In my last post, I explained why regular reading – intensive reading – is so important if you want to improve both your writing and speaking skills. In today’s post I have prepared some extra strategies you can make use of to improve your writing and speaking. Here they are:
1) Read out loud.
Spend some time every day reading out loud. Just 5 or 10 minutes might be enough. This will help you hear both the sound of English words and the rhythm of English sentences. If you’re worried about people thinking you are crazy, do it at home in a private place.
2) Shadow read.
To do this, you’ll need an audio recording of what you are reading. TED talks are a good resource for this, because they often provide free transcripts of what’s being said. When you shadow read, you listen to the speaker and read out load almost at the same time as the speaker talks. The idea is again, to hear both the sound of English words and the rhythm of English sentences so that your English will sound more and more natural.
3) Read to someone.
Spend some time, whenever you can, reading aloud to an English-speaking friend who can help you with the pronunciation of words and with the meaning of any unfamiliar words. If you’re taking an English class, your teacher might ask you to read out loud together. There is a reason for this. Even if you are both non-native speakers at about the same level, it is likely that you will be able to help each other with some words.
4) Listen and follow.
Get an English-speaking friend to read a short section of a textbook aloud while you follow in your own copy of the same text. This is another way to increase your knowledge of how unfamiliar English words are pronounced, but you get the added benefit of learning the spelling of those words.
5) Do dictations.
Have someone read out loud a short well-developed paragraph from a text. Ask them to read it a little slower so that that you can write down what is being read. When you are finished, you can compare what you have written with what was read to you. Dictation practice is a great way to develop writing speed as well as listening skills.
6) List vocabulary.
Make a list of unfamiliar words and look up their meanings in a dictionary. Or, ask a friend or teacher to explain their meanings to you. Don’t forget to write example sentences that you find, as well as make up your own. Keep these lists (along with the definitions of the words) and go over them (or review them) from time to time in order to help keep them in your memory and allow them to become part of your everyday vocabulary.
7) Copy text.
Carefully copy a short passage of English writing. This may sound like a boring activity, but it will help you learn how words are spelled, how sentences are punctuated, and how idomatic phrases are used.
8) List idioms.
When you’re reading, make a list of English idioms whose meanings you are not sure of and then ask a friend or a teacher to explain their meanings to you.
Idiomatic phrases are common expressions with special meanings that cannot be understood from the individual meanings of the words in these phrases. For example, the meaning of pulling your leg has nothing to do with legs and actually means teasing you or making fun of you in a friendly way. Another example is being head over heels in love with someone. Head over heels? It’s a strange expression. It just means you’re very much in love with someone. It’s understandable that for most people who are learning English as a second or foreign language, the problem of mastering English idioms is challenging.
However, the fact is, that English is rich in idiomatic language, and your ability to understand and use it will take your English skills to a high level. So the chance to familiarize yourself with English idioms is one of the most important benefits from doing the activities on this list.
Do you have to do all these activities? No, but I do recommend trying them all at least once. Find out what works for you. Every learner is different in their strategies for learning. But in the end, you must adopt some strategies to improve your skills.