Recently whether the score of General English Proficiency Test (GEPT) should be counted in public officials’credits for promotion has been a controversial issue. Is English learning that important? Why bother? Although English ability is not equal to the concept of “internationalization,” it does represent an important and convenient tool for communication with people in global village.
Then, how to improve English? Most people would have this question in mind and many experts have ever proposed their opinions or suggestions on this issue. I do agree what Mr. Peter Lai mentioned in last issue (#52) that pronunciation, conversational skills and reading are three crucial and cyclic steps of English learning. Like him, I would like to share my experience as well, though it might not be an interesting or special one.
Many may know that English ability could be decomposed into four parts: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Students ever asked me how to improve English ability with an organized approach, I say if you can concentrate on above fours parts simultaneously, you find the essential keys to English. In terms of listening and speaking, you could listen to English radio programs, TV news, English songs, language tapes, and watch movies without caption. Still, you could grape every chance to talk with English speakers in order to frequently practice conversational skills and correct pronunciation, and, most importantly, you always have to speak out, even try an error. I believe at this point, “practice makes perfect” comes up your head. With respect to reading and writing, you would read any English materials, such as newspapers, novels, science fiction, etc., and try to write a summary or essay on what you read. Sooner or later you would find that English is not difficult and could be part of your life.
From my experience, fundamental requirements of English ability (listening, speaking, reading and writing) include vocabulary, grammar, and sentence patterns. My English teacher in senior high school ever asked us to bring a pocket dictionary at hand and look it up whenever we need to know a word or the usage of phrase. I even tried to memorize every word new to me and learned how to use it by reading the illustration in the dictionary. In this way, vocabulary, grammar, and sentence patterns tend to be obtained and increased at the same time. It was very useful when I prepared the entrance exam, Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL) and General Record Examinations (GRE).
However, until my stay in the US, I found learning slang was the most difficult part since it combines culture, tradition, history and life style. I encourage whoever wishes to improve English could, if conditions allow, just go abroad to live for a while and experience various stuff. English would be improved substantially if it is transformed as a piece of life. Some common use as examples of slang is presented below. You may try to figure out the meaning!
Question 1: What does “rise and shine” mean?
Answer: Get up.
Question 2: What is “sitcom”?
Answer: Situation comedy.
Question 3: What does “you look beat” mean?
Answer: You look tired.
Question 4: How to say“go to bed”in different ways?
Answer: 1) Hit the hay. 2) Hit the sack. 3) Hit the sheet. 4) Turn in.
Question 5: What does “that is a steal” mean?
A: Only $200 for this jacket.
B: That is a steal.
Answer: That is a bargain.
There are some simple tests, and I believe you can work them out. Finally I would like to say: the closer you are with English, the better you can use it; the better you can use it, the more fun you would enjoy.