Until about twenty years ago, the difficulty of communication among different language communities stemmed from four major factors: distance, technology, cost, and language. However, with the rapid development of telecommunications technology and the advent of the Internet, language has emerged as the single most important obstacle in international communication. Over the last half century, the volume of international communication has grown exponentially and English has emerged as the lingua-franca of global communication. Thus, the ability to command English has become an important factor in defining one’s competitiveness on the world stage.
English is the official language of fifty-two countries and twenty-three dependent entities (such as Hong Kong) with the total population of 2.2 billion, which is more than one third of the world total population of 6.5 billion. Add the number of people who speak English as a foreign language and it is only natural that English is the dominant medium of communication around the world. It is the language of business, technology, science, the Internet, popular entertainment and sports. Seventy percent of all the information on the Internet is written in English. In addition, it is estimated that over fifty percent of all research is published in English.
Without the command of English, it is virtually impossible to remain competitive in this global world. Many people in most of the developed countries are interested in improving English proficiency. Koreans are no exception to this. People say that there will soon be an English divide and that those of us who cannot speak English will be as disadvantaged as those who couldn’t read about fifty years ago. Then how could we improve our English competency?
The best way is to expose yourself as much as possible to English environment and have fun while doing it. Watching English films and television is fun and effective way of leaning English. By watching English films and TV shows (especially those with subtitles) you can improve your language proficiency and learn their culture. The best way to improve your pronunciation and flow of speech is to shadow (follow and repeat very closely to the speaker) TV announcers. Announcers usually have the best pronunciation. Another fun way is to listen to English music. Get the lyrics to the songs you are listening to and try to read them as the artist sings. There are several good internet sites where one can find the words for most songs. If you like to sing, go for it.
Recording yourself is another good way. Nobody likes to hear their own voice on tape but it is good to compare your tapes from time to time. You may be so impressed with the progress you are making that you may not mind the sound of your voice as much. Taking tests could be another good tool. Tests are not fun. They make people nervous and they take a lot of time to prepare for. However, by taking tests you accomplish two things. First, you force yourself to study and prepare. Second, you give yourself a benchmark to compare your future tests with. Often, it is by comparing your score on a test you took recently with one you took six months ago that you realize just how much you have learned. If you never test yourself, you will never know how much you are progressing
Like it or not, English has become one of the most essential tools to connect ourselves to the world. It has also become one of the most important tools to achieve our objectives in life, whatever they maybe. So let us not let English become the obstacle and source of despair. So, let us, Sookmyungians, try our best to be competent in English and have fun while doing it!!!