Inevitably, I begin each Friday sitting across from a student whose facial expression is a mix of wonder, frustration, anticipation and bewilderment. They have found their way to the English Cafe located on the second floor of the Inmundae building. Here students can sign up for a 25 minute session with native English speaking staff to help with any problems they may have. Many of these students have already put in countless hours at English hakwons that employ native English teachers.
Luckily, many of these teachers provide a fun and encouraging environment for the students to learn and develop an interest in English. Other students spent years in middle school and high school learning English grammar and memorizing vocabulary and ended up disliking the difficult language. Still more have spent time abroad in a native English speaking country, studying to improve and experiencing western culture. But no matter their English background, the question is always the same, ‘Now what?”
They want the ‘secret’ to learning English. Many university students today have realized that English is no longer a foreign language, but a necessary tool of communication. In the corporate world, knowledge of English will soon be assumed; similar to knowing how to use a fax machine, send an email or make a PowerPoint presentation.Some course text books for many different majors from biology to engineering are only available in English.
Also, much of Korean entertainment,such as movies, TV dramas and music are originally in English and references to English are popping up more and more in Korean pop culture as well. Today’s forward thinkers are recognizing that English will soon no longer be an option, but a near necessity to join and operate inside the ranks of privilege in the global society.
So now that you’ve decided that improving your English skills is your new number one priority, what is the path to success? Of course there is no ‘secret’ to learning English. It takes the same hard work and dedication that it takes to become proficient at anything.This means that the same time honored,tried and true methods that can help you to succeed at anything in life will also work with English.I first tell students to find their motivation.Start by answering the question, ‘Why do you want to improve your English skills?’
Maybe you are interested in traveling overseas. Not only will English help you to communicate when you want to order food,find a hotel or buy a ticket for a museum or event in many countries, but it will also help you to communicate with many fellow travelers. Perhaps after graduating from university here you want to go abroad to study for a Master’s or a PhD. It could be that you need a good TOEIC/TOEFL score to help you get a better job or that you want to understand western pop culture like movies, TV shows and music better.
Whatever your reason,find it and focus on it when your studying gets tough and you are frustrated.This will help you to keep going.Students have to take responsibility for their own learning. No matter where you study or how great a teacher you have, it is the effort that you apply afterward, studying and practicing on your own, that will garner the biggest results. Setting small,measurable and obtainable goals will help you to make tangible gains. You can set a goal like learning a new word everyday or writing a couple of English sentences in a journal everynight and as you progress and see that you are making gains you will be able to set bigger goals and be confident that you will accomplish them.
That brings us to the next key factor in learning English, confidence. Success in learning a new language comes from practice, and being shy and selfconscious will kill many opportunities to improve. You have to overcome your fears and make attempt after attempt to improve. Students can’t be concerned with making mistakes because with every mistake you make you will learn a little more.Something that will also help is to study things you are interested in. Use movies, TV shows, music, comics and magazines as tools to help improve your English skills and to keep it fun and interesting.
Finally, those students that have been lucky enough to study abroad often return from their three month,six month or year long stay in Australia,Canada or the UK with improved English confidence and ability only to realize that the opportunities
to continue to improve and practice are limited. This can certainly be a frustrating experience and I have definitely seen the need for proficient English speakers to meet and converse with each other in a relaxing atmosphere. I think an English conversation club here at Dankook University would be a good start. I attempted to start one last semester, but it did not get going. Any students that would be
interested in participating in this club can email me at email@example.com.
Good luck to all of you that have dreams of speaking better English. Remember to find your motivation and focus on your goals. Work hard, be confident and try to keep it fun and I’m sure that your dreams will quickly turn into reality.
Prof. John Foley firstname.lastname@example.org