Steps to improve your English

By | December 3, 2007

English rules the Web. If you are not proficient in English, it’s hard to get around the Web. Most sites are in English. Most applications are developed for English audiences, and most tutorials are in English. So let’s face it, having a good command of English is, (fortunately or unfortunately) essential.

For a self confessed universal Web junkie like me, being able to converse, read, and write in English makes it effortless to grasp what someone is writing about. I’m guessing the same goes for many of my visitors.

But, reality check – English is FAR from being the medium spoken by the world’s majority…

I’m still hoping for a good free translator for WordPress. And for Google to improve their translation services. Most of the time, the translations by Google or Babel Fish end up being altogether something else! But why hope on inferior technology, when we can simply brush up on our English, and solve the problem?

If your English has been holding you back, you can’t speak confidently, you write a message, and it reads as something else, you keep misspelling words, you are a troll on forums because you’re afraid of being misunderstood, etc, fret not – you CAN improve your English!

pen-and-paper.jpg1) Take the time to read good publications. I mean the good ones. Usually, these are good books/novels. Because they cost money to print, the authors really make sure they write quality. It’s OK to read blogs and stuff, but on the Web, typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors are very common maladies, so it’s worth bearing that in mind. Here’s a site which lists down many common errors. I think it’s pretty useful – Common Errors in English by Paul Brian.

2) Think in English. Each language has their way on expressing a certain idea/concept. It’s one thing to learn the nuances of grammar, or to become a Scrabble champion, but it’s another thing to actually “think” in the language. If English is not your first language, then using English a lot in daily life, and thinking with it, will do probably more to improve your English than anything else.

3) Make the effort. If you aren’t really sure what a word means, make the effort; go get a dictionary, and find out the meaning. If you haven’t noticed by now, Google has been providing a “definition” link to most terms, which leads you to pages.

I’ve seen foreign students go from totally “zero” in a language, to “fair” level, within just a couple of years, due to plain, simple, hard work. I guess you can’t really work too hard.

4) Immerse in the media. Namely, TV shows, music, movies, you know. Media usually involves the visual and audio senses, so it may even be more effective than reading. The downside though, is the quality of English in the media may not necessarily be up to par.

Afterthought: This blog post was inspired by the sheer numbers of forum posts that are barely comprehensible in the forums that I usually hang out at. I am not sure if it is due to real language deficiencies or otherwise, but based on my observations, such posts usually either end up ignored by other members, or worse, get misunderstood.  🙂

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3 thoughts on “Steps to improve your English

  1. X-Ray

    I concur. English is a must, if one really wants to enjoy the Internet in its totality.

  2. David Forrester

    I agree. Learning English is not simple but is well worth it.
    You talk about immersing yourself in the media. This brings back memories of my aunt who was a school teacher. She would get so frustrated by so called ‘educated’ news anchors who very often spoke incorrectly.
    Your suggestion of ‘read good books’ is probably the better way to go.

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