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'How can I improve my English?'

 
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Shroob



Joined: 02 Aug 2010
Posts: 1211

PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 9:47 am    Post subject: 'How can I improve my English?' Reply with quote

Hi all,

I'm sure you've all been asked this question umpteen times, I know I have. My usual response is something along the lines of, 'practise, practise, practise'. Combined with tips such as find a language buddy (someone who you speak English to every day), visit English learning websites, listen to English podcasts on your phone/MP3 player, write a diary and things like that.

I try and promote learner autonomy as much as possible, as the saying goes, 'teachers open the door, but students must walk though it'. So I'd like to know what you say to people who ask this question?

Cheers.
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choudoufu



Joined: 25 May 2010
Posts: 3325
Location: Mao-berry, PRC

PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 10:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

tell 'em to make a sign which reads "dorm room xxx, 7-8 pm daily,
engrish only" and post it on the wall in their room. during that time
only english is to be spoken.

just have the same conversations they normally would, but in english.

if worried their vocab is insufficient, during the last five minutes, they
should decide on the next night's topic: clothing, shopping, boyfriends,
food, pets, the cutest foreign teacher, or why they hate english. they
then have the chance to check the dictionary for words to use during
the following session.
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GeminiTiger



Joined: 15 Oct 2004
Posts: 999
Location: China, 2005--Present

PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 5:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

common sense answers just seem to be ignored.

frustration.. lol
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Non Sequitur



Joined: 23 May 2010
Posts: 2411
Location: China

PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 6:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I suggest spending an hour a day when on holiday viewing CCTV English Channel.
I also suggest learning and performing (with friends if appropriate) an English language pop song.
I've hit on these as anything that takes effort will be ignored.
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johntpartee



Joined: 02 Mar 2010
Posts: 3231

PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 6:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
So I'd like to know what you say to people who ask this question?


Pretty much what you say to them. Practice, practice, practice. Author Alex Haley said that he was always being asked by people how to become a writer. His reply was always "WRITE!"
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GeminiTiger



Joined: 15 Oct 2004
Posts: 999
Location: China, 2005--Present

PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 7:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Why on earth do Chinese expect us to have a magic answer on how to be good at English and why do the look at me with glazed over eyes and sadness when I tell them it's a matter of effort? I'll never know!
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tommysand



Joined: 06 Feb 2012
Posts: 34

PostPosted: Wed Nov 14, 2012 5:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is a result of an education system that teaches them that teachers have all the answers, and that the only good knowledge can be learnt in the class room or from books. I'm shocked at how bad at English, after 10 years of study, my Chinese undergrad students are, especially when compared to the international students at the uni, particularly the Indonesians. There are numerous exceptions to this, but I've found they've mainly gone to private or international schools. Go figure.
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fat_chris



Joined: 10 Sep 2003
Posts: 3135

PostPosted: Wed Nov 14, 2012 6:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

GeminiTiger wrote:
Why on earth do Chinese expect us to have a magic answer on how to be good at English and why do the look at me with glazed over eyes and sadness when I tell them it's a matter of effort? I'll never know!


Haha! Like this? Arrow Crying or Very sad or Sad

Cool

Warm regards,
fat_chris
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twilothunder



Joined: 09 Dec 2011
Posts: 442

PostPosted: Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

GeminiTiger wrote:
Why on earth do Chinese expect us to have a magic answer on how to be good at English and why do the look at me with glazed over eyes and sadness when I tell them it's a matter of effort? I'll never know!


Haha, but then don't we all want some kind of magic formula when studying? I know I'm a sucker for promises on software and books when buying Chinese learning resources.
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xiguagua



Joined: 09 Oct 2011
Posts: 768

PostPosted: Tue Nov 20, 2012 3:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

twilothunder wrote:
GeminiTiger wrote:
Why on earth do Chinese expect us to have a magic answer on how to be good at English and why do the look at me with glazed over eyes and sadness when I tell them it's a matter of effort? I'll never know!


Haha, but then don't we all want some kind of magic formula when studying? I know I'm a sucker for promises on software and books when buying Chinese learning resources.


Sadly this is EXACTLY what they are expecting. They're expecting you to tell them a magic formula that improves their English drastically overnight. Ask any student that is known for having good English and they will tell that they have the same problem with their classmates asking them this ridiculous question. I've had classes that ask another classes student to come to their class and give a speech on "How to improve your English?" I mean really, what do you expect?

I just try to give an analogy, Wang Hao didn't become the greatest Pingpong player in the world by sleeping on his ping pong paddle. He's practicing several hours every day. Using athletes sometimes can get the idea across but it's never good enough, they'll ask the next week again and never take any of our advice.
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choudoufu



Joined: 25 May 2010
Posts: 3325
Location: Mao-berry, PRC

PostPosted: Tue Nov 20, 2012 1:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

xiguagua wrote:
I just try to give an analogy, Wang Hao didn't become the greatest Pingpong player in the world by sleeping on his ping pong paddle. He's practicing several hours every day. Using athletes sometimes can get the idea across but it's never good enough, they'll ask the next week again and never take any of our advice.


nah, analogies never work. they just can't make that connection.

did yao ming get so good by watching NBA all day long? "no!"
did he get so good by reading novels about basketball? "no!"
did he get his skills from playing basketball computer games? "no!"
really??? how did he do it? "practice every day!"

gooooood, now how will you improve your engrish? "read book!"
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jibbs



Joined: 02 Feb 2003
Posts: 448

PostPosted: Wed Nov 21, 2012 5:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"did yao ming get so good by watching NBA all day long?"

Being freakishly tall didn't hurt either.
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GreatApe



Joined: 11 Apr 2012
Posts: 420
Location: South of Heaven and East of Nowhere

PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 1:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had a good laugh when I saw the title of this thread. After three years in China this is definitely one of the questions I get sick and tired of hearing.

It's funny how many students (and administrators) are absolutely convinced that they need a living, breathing Lao Wai to improve their English. I've had students at the International School where I teach pretty much refuse to speak English in class or study (for that matter), but as soon as mama and papa send them overseas and they find themselves in a foreign country going to high school or university they contact me on QQ and are suddenly VERY EAGER to learn!

In the age of MP 3, 4, 5, and the Internet (nevermind actual "Language Labs" and computer programs) .... "there are no foreigners to talk to where I live" amounts to little more than an excuse not to do the work necessary to learn the language. The students I've had who have truly learned the language and continued to improve have: 1) practiced phonetics, 2) been great readers and were will and unafraid to read outloud, 3) continued to study grammar and vocabulary a little bit at a time, 4) used MP3 and other recorded audio for dictation, rhythm, intonation and pronunciation practice, and 5) sought advice and conversation practice from an English speaker.

Just my .02 RMB worth.

--GA
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