English is one of the most, if not the most, widely used language in the world today. Its use spans across multiple areas like scientific and mathematical research and diplomacy. The importance of English is thus evident. More so in Singapore as English is used primarily as the medium language for teaching in schools for all subjects, except Mother Tongue related subjects. To many students, English is a huge obstacle – more so if they come from non-English speaking background and this has deterred many as they feel that to improve in English is simply impossible.
Well, to be honest, one does need time to improve in English. However, with a bit more work and determination, you can be much better in English. We shall start by strengthening the foundations of English: vocabulary and grammar. These foundations can be stronger if you READ MORE, SPEAK MORE and WRITE MORE.
#1 – READ MORE
You can start reading books of the genre that you prefer and gradually go to other genres (both fiction and non-fiction. Reading more allows you to be exposed to many different ways of expressions in English, as well as more general knowledge. This enriches your language skills and content in English, boosting your proficiency in the exams, especially composition where expository essays are the norm for secondary levels. Moreover, as you read more, you can develop better comprehensive skills which is helpful for your comprehension passages.
#2 – SPEAK MORE
It counts for nothing if you are only able to write great essays and unable to convey the simplest of ideas during conversations. By actively speaking English more often, you can train to be more articulate in your speech and learn to organise your words while speaking. This is extremely helpful in preparing for your oral examinations. Many students will feel embarrassed or awkward to take the first step but this is necessary. In the beginning, it will be embarrassing as you may often get corrected or even laughed at. Persevere on and you shall reap the rewards. You will be able to learn the mistakes quickly and correct them.
Start by using English while ordering food or paying at the cashier. You can simply initiate a conversation with the staff using a basic “Good day, how are you?” and just exchange pleasantries followed by the ordering of food or payment. This not only gets you started towards better spoken English but helps you to build up more confidence when talking to other people.
#3 – WRITE MORE
Just like Mathematics, answering questions in English papers will not be fluid and efficient if there is not enough practice. For those who seldom practise writing for English, they often find themselves unable to express the ideas and opinions well and they would feel that they have a lot of ideas but just unable to put them on to paper. With more practice, you can organise your words and phrases more efficiently and more expressively.
Start by doing a weekly journal of your activities, or combining with your reading and do book reports. Write down how you feel about a certain topic or event that you have encountered and maybe even try to suggest any ideas to help resolve any problem that may arise.
You can also improve your vocabulary by doing ‘A New Word A Day’. Write down a new word or phrase every day in a little notebook for vocabulary, look up its meaning and try to construct a sentence using the word/phrase. Slowly but surely, your vocabulary will be much richer.
With these tips in mind, you can prepare yourself better for English and strengthen your foundations. Then we can go into the next part on how to improve on your composition.