During my six years at Ewha, several students have asked me how to study English, so here is one advice. Keep in mind that there is no magic trick that will enable you to speak English fluently in just a few months. Nevertheless, it is possible to significantly improve your English, if you find a way to make the necessary commitment of time and steady effort. This can be accomplished by considering two things.
The first thing is to choose a way that matches your personality. Everybody learns differently, and everyone has different aptitudes and interests. Choose a method that will use your aptitudes and interests to maintain your motivation.
For instance, I like reading books, so one way I study Korean is reading books in Korean. I choose something that I enjoy and that is not too hard; I chose Harry Potter, translated in Korean, because I already read it in English (so it’s easy to read, even if I don’t understand all the words).
Thus, I am able to read a little everyday, and the more I read, the easier it gets; meanwhile, I am learning new vocabulary, sentence patterns and expressions in Korean. This works for me, but other people might choose a different method.
For instance, for people who are more the social type, it might be better to meet people and speak English with them. Although meeting English speakers in Korea is not so easy, it is possible if you know where to look for them. One option is to visit the E-Lounge and make an appointment for tutoring! Another option is to find English speaking social groups, such as groups that can be found on Meetup.com.
The second thing is to choose a method that will make it possible for you to continue working on your English long enough to improve it. For example, when reading Harry Potter, I often feel that my Korean is improving very quickly, which is great! However, I sometimes feel I am not learning fast enough. Yet it’s okay; I can continue reading and enjoying the book until I feel like I’m learning quickly again.
In other words, I develop a steady habit, and learning becomes easier and sometimes even fun. In contrast, we often see people studying English in a hagwon; the class requires them to go to class everyday, sometimes early in the morning or late in the evening, and many people give up after a while because it is too demanding and it is not providing them with the necessary motivation. It is like people who give up dieting or going to the gym after a few weeks. Although some people succeed this way, some people need to find some ways to maintain their motivation – like signing up for a class with a friend, so that they can provide each other support.
The important thing to remember to improve your English is to choose a method that suits your personality so that it will allow you to keep your commitment to learn. This will be possible if the method allows you to learn in a way that is interesting, and if it doesn’t put an unreasonable burden on you. If you keep these two things in mind, you will be able to maintain a steady effort.
* Professor Jean Paquette, a French-Canadian born in Montreal, has been living in Korea since 2001. During that time, he has been studying Korean and teaching English. Although an English Literature major, he is also very much interested in language learning and education technology. He has been at Ewha since 2006.