Korean professor says extensive reading is necessary


in Beyond the Basics, Spotlight

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.

Warren Ediger

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.


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Andy February 24, 2010

Thank you Sir for this article!
The problem is for every English leaners that how you said in every your article we should read easy books.I see why,but easy reading won’t help jump to academic reading and writting ,which are required for study or professional job .It is very difficult to find books with gradually increasing level to academic English.Another thing is we can read ,we can understand ,but use these words in writting or speech it is somehow different skill…

Warren Ediger February 24, 2010

You’re right, you can’t jump to academic English, but you can – and must – build toward it. It’s the only way. It’s like a runner beginning with short distances, slower speeds building to longer distances and faster speeds.

There is strong research evidence and practical experience that says that reading is essential to developing writing skills. One of my new tutoring students – a law professor from Brazil – told me last week that he was able to write effectively – not perfectly, but effectively – to an American law professor as a result of his reading and without formal training in English writing.

Can formal training help? Yes, absolutely. But it can’t be a substitute for a significant amount of input from reading and listening.

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