Shin Kyu-cheol, professor in the department of English language at Far East University, says that extensive reading* is crucial (of the greatest importance) to English acquisition.
Professor Shin was interviewed for this morning’s edition of the Korea Herald, a Korean English-language newspaper. Here are some of the things he said about extensive reading (ER):
- ER exposes students to language and culture.
- ER helps students learn how English is used in specific contexts.
- ER helps develop critical and creative thinking skills and cultural understanding.
- Students should choose books that are interesting and easy to understand.
- ER helps improve all four skills – reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
- ER helps students internalize words and expressions which they can then use when they write.
- Students should concentrate on being able to communicate.
- Students should not worry about being perfect or having native-like pronunciation.
- Language education should be “learner-centered” – teachers and schools should create an environment in which students are motivated to voluntarily study English.
- Teachers should be facilitators, who help students select good books and study in good reading environments.
He is absolutely correct!
*Extensive reading is recreational reading of large amounts of interesting, easy-to-understand material, usually fiction.
Added note – after publishing this post, I sent the following e-mail to the Korea Herald:
I want to commend the Herald for publishing Professor Shin’s ideas about the importance of extensive reading for English (language) acquisition. While he is correct in all that he says – his ideas are based on a large body of academic research – perhaps his most important suggestions are those that would bring changes to language education in Korea and most other countries.
I am an adult ESL specialist who works with immigrant English learners, including many Koreans, in southern California. Their transition to life in the U.S. – for education or employment – would have been much easier if their language education had been based on the principles he describes.