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Recent Blog Entries

Why is it so difficult to nurture yourself to have a habit in reading English books as an ESL learner?

(Stanley Yeung, December 11th, 2018)


Why is it so difficult to nurture yourself to have a habit in reading English books as an English as a Second Language (ESL) learner? This may sound like a very simple question to native English speakers, but for ESL learners who never had the opportunity to study overseas or in a native English-speaking environment, nurturing yourself to have a habit in reading English books seems to be extremely difficult to do. However, as ESL learners, whenever we see these brand new English books looking attractive in the bookstore, we tend to end up buying them because we think that would read them in our spare time. In fact, I have heard so many times in my life that we English learners like to buy books, but not read them, which makes it seem like nurturing yourself to have a habit in reading books is actually not a simple matter. After all, why would anyone want to buy books and not read them? So to answer this question that is somewhat like a conundrum, I would like to share a personal story with everyone.

I remember when I first moved to Canada at the age of 7, when I could barely speak English, my family always brought me to a shopping mall where there's usually a bookstore that I could hang around in, while my parents finished buying the groceries. Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine were very popular at that time, and since the kids at my school liked to read them, I always got my parents to buy me one Goosebumps book every month or so. However, every time I got a new Goosebumps book, I usually just finished the first or second chapter, then told my parents that I finished it, so I could get a new one. Now that I look back to it, I laugh hysterically and think, "Why was I like that? I just don't understand my behaviour in childhood at all." But it seems as though I really loved the covers of Goosebumps books and the smell of brand new books! They always had nice artwork and bumpy designs on their covers so they just felt irresistable to touch and feel with my fingers!

Years later when I went back to Toronto for university, I had a good laugh at the pile of Goosebumps books still sitting on my bookshelf at my grandparent's home. I took out one Goosebumps book and read a few chapters, then realized that the stories weren't all that cool and amazing, even though it was cool to see all those English words come alive. Back in those days as a kid of age 9 or 10, it just came across to me that Goosebumps books were very cool because every kid in my class thought the same way, which can be understood as a kind of fashion trend that was somewhat contagious. This may sound silly and laughable, but don't people also have the same kind of behaviour with smartphones nowadays? For example, in addition to getting a good smartphone, everybody now wants a smartphone protective case that is durable and chic-looking.

So what is the solution to this problem? On one hand, we certainly need good educators and teachers to nurture our reading habits. But on the other hand, we need to be aware of the distractions that are affecting us in our daily lives, especially now that we have transitioned to a world where technology is ubiquitous. These distractions may be affecting us without us knowing, but if we keep finding ourselves procrastinating and not doing anything useful, then that is definitely the result of distractions affecting us severely. You may think I sound like your grandpa, but I'm here to tell you one important thing: "Stop looking at your cellphone and watch where you're going!" But of course, I'm not really your grandpa.


Why is it so difficult to gain confidence in speaking English as an ESL learner?

(Stanley Yeung, December 9th, 2018)


For most English as a Second Language (ESL) learners, the first barrier to learning the language, above all else, is probably the difficulty in uttering the sounds of English words correctly and confidently. As a person who used to be an ESL learner, I can still remember how nervous I was when I spoke in front of the class in primary school when I just moved to Canada from Hong Kong years ago, even when it was just supposed to be a small sharing session. (you may refer to my earlier post) So when it came to a real presentation where I was being assessed, you can imagine how nerve-wracking it could get. Also, the best that I could do was to have the entire presentation script memorized, making sure that I included every point possible to attain the marks. As I look back now, I actually have this thought: “Was anybody even listening? I seem to have left the audience out of my equation entirely!”

It seems as though for those of us who grew up in an Asian classroom setting, we had all been programmed to answer questions in a way to attain the highest marks as possible because if we don’t, we tend to get the image of getting a “big cross” (大交叉) or a “zero chicken egg” (零雞蛋), as translated word-by-word from Cantonese. Most of us ESL learners seem to forget that doing a presentation is also about connecting with the audience and establishing a rapport with them. But why do we often forget about this? Perhaps, we tend to think that the phrase for “studying” in Chinese (讀書) means “to read book”, and hence we may often get the idea that we should focus on “the book” in our studies.

But the question is, “Is our mode of studying, that is – focusing on the book, really not such a good idea?” When it comes to doing a presentation, we may not sound as natural and confident as the native English speakers, but we certainly sound a lot more pertinent when answering questions because we had all been programmed to do such a thing through rigorous written exercises. However, that is not to say that native English speakers like beating around the bush, but the reality is that most of us ESL learners were expected to keep silent throughout the lessons in our Asian classrooms, and seldom had opportunities for academic discussion. Thus, when we give a presentation, we tend to jump straight to the point of delivering our answers to the presentation topic, without spending much time to relate to the audience, which can be like jotting down bullet points for an essay but not writing in paragraphs to express what you want to say.

So what can we do about this? Are most of us really stuck at gaining confidence in speaking English? As already mentioned in my previous article, different education systems and cultures have their own strengths and downsides in shaping the character of a student. So if the Asian education culture is superb at nurturing discipline in students, we ought to be proud of ourselves if students really grow up to respect seniors and not have too much personal opinion when working in a company in the future. However, it is still probably extremely difficult to define what is considered as an ideal, talented individual. But for now, we should definitely realize that the two Chinese characters “讀書” (to read book) is not the entire picture of the word “studying”, especially in the Western world. Perhaps, “進修” (to advance studies) is a better phrase to use when we refer to studying, as it takes our eyes off the book and focus more unto the real world…



Updates


17/12/18

The English Idioms Quiz for ESL Learners! is now LIVE! You may now enjoy becoming familiar with common English idioms!


9/12/18

This website has now transitioned into a blog! Stay tuned for English-learning blog entries!


16/6/18

The presentation slides for 'How to be a more appropriate fake ABC' - Part 4 is now LIVE! Check them out at the Utilities section!


9/6/18

All the presentation slides for The Fake ABC Book Club are now moved to the Utilities section!!! Descriptions are also added for those who missed any week's slides!!


8/6/18

The presentation slides for 'How to be a more appropriate fake ABC' - Part 3 is now LIVE! Check them out at the links section!


2/6/18

The presentation slides for 'How to be a more appropriate fake ABC' - Part 2 is now LIVE! Check them out at the links section!


28/5/18

The presentation slides for 'How to be a more appropriate fake ABC' is now LIVE! Check them out at the links section!


18/5/18

How different is Ready Player One in the novel? is now LIVE!!! People who haven't read the book but still want to read the book should do this quiz!


11/5/18

Mega Explorer is back!!! The Games page is now remade in image grid view with captions for people who are new to them! Also, the quiz How Hong Kong are you? is now LIVE!!! Image source links are now included not only due to copyright, but also for people who want to know where the images came from! Enjoy browsing those links where you can read many interesting news articles!


31/1/18

Newly added Videos Section!!! It is still under construction, but there should be many videos for people to watch soon.


16/1/18

How fast is your Cantonese? is now LIVE!!! Cantonese people are also welcome to look at this quiz!


15/1/18

The Face Matcher (beta) (15/1/18) is now LIVE!!! However, accounts and passwords are only given out in private.


9/1/18

你是什麼思想的人? is now LIVE!!! Check out the number of votes for each famous person at the end of the quiz!!!


31/12/17

你是周星馳電影迷嗎? is now LIVE!!! You will love this game if you are a fan of Steven Chow!!!


14/12/17

你到底是個廣東人嗎? II is now LIVE!!! More challenge for native Cantonese speakers!!!


22/11/17

你到底是個廣東人嗎? is now LIVE!!! Native Cantonese speakers can now challenge themselves by playing this game!!!


22/11/17

Added Comments section for Mega Explorer. You may now go there to leave your comments on this website!!!


21/11/17

The Korean Hangman Game for FOB's!!! and The Cantonese Colloquial Quiz for Foreigners II !!! are now LIVE!!!


18/11/17

The Cantonese Numbers Quiz for FOB's!!! is now LIVE!!!


11/11/17

"The Cantonese Colloquial Quiz for Intermediate Foreigners" is now LIVE!!! Click here to check it out!


20/10/17

"The Multifaceted Jukebox (beta)" is now LIVE!!! Click here to check it out or find it in the tutorials section!!!


15/10/17

"The Ultimate Face Manipulator" is now LIVE!!! Click here to check it out!!!


11/10/17

"The Anonymous Freedom Chatroom" is now LIVE!! Click here to check them out!!!


8/10/17

"The Classic API Tester is now LIVE!! Click here to check it out now!


4/10/17

"The Golden Data Retriever is now LIVE!!! Click here to check it out now!


19/9/17

"The Ultimate Dragonball Text Battle: Goku vs Cell" and "The Unreal Monster Killing" are now LIVE! Head to the Games section here to check them out!


17/9/17

"The Ultimate Testing Machine for Javascript Methods" is now LIVE! Click here to check it!


6/9/17

"The Articles section is now updated with my work of art! Click here to play it or find it in the Games section right now!


5/8/17

"The Cantonese Colloquial Quiz for Foreigners!!!" is now LIVE! Click here to play it or find it in the Games section right now!


26/7/17

"How High Class Are You?" is now LIVE! Click here to play it or find it there in the Games section!


19/7/17

"The Asian Food Quiz for Experts!!!" is now LIVE! Click here to play it or head to the Games section to find it now!


10/7/17

My About Me page is now done! Click here or use the navigation above to check it out! It should now give people a better idea of what this website is about. Different levels are also added in the Games Section, but the content is still empty from Level 1 to 4.


26/3/17

"The Cantonese Street Food Quiz for Foreigners!" is now LIVE! Click here or find it in the Games section!


21/2/17

"你是否一位電車男?" is now LIVE! Click here or check it out in the Games section!


2/1/17

"The Cantonese Food Quiz for Foreigners!!!" is now LIVE! Click here or go to the Games section to play it.



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