Saijo Temple in Minami Ashigara City, Kanagawa Prefecture

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Monday, October 06, 2008

How to Improve your English

Pictured: A Penguin graded reader, reading graded readers is a
fantastic and fun way to improve your English.

By Kevin Burns

Make the decision to do it! As Nike says: "Just Do it!"

Use your will to study, even when you don`t want to. Even when you don`t feel
motivated that day.

Watch Movies

Watching old black and white movies is probably best as they don`t use much slang,
and they don`t have things blowing up every two seconds! The actors also speak

Another idea is to watch a movie that you know. But this time, watch it in English.
If you watched it in Japanese before, now set the DVD to English, with
English subtitles. Or if you are more confident, just listen to the English (with no
Subtitles). This well help your listening.

Don`t translate as you listen. Do your best to think in English. You can do it!
You don`t need to understand everything. Try to get the just of the meaning.

As your listening ability improves, select movies that you really want to watch,
and enjoy them in English. Don`t use the Japanese subtitles.

If you have trouble understanding British accents. Then choose British movies for the
next few months.

Really any TV program you would like to watch will improve your English. Soap
operas are also good as the acting is very exaggerated and the English is easier.

Some of my students watch Prision Break, Lost or 24 because they love those kinds of shows.
But again, don`t watch them in Japanese. Watch them in English only!

Read Books

In children`s books, the vocabulary and grammar is easier, plus it is a fun change from normal study.
children`s books too can give you valuable insight to the culture of the country
and what parents think their children should learn about morals and values.
kind of a mini-lesson in culture.

Some of my students read Harry Potter and other books in English. You can also
borrow easy books in English from the library. These are called graded readers.
They are published by companies like Cambridge and Oxford University Press.
You should choose books where you know 95% or more of the vocabulary.

You should read for enjoyment. If the book is too difficult and you have to
constantly look up new words in the dictionary, you will probably give up.

These books usually come in six levels. Choose a very easy level for yourself,
then gradually choose more difficult books as your English improves.

One day you will be able to read any book in English and enjoy it!

Get a Job!

Find a job where English is spoken. Japan is changing very quickly, with more
and more non-Japanese living here. As well, the Japanese Ministry of Tourism
is trying to increase the number of tourists coming to Japan.

Areas where non-Japanese live like Shin Okubo, Roppongi, Hiro in Tokyo require
English speakers. There are areas throughout Japan (even in Hokkaido) where
many non-Japanese live. Live and work amongst them, and improve your English!

The major tourist spots of Japan require people who can speak English.
waiters, sales staff, hotel staff, bar staff, tour companies all require English speakers.
Why not make some money and practice English for free?

You will quickly learn the English necessary for your job. Then you can
even do small talk with customers. Non-Japanese love small talk.
With the internet it has become easier for Japanese to meet people from abroad online.
Of course you have to be careful. But corresponding by Email can be another
great way to improve your English skills.

Japanese tend to worry about making mistakes. DON`T!

Mistakes are necessary for improvement. Think about when you were a baby.
You had to fall many times before you could learn to walk.

Valuable Phrases:

How do you say this in English? (Point to object)

How do you say tori in English? Bird

Once more please.

Sorry could you repeat that please?

Could you speak more slowly please?


Enjoy the process. Learning English should be fun, keep it that way by making it your hobby.
You will improve over the years, and the world will open to you.

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