Beyond the Basics

Turbocharge your reading and listening


It’s no secret – reading and listening are the key to language development. The more you read and the more you listen, the more your English will grow. It’s that simple. But there are some things you can do to turbocharge (add energy to) your reading and listening to make it more effective.

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How to read more: a lover’s guide


There’s no question about it. Reading and listening are essential for language development. You probably know that. But if you’re like a lot of people, sometimes you need a little nudge and a little encouragement to keep you going. This should do the job!

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A matter of identity


The input you receive from reading and listening is the essential ingredient for language acquisition. But there are other ingredients – for example, the beliefs and feelings you have about yourself, your new language, and its culture – that affect your ability to acquire and use a new language.

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Who’s your (English) mama?


People who must learn a new language to work in another country often work with a native speaker, called a language resource person (LRP), to help them acquire conversational language. There’s a variation on the idea of LRPs – called language parents – that could do the same for you.

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Fine-tune your reading for better English


Reading (and listening) is the key to language development. More specifically, the comprehensible input we get from reading and listening is the key to language development. Without it very little happens. With it, vocabulary grows, a feel for correctness emerges, and fluency increases. Comprehensible input is necessary and also sufficient to achieve your goal – better English.

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Lessons for better English


Lessons for better English is a collection of Successful English articles – organized like a textbook or course outline – for English students and teachers. Its goal – to help you improve your English by helping you understand and practice successful language acquisition.

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Reading improves students’ writing


There’s strong agreement among the writers, teachers, and researchers I know best: good writing comes from reading. Many students, however, have trouble accepting this fact. In this article – a case study – I describe the effect that reading has had on one student’s writing.

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A language teacher acquires a new language


Alex teaches English at an American university. He’s also the director of the university’s TESL program, where students learn how to teach English as a second language. When he wanted to learn Spanish, he began as many English learners do. And failed. He found success, though, when he applied a simple principle and found some creative ways to make it work.

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Does practice make perfect English?


Practice (verb) – to do an activity, often regularly, in order to improve a skill or prepare for a test. “I need more practice” may be the most frequent statement I receive from English learners. How concerned should they be about practice?

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Making good choices


One of my students – let’s call him Bryan – recently asked me, “How can I be sure that what I’m reading (or listening to) is good for me?” Bryan wants to improve his English as quickly as possible, and he’s worried about wasting time.

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When you do the right thing and it doesn’t seem to work


Of all the students I’ve worked with, one group always seems to do better than the rest even though they all do the same thing. Sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it – but it’s true. Make sure you’re in the right group.

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Who needs slang?


Slang. Many English students worry about it. Some teachers spend a lot of time trying to teach it. And publishers keep printing books about it. But why? Is slang that important? Is it worth the worry, time, and money?

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Helping battered English learners


Students at a well-known Japanese college of technology were frustrated. They had studied English for several years, but their English still wasn’t good. The school tried using native English-speaking teachers, language laboratories, and computer-assisted learning, but nothing seemed to help. To make things worse, students were bored with studying grammar and translating texts. Then the school introduced a program that changed everything.

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Speaking success


It’s often helpful – when you’re trying something new – to hear how others have done the same thing. You pick up new ideas. You’re encouraged by their experiences and successes. And you learn that you’re not alone; others are trying to do the same thing you are. I hope these stories – about success speaking a new language – will do all of that for you.

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If I wanted to speak better English


Every English learner would like to speak fluently. And some have to. Most of my coaching clients, for example, are people who need to speak English fluently for business, professional, and personal success. Unfortunately, fluent speaking is often the most frustrating goal for English learners, especially those who live where English isn’t spoken. Happily, there’s a good way to improve your speaking – a way that takes time, but that’s too enjoyable to be called work or study.

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