Breaking the Language Barrier in College
1. Begin a
personal campaign to master your target language: in this case, scholarly
English. Set a goal—for instance, that by the end of the semester
you will be able to write a paragraph in Academic English with no grammar
errors. If you do not
consciously and purposely resolve to do this, your English may take many
years to improve, and by that time you will have long since flunked out.
So, this task is serious and urgent.
2. To master a
language such as English, read the language as much as possible.
Here, I do not mean just textbooks and assigned readings!
I mean, read things that you understand and enjoy, and that you
would pick up to read even if it were in your mother language.
If you like romance novels or science fiction, read romance novels
or science fiction—in English! If
you read the news, get the newspaper—in English. If you like sports,
read sports reports in English. If you study Holy Scriptures try to do so
3. To master
any language, surround yourself with that language. For a semester or so, all your radio and TV, music, videos
and entertainment should be in your target language. While you are mastering English, you should try as much as
possible to wake up, work, study, play, relax, eat, drink, sleep, dream and make
love in English.
informally as much as possible in English with educated speakers of that
language. Learn educated vocabulary, grammar and conversation
Do not try to translate from your mother language to your target
language, or vice versa. Not even the world’s greatest genius can master a language
by translating. Force yourself to think
in the target language, and translating will come naturally.
6. Talk to
yourself (silently, of course!) in your target language. Thus, when you are wondering what to have for lunch, or
cussing silently about the traffic and parking problems, or composing
poetry for your Significant Other, do so in your target language: English.
7. Get a
paperback bilingual dictionary, and let it become your best friend.
8. Get an
English grammar guide and a verb-book.
But, use them only as references when you are stuck on what to
write—do not expect to learn English from them, because you will not. I guarantee it.
9. Most importantly, get
EVERYTHING you turn in for any class proofread and corrected first by someone whose
mother language is English. Depending
on your language aptitude and your age when you first began to learn
English, you may study until you are 100 and still not get it perfect.
But this is no dishonor! Even
Prof. Albert Einstein still spoke English with a thick accent and made
occasional English grammar errors until the day he died. Are you smarter
than he was? Do what he did; get
O.W. 9/05 rev 5/09