World Service Radio;
- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/ and look for Live BBC World Service.
Mostly American English:
- http://www.npr.org/ and click on the “Listen” tab;
- http://www.wgbh.org/ and look for the “897 WGBH” button.
If you go to Amazon.com and search for audio books, or books on cassette, or books on CD or MP3 CD, you will find a large selection of works for your listening. Of course, an MP3 CD will be easier to load than a CD to your iPod.
The best way to benefit from audio books is to have a printed edition of the particular book on hand to follow the text while it is being read.
If it is a work that has been translated into English, such as Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days, you must be sure that you have the same printed edition as the one used for the audio book. This could be difficult to establish, so I would advise you to avoid translated works for this purpose, but do read them without listening to them.
Audio books can be expensive, so this might not be feasible for everyone.
In Part Two, we’ll look at the next two steps that are needed if you are to improve your writing skills.
Reading English and listening to it being spoken are basic steps to follow if you wish to improve your English writing skills. Are there other points about these two steps that should have been mentioned here? Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome.
Copyright © 2011 by English Essay Writing Tips www.englishessaywritingtips.com