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Updated : 2013.11.15  04:23:03
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Q1. There are many idioms that do not make sense when translated literally. Could you please let us know more about situational idioms? I wonder if you would stress the importance of idioms in TOEIC.

A1. An idiom or idiomatic expression is a combination of words that has a figurative meaning, which is different from the literal meaning or definition of the words per se. So what is needed is to figure out the meaning implied in the expression, instead of trying to understand its literal meaning. For instance, with the sentence 'Sales of the new product were poor and the company went to the wall,' you cannot catch what this sentence exactly means when you have only the literal meaning of 'go to the wall' since the figurative meaning of this idiom is 'go bankrupt.' Another example is 'on the fence'. Let’s say, 'Have you decided whether you are for or against the new school rules, or are you still on the fence?" 'On the fence' means 'not having decided yet.' In fact, the TOEIC test doesn't deal with as many idiomatic expressions as in general reading materials and conversations. Nevertheless, there are estimated to be at least 25,000 idiomatic expressions in the English language that are commonly and widely used by native speakers (unlike slang). Therefore students who want to speak or write English effectively and naturally should be familiar with them.

Q2. I found there are many English contests on the Internet. Including discussion contests and speaking tests, various contests are to be found easily. What are the contests with reputations that you would recommend?

A2. When you want to get an exact evaluation of your English proficiency skills, it is crucial to enter the contests which have public confidence. Two reputable English Contests for college students are recommended. First, "English Presentation Contest for University Students" is supervised by Donga Daily, International Exchange Promotion Association, and the KATA, and sponsored by YBM and Korea TOEIC Committee. A speaking test is required for the preliminary round and individual presentation and group discussion for the final. Lanxess-The Korean Economy Daily PT Challenge is another recommendable English presentation contest. This contest is a bit different from the usual English contests for university students. When you qualify for the semi-final, you should take part in a one-day orientation, and when you qualify for the final, you are given an opportunity to work with other participants in a workshop in which you have discussions with presentation experts. So this contest is recommended for the students who want to get employed in major companies, since it is designed to learn not only English presentation skills but the importance of teamwork which is strongly required at major companies.

Q3. I want to improve my listening ability. When I listen to News, addresses, or radio shows, however, I become frustrated as usually they are too fast to understand. How can we become good at listening? Please give us any tips. Do you think dictation is helpful to improve listening skills and other language ability?

A3. While dictation is said to be one of the effective ways to improve listening skill, in particular for short dialogues or passages, it has a drawback in that it takes too much time to dictate a long passage. What is the most important thing in listening practice is you should try to listen to the whole sentence at a time rather than dividing the sentence into too many parts. So for a short sentence, it is essential to listen to the whole sentence and dictate it repeatedly until you complete the sentence. In the case of a long sentence, you may divide the sentence into two parts and dictate them. Filling in the blanks with key words or phrases is recommended for dictating a long passage. To improve listening skill it is also helpful to listen by focusing on the stress of words, the omitted sound or abridged and weakening sounds in the connected sounds, and a phrase or a clause. For effective listening to the long passage, noting down some key words is required. Of course some knowledge of the structure of a dialogue or a lecture is helpful for note taking, too.

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