Resolve to Improve Your English Communication Skills in 2020Nancy Goracke
The calendar shows that 2019 is history. 2019 has stepped out of the spotlight. It has sung its last song. After the cheers faded and the countdowns for the New Year ended, 2020 stepped up to the microphone and belted out a New Year’s song filled with hope and well wishes for fresh starts and new accomplishments.
2019 will continue to fade from view since 2020 has made its debut. January is a popular time for many people to make or begin their New Year’s resolutions. Not sure what New Year’s resolutions are? Think of them as goals that people want to achieve during the year. Perhaps you might consider making one of your New Year’s resolutions this—to improve your English communication skills.
Let’s take a look at the word resolution. Resolution is the noun form of the word resolve. Resolve means to firmly decide or determine to do or not to do something. If you are determined, you don’t easily give up. You will keep trying to succeed. Your resolve or determination can make you a lean-mean-goal-achieving machine.
Another word I want to examine closer is communication. I suggested improving your English communication skills as a goal for 2020. I didn’t just recommend improving your English speaking skills. There is a crucial difference. Speaking is a part of communicating, but communicating is more than just speaking. I’d much rather be known as a great communicator than a great speaker. Sometimes people can communicate well without saying a word. “Actions speak louder than words,” is a common expression used in English. Typically this expression is used to note that what people do is often more important than what people say because sometimes people’s actions don’t match up with the words they utter. When considering the topic of improving communication, this saying also holds some merit. Sometimes people can communicate with gestures, body language, facial expression or even pauses and silence better than with the actual words they speak.
In addition to speaking skills, the other language skills—listening, reading and writing also play a vital role in improving your English communication skills. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have to master one skill before you can move on to another. To improve your communication skills try working a little on all of the skills. People generally don’t learn in isolated language skills. Each language skill often overlaps into another.
For organization and ease of reading, I’ve included a few suggestions for improving your communication skills categorized by the predominant language skill being used. Keep in mind that you can and should use other language skills at virtually the same time. For example, if you are focusing on improving your listening skills, you can also incorporate reading, speaking and writing into your language learning. After listening to something in English, try reading it in English also if there are subtitles or a full text of what you listened to is provided. You can even practice speaking by repeating and imitating the important lines you heard. I stress the word imitate. Don’t just say the words. Try imitating how something was said. This will make your English sound more natural. Finally, write down the important lines, phrases or words you want to remember.
TIPS FOR IMPROVING LISTENING SKILLS
Listen to English podcasts. Search for topics or hobbies that interest you and find English podcasts that allow you to pursue these interests. Listen to movies, music, and news in English. Immerse yourself in an English listening environment. If you are an intermediate to advanced English language learner, I recommend Ted talks. Go to www.ted.com to find a host of interesting topics. Another helpful place to improve your listening skills in English is YouTube. Two features that are beneficial when you use YouTube videos are the icons that control the playback speed and captions/subtitles. These icons are located near the bottom right corner of the YouTube screen. The icon that controls the playback speed options is located right beside the caption icon. I recommend turning off the captions first and listening to the video in .75 playback speed if you are having trouble catching most of the words. On subsequent listening, you can turn on the captions and read along as you listen. You can increase or decrease the playback speed to accommodate your understanding level. Next, you can imitate and try to repeat certain lines from the video. Then, when you have an opportunity, use what you’ve learned and practiced in your conversations.
TIPS FOR IMPROVING READING SKILLS
Besides reading magazines or books written at your current English level, read blogs written in English. Blogs cover a variety of topics and are often written in a conversational, informal way. Another tip—read different news sites written in English or sites designed especially for English learners. Two sites I recommend are www.breakingnewsenglish.com and www.newsinlevels.com.
TIPS FOR IMPROVING SPEAKING SKILLS
My number one tip for improving your spoken English is to speak with native English speakers as much as you can. If you don’t have someone you can physically meet with regularly, I recommend checking out www.topic-time.jp. This site has many friendly online conversational English teachers dedicated to helping English learners not only improve their spoken English but also to help them reach other English communication goals, such as improving their listening, reading and writing skills. Admittedly, there are many online conversation sites, however, I recommend this site not only because I am a teacher with Topic-Time, but also because this site employs friendly native English speakers living in a variety of locations. You can practice listening to a variety of accents. Here is the link to the teachers’ page www.topic-time.jp/teachers.php.
TIPS FOR IMPROVING WRITING SKILLS
Although it may sound strange, if you want to improve your writing skills in English—read, read, read! Reading a variety of materials written in English will allow you to learn by example. Besides reading a ton of English material, another tip for improving your writing is to keep a journal in English. Write a daily entry in your journal. You can start with three to five sentences and increase the length of your English entries as your skill level increases. Writing summaries in English is another way to improve your writing skills. Write summaries of movies, books, and articles. You can start by simply writing down one main point that you want to remember and increase your summaries as your level of English improves.
Finally, I want to point out that communicating well in English also involves more than just the four language learning skills. If you want to improve your communication skills in English or any other language, learning more about the culture of the language you are learning will ultimately help you communicate more effectively. For example, in China, it is customary to refuse a gift three times before finally accepting it. Knowing this custom would help you realize that even when someone initially says no to a gift or offer you make, you need to offer it at least three times before that person feels free to politely accept it. Knowing a country’s customs can help prevent misunderstandings from occurring and make your communications much smoother.
In addition to increasing your knowledge of a country’s culture, expanding your horizons, in general, can also improve your communication skills. The expression “expanding your horizons” or “broadening your horizons” means to increase your knowledge, understanding or experiences in life. Your horizon is what you see when you look into the distance. It is the horizontal line where the sky meets the ground or if you are standing at the seashore, it is the horizontal line where the sea meets the sky. If you expand your horizons, your vision enlarges so you can see a wider scope of the area. Expanding your horizons can help you express yourself in new or different ways. Consequently, when you enlarge your perspectives and experiences, you ultimately improve your communication skills.
In conclusion, I encourage you to make the New Year’s resolution to not just improve your English speaking skills but to improve your English communication skills this year. Communicating well in English is much more important than speaking well in English. You can improve your English communication skills by improving your listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. You can also improve your communication skills by studying body language, gestures, and facial expressions. Even pauses and silence can be used as communication tools. Finally, you can improve your communication skills by expanding your knowledge of cultural customs and by expanding your horizons. Resolve to do all of these and you may just broaden your horizons so much, that you find yourself reaching for the stars in your English communications.
- belted out: sang loudly and boldly
- accomplishments: achievements
- lean-mean-goal-achieving-machine: a rhyming description that means someone or something is excellent at something, similar to the idiom of someone or something being a “well-oiled machine” which operates smoothly and skilfully, without any problems
- utter: speak
- vital: important
- broaden your horizons or expand your horizons: idiom used to encourage someone to enlarge one’s perspective or experiences by learning or trying new things
- reaching for the stars: to set one’s goals or ambitions high, to try to achieve impressive things or deeds
Nancy Goracke is an experienced online English teacher with Topic-Time. She is dedicated to helping students improve their English communication skills and reach their English goals.
Nancy G says:
Thank you for your encouraging words, Tammy! I hope 2020 will be a wonderful year for you. May your horizons expand and your communication skills improve as you reach for the stars!
Thank you for your appropriate advice at the beginning of the new year.
As you mentioned, not just focusing on one skill, I will try working a little on all of the skills. Also, I Will try to gain the knowledge of clutural understanding.
I love the expression, “expanding your horizon”!!