Getting the lingo

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 September, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 September, 2002, 12:00am

'TOMOLO', 'b4', 'nyfing', 'brb' . . . do u use thz words, 2?

Some see this as evidence that ICQ has reduced English standards. Others argue that, if used properly, ICQ creates room for language learning.

Indeed, there are many opportunities for you to learn English outside the classroom, according to Cecilia Tong Chun-po, lecturer at the College of Professional and Continuing Education at Polytechnic University (PolyU).

'ICQ and e-mail are similar experiences to writing to penpals. They put you in touch with people around the world using English,' she said.

To improve your English, all you have to do is replace the shortened cyber abbreviations with complete sentences.

Having problems writing a 300-word composition? Perhaps you need more information on top of more language training.

Ms Tong suggests watching the news on TV or reading the newspaper. This can help you pick up useful phrases and jargon. Keeping up-to-date with current affairs also provides you with more material to write about.

If the vocabulary and fast pace of the English newsreaders puts you off, start with one of the Chinese channels. 'This will help you catch bits and pieces of the news from the English versions afterwards,' explained Ms Tong: 'And with print media, you can start with the simplified versions from pages for students.'

But reading the news is not enough. The PolyU lecturer said: 'Try reading books as well. Just pick any topic you enjoy, be it sports, entertainment, fiction or whatever.' This will certainly help you become more familiar with English grammar.

Reading can also help you kick the 'Chinglish' habit.

'Chinglish refers not only to an accent, but also the habit of thinking in Chinese first, and then translating into English,' explained Ms Tong.

So here is her easy-to-follow schedule: watch the news on a Chinese TV channel and then on an English channel. Read an English-language newspaper whenever you have time. When you go online, use complete sentences. And try to read and complete a book in English every two weeks.

Stick to this timetable for a few months and you will notice your progress.

One last tip from Ms Tong. There are plenty of opportunities for you to learn English if you care to find them: 'When going to a restaurant, why not study the menu and learn what a lobster is? Road signs are usually bilingual. All these small details are useful.'