No magic ways to learn reading and writing quickly [Archives:2007/1100/Education]

November 5 2007

Mohammed Hassan Bakheet
[email protected]

More and more students ask me to suggest ways how they can master the foreign language skills quickly, especially how to improve their writing and reading skills using the best and shortest way.

Most of them tend to think that there are magical tantrums that can enable them to master these skills like the native speakers of English.

The most important questions that my students often ask are:

1 – How much time does it take to master the language and what should I do? How much time should I spend every day?

2 – How should I practice remembering the words? Should I learn the word's spelling first, or know the meaning first?

3 – How do I improve the speed of reading, and should I learn the words while reading the paragraph itself?

4 – How should I communicate my thoughts to others? When I am speaking to somebody, I'm not able to speak for a long time because I lack words. How can I overcome that handicap?

My response to this battery of questions and suggested tips to go ahead in learning reading and writing quickly and efficiently are as follows:

1. How much time does it take to master the language?

One answer is that it takes a lifetime. English is a complex language with a huge vocabulary. Nobody can learn them all, but the more words you know (and know how to use them properly) the better you can express your ideas. Only you can decide how much time is available to study English. The important point is that you use that time well.

2. How should I practice remembering words?

It doesn't seem useful to learn how to spell a word if you don't know what it means. Spelling it correctly, and then using it incorrectly, won't make your English better. So I would say it makes sense to first learn the meaning of a word and how to use it. In order to use it in your writing, you need to learn how to spell it. For me, both tasks go together. Why try to separate them? When you learn a new word, just decide that you will learn both meaning and spelling.

3. How to improve the speed of reading?

I think what you are really asking is whether you should stop reading in order to look up the words that you don't know. I would say YES. How can you hope to get the meaning from a piece of writing if you don't know what some of the words mean? You will only be guessing at the meaning. If you do that, you are not reading what the writer wrote, you are creating your own fiction using parts of what the writer wrote. It takes time, and makes reading slow, but I believe it is necessary. You may wish to scan a paragraph, pick out all the words you don't know, look up each one (maybe write them all down) and then go back and read the paragraph using what you have learned. Don't worry about speed. That's not the most important thing.

The most important thing is to understand that if you keep doing this, the speed of your reading will increase automatically.

4. How should I communicate my thoughts to others?

I think it's true for every person who is learning a new language that when you try to speak, you often can't find the right word. The answer is interrelated with the other things I told you. When you write, you can take the time to think and to look up words in the dictionary. But when you speak, you have to start eventually to “think” in English. Once that begins to happen, you will be more fluent. It just takes time and practice.

To conclude, I encourage you to read as many English texts as you can. You don't have to limit it to academic subjects. It's good practice to read for entertainment also. You will be learning while you enjoy. If you have access to English language movies and television programs, watching those will also increase your familiarity with English. It will make you more comfortable with English, and that will also make you a better writer.