Speaking a language, not reading it from a textbook, is the best way to learn it

By Shirley Ng Cho-yan, Leung Shek Chee College
By Shirley Ng Cho-yan, Leung Shek Chee College |

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 I am writing in response to the article,  “What went wrong in English” (Young Post, November 16). 

English is very important for Hong Kong students. The best way to learn any new language is just to speak it. It doesn’t matter if you only know five English words – speaking English with another person is the fastest and most effective way to improve your language skills. Don’t wait until you “feel more comfortable” speaking English – you probably won’t reach that level for a long time – so push yourself beyond your comfort zone and start speaking English today.  

Also, work on your pronunciation. Even if your grammar is good and you have an extensive vocabulary, native English speakers may not be able to understand you, if your pronunciation is bad. Learn new words and use idioms. The more English phrases you learn, the easier speaking will become.

Attending an English class or discussion group is another great way to incorporate some extra English conversation into your routine.

Carrying an English dictionary with you at all times, whether it’s a book or a phone app, can also be very useful. 

I hope my suggestions will help improve your English skills.

Shirley Ng Cho-yan,  Leung Shek Chee College

From the editor 

Thank you for your letter, Shirley. As English is still an official language in Hong Kong, and still one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, it is worth spending the extra time, as you suggest, to improve your skill.

All your suggestions for practising and improving English are excellent, and they are clearly working – your letter is very well written!

I have some extra suggestions for how students can improve their vocabulary and understanding, and they’re all, I hope, really fun and easy.

First, read. It doesn’t matter if you pick a classic novel or a comic book. It doesn’t matter if you only understand 30 per cent of the words. Just keep pushing through, and let the words enter your brain. If you have time, look up the words you don’t understand, but the main thing is just to be exposed to words.

Secondly, listen to music. Probably not rap, but hearing any songs in English is almost like listening to native speakers having a conversation. Old songs are probably best, as there was less production, so the voices are clearer.

Finally, watch TV and movies – with subtitles. Then you have three ways of absorbing language: reading, listening, and watching the actors’ mouths move! Plus, it’s fun, which means learning becomes even easier!

Karly, Deputy Editor