1. Learning a language means learning a skill, not acquiring knowledge. You test your command of a foreign language by your ability to perform in it, not by how much you know about it. Performance refers to your ability to understand, speak, read and write. Knowledge refers mainly to grammar rules and vocabulary.
2. So avoid reading anything that you know is too difficult for you. Reading should be a pleasure, so the texts should be within your range.
3. If you read enough, you will find that you will acquire a large vocabulary without needing to turn to the dictionary all the time.
4. If you are reading an argument, make notes on the points 'for' and 'against'. Once you have these notes, use them to give a little talk in English which attempts to recreate what you have just read. Alternatively, use the notes to 'say the text to yourself' as a mental exercise. You will soon get into the habit of not only reading in English, but thinking in English as well. Thinking in a foreign language is an indispensable requirement of fluency.
5. You should read as widely as you can. You don't want to read pieces which are mainly about language and language learning, so try to read articles in general magazines (either local or international).
6. The best way to give up smoking is to stop smoking cigarettes, etc. The best way to eat less is to start eating less. The best way to read an article is to read it.
7. Writing a summary of something you have read is excellent practice.
8. Keeping a diary is an excellent way of improving your written English for the following reasons:
1. It is constant practice.
2. You are writing about true experiences.
3. Writing a diary gives you constant practice in three writing styles: narration, description and reflection.
9. Remember, there are two kinds of vocabulary: receptive and productive. Receptive vocabulary refers to the words you can recognize and understand but can't necessarily use. Productive vocabulary refers to the words you know and can use with confidence.
10. It's totally pointless learning grammar for its own sake.
11. Sentence structure is the way we show the relationship between ideas and events.
12. The most important thing to do with a dictionary is really to use it, above all when you are reading. Use it till you know your way round it and enjoy what it offers you.
13. Reading a newspaper is the very best thing you can do to improve your English. Don't set yourself too much reading so you become discouraged. Read a little from a nespaper every day. It will put you in touch with a whole range of subjects in good modern English.
14. I would say you have to discount your native language. Interference from your native language is the biggest barrier to acquisition. ... You have to unlearn the habits you have acquired in your native language in order to master the habit you need to speak a foreign language. This is very difficult and accounts for the different foreign varieties of English you hear round the world ( Frenglish, Spanglish, Chinglish, etc. ): the native language is asserting itself in English and 'interfering' with acquisition. Interference occurs in all areas: pronunciation, stress and intonation, grammar, vocabulary as well as ways of thinking, ways of problem-solving. Even misunderstandings among nations are often the direct product of this kind of interference.
15. Listening comprehension is the key to the command of any foreign language. That's one of the reasons why it's so difficult to learn on your own.
16. Any communicative or practical use of English is better than tudying grammar for its own sake. ... Whatever you do, don't study grammar in isolation.
By L.G. Alexander
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