Friday, 31 July 2009

Learning Method: How to improve your English skills? (Reading)

Chapter 3: The Shortcuts for improving your reading skills

There are two kinds of reading: one for leisure purpose, one for work/test purpose.

For leisure purpose, what you should focus is the understanding of the story. Say, you are reading a novel, do take your time and re-read a paragraph, or a page, or even a chapter if you have missed out something. If you have words you do not know, always try to deduce the meanings from the context. Unlike in a test or exam, author usually do not offer tips and hints, but it is worth trying because you will remember better if you try guessing. If there are too many words you do not know, don't check dictionary for every word yet, only look them up if you see the same word appearing again and again. Of course, don't expect to read the book only once. You should expect to read the book three times to complete the entire process of learning and understanding. Re-reading shouldn't bother you if that is really a good book.

For work or test purpose, there are many types of approach because there are various aims or question types which you need to tackle. I have techniques on handling different types of questions but what I want to share is the general approach.

Say, you can forsee a busy month just around the corner and you soon need to work overtime for many days before the deadline, what you could do now is to train yourself to read faster. Now when I say "train", it means you have to practise continuously. I took about a month of practice almost every weekday whenever I read (eg. blogs, magazines, newspapers, food menus, etc.) to finally acquire considerable increase in my reading speed. There are so many benefits for reading fast:

  1. You can get the key points much faster, thus avoid reading non-useful information.
  2. You can use the same amount of time used in your normal reading and read twice with your increased reading speed.
  3. You spend less time to complete all your formal reading tasks.

So what is my tip? Listen up.

You need to understand that your brain can actually function quite fast, and your eyes can move faster than you can understand, so my tip is to train your eyes to move faster than your mouth or your brain. How much faster? Just enough for you to maintain understanding, so it should be around 20% faster every two weeks for a month. So by the end of the month, if you have been practising well, you should be able to increase your reading speed by 44%.

Once you have acquired this skill, you can imagine your working performance to have a similar amount of increase.

Some people can even apply the same technique and expand it even more to reading lines of words at a time or a paragraph at a time. Well, I can't do that just yet so I am not sure if this is achievable, but I can definitely read much much faster than word for word now.

So, practise more! And enjoy working fast!

Next entry: Chapter 4: The Shortcuts for improving your writing skills