Lift up your language input by reading so that you will have more to talk about in English.

In my experience, most international English students have very low or weak input in English. If you are in a country where English is not a major language, it is of course difficult for you to hear enough English to learn well. If you are in an English-speaking country studying English, such as the USA, England, Canada, New Zealand, or Australia, you may think that everything is ok for you, but is it really? If you speak your home language at home and avoid deep conversation, time passes very quickly without much challenge for you.

You can’t learn much at the bank, at the supermarket, at the beach or at a government office. You have already learned those sentences. “How much is it?” “Thirty-four dollars sixty-five.” “Ok.” “Just put your card there.” “Ok, thank you.” “Thank-you.” “Do you want a bag?” “Yes, please.” “There you go.” “Thank-you.” “Thank-you.” “Good-bye.” “Bye.” That is the level of your input in English. Very basic; it is not professional level English. If your input is very weak, your output will be weak. That is true in both speaking and writing. Low input=low output. It is very simple.

Many students will watch English movies and videos or look at the news on the internet just to get a general idea about things. However, this kind of input is superficial, and the vocabulary is never repeated enough. So, the words and structures are not learned. The action of the video speeds by but it is hard to catch even one word and hold on to it, deliberately repeat it, and then use it in your own working vocabulary. That is why repetition is very important for adult learners. Adults do not have the capacity to take in and remember language the way children do. Therefore, it is important that adult learners have situations where they get to ‘work’ with the language at their own pace and with the right people. It is surprisingly true that it is even difficult for a student of English to learn from their own friend, wife or husband. I know many cases of students who are married to a native English speaker, yet their own speech is very poor. Obviously, the opportunities are just passing by those learners like a dream.

Reading can be an answer to this problem. What is special about reading? You read at your own speed. You think about the language much more while you read as well. It is easy to notice the grammar or a particular word or phrase because you can stop yourself at any time. Another special gift of reading is that you can read the words and sentences of the very best English writers and speakers who are using the language, the very best. Therefore, when you read these very good writers you learn a lot about the cultures of the English-speaking world, how people think and what their values are. You are exposed to very good phrasing, sentences and idea organisation.

If you want, you can read these sentences out loud. If the book has audio, you can also read and listen at the same time. The important thing is that you read at an easy, enjoyable pace. You can do that because there are many books written for English adult learners. Good writers have taken classic English novels and non-fiction books and rewritten them for you, the international English learner. The vocabulary and grammar are streamlined to adjust to different levels, such as elementary, intermediate and advanced. You may be able to finish a book in a couple of hours at your own level. There are also graded English readers that you can read online for free, such as those at english-e-reader.net. Your English production will improve as soon as you start reading, that is, both your speaking and writing. All your English teachers became experts in English by reading. That is a fact.

Brian Ursich