Learning how to understand another language can seem like a daunting task at first. While it may take less guts to improve your listening skills than to improve your speaking skills, engaging in conversation with fluent English speakers can still set off a moment of panic in many learners. The most important thing to remember is to remain calm and set a pace for your conversation. Don’t be afraid to ask the speaker to speak more slowly or to repeat themselves. If you can pick out key words that you know during a conversation, you can use context clues to figure out the overall meaning. In fact, this is true for native speakers too! It will take time and lots of practice, but with dedication and patience, it will become easier and easier.
So where do you start? Fortunately, Gachon University offers speaking practice sessions with native English professors at the Global Zone. You can attend either the basic speaking practice sessions or the advanced speaking practice sessions based on your own level. The Global Zone is a great resource because you will not only be able to converse with your fluent professor but also interact with peers and colleagues.
Even if you can’t make it out to the Global Zone, don’t worry! There are many other ways you can improve your listening. You can use audio books to listen to an exciting novel. You may wish to start with a book that you have already read in your native language. If that doesn’t seem too exciting, you can keep up with contemporary news through English radio (e.g. TBS EFM) or downloadable podcasts. Another excellent source is to watch movies and TV. Try using the English subtitles when you start, so you can read and listen at the same time. Keep in mind that when you are using all of these great resources, the contents should be something that is interesting to you! After all, you improve much faster when you’re having fun. There are many great resources around you. Use them, and use them often. Listening will only get easier with time, so don’t give up!
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Speaking is often the hardest and most frustrating part about learning a language. Often times, learners are too nervous to speak because they are afraid to make mistakes. However, it’s important to remember that making mistakes is a normal part of your learning process and mistakes can be beneficial. Making mistakes can help you learn how to correctly express yourself, and by virtue of actively correcting yourself, it will forever be part of your vernacular.
To overcome the fear of speaking in front of others, many students opt to practice at home before venturing out. I suggest you record yourself speaking English, and playback your recording, carefully listening for errors in grammar and pronunciation. You can repeat this exercise as many times as you want to achieve that perfect timing, pitch, and pronunciation! If you’re wondering what you should be recording, perhaps you can start by reading a book, then gradually work your way up to ad-libbing about a subject that is of interest to you. Not only will this help your fluency improve, it will also give you a boost in confidence.
Once you feel more confident, you may wish to practice speaking with a native speaker. You can make English speaking friends, or you can even hang out with Korean friends who want to learn English with you. If you’d like to converse with a native speaker, try setting up a language exchange or hiring a tutor. If you’re with other beginner speakers, allot “English-only time” with them. It will force everyone to break out of their shells, and you can learn a lot from helping others too. Finally, remember that our Global Zone offers amazing opportunities for you to speak with native English professors.
As you can see, there are many ways you can improve your speaking. Although these resources are readily available, the most important thing to remember is to practice, practice, and practice. With a hint of courage and a bit of patience, you are guaranteed to succeed, so I hope to see you around campus and perhaps the Global Zone!
|Professor Wendy Marie Alexander