Apart from English fluency practice, the area most students want to concentrate on when they are with me on an intensive course is improving and expanding their English vocabulary. The activities we normally do together vary from collocations, idiomatic expressions, word formation, phrasal verbs, and identifying vocabulary in reading texts.
Most students diligently record this new vocabulary and try to reproduce it in class, and after a two-week intensive course are encouraged by how much they have learnt. However, you never stop acquiring new vocabulary, so the real challenge is what to do after you go back to your busy lives and the time to practise and consolidate what has been learnt becomes more and more difficult.
This is a question my students often ask me. My unequivocal answer is read, read and read some more in the English language or in whatever language you are learning.
Everyone agrees that the more we read the more our vocabulary will improve over time. Reading also helps students develop an awareness of how the language is used whether it is the tenses, fixed expressions or collocations. I’ve certainly found that the more I read in Italian and French the more the language embeds itself into my subconscious. The same applies to your mother tongue.
However, when you are an adult learning a foreign language it is really difficult to know what to read. Children’s books are hardly going to be of interest to you. Adult books would be far too difficult and would quickly put you off reading for good if you had to look up a word in a dictionary every five words. Also, there is nothing worse than reading a book in a foreign language that is so difficult to follow that you stop following the storyline.I think that if you do not enjoy the story you will not enjoy and appreciate the language and the whole exercise will become a burden. Life is too short for that.
So what is the answer?
I recommend to all my students to start their English Language Reading journey with the Oxford Bookworms Library Series (OxfordBookworms ELT, OUP Oxford) or Macmillan Readers (Macmillan Publishers). The levels range from Starter (False Beginner) to Stage 6 (Upper Intermediate). The series adapts published fiction and non-fiction for the English Language Learner. They offer the learner before and after reading activities and a glossary of new vocabulary at the end of the book.
The books are available in printed and e-book versions. For those of you who would like to practise your listening skills whilst listening to a great story, there are plenty of audiobooks to
choose from, too.
The books are short and can be completed in a reasonably short time. This, I think, is important as it gives the learner a sense of achievement when they have finished a book. It also encourages them to move on to the next level.
Give it a go and do let me know how you find them. More importantly, tell me if you enjoyed the experience. After all, reading in any language should be a pleasure, not a chore.
Ciao for now
credits: meme (unknown) and cat (unknown) via tumblr, shelves (Pierre BALLOUHEY)
You’ve been reading a guest post by Shanthi Cumaraswamy Streat
Shanthi Cumaraswamy Streat graduated in Politics and International Studies from the University of Southampton, UK in 1989. After 20 years in the world of Finance in such varied fields as life assurance, stockbroking, fund management, and wealth management, she decided to re-train as an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Trainer. She studied for the CELTA at International House, London in 2009 and has since been a freelance English Language Trainer both offline and online.
She manages a blog: English with a Twist where she regularly blogs about the English Language and her experiences as an English Language Trainer.
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