By Zsuzsa Londe, Ph.D.
Students ask this question at the end of our spring semester classes. It is a good idea to plan to do something every day to maintain or improve your English skills. If you did not have the option to take an ALI class this summer, here are a couple of suggestions that are interesting in content and will improve your oral skills.
1. NPR (National Public Radio) is a nationwide radio station with about 900 stations in the United States. Go to www.npr.org or to www.kcrw.com, the websites of the national and the local (LA) radio stations respectively, and listen to the broadcasts, find in-depth reporting on the latest events, and read the transcripts of the reports. While you are getting the most up-to-date information from around the world, you are also “updating” your English. “Morning Edition” is one of my favorite shows that I listen to on the 89.9FM station (KCRW) on my car radio. What sets these radio stations apart from others is that they are funded by the listeners and non-profit organizations, and as such allow for unbiased and well-balanced reporting and views. They have a lot more interviews and discussions than other music concentrated stations. Students from years ago write to me sometimes how important these stations have become to them as the source of news.
2. Another great way to enrich your vocabulary is to watch movies in the CC mode. “CC” means “closed captioning,” i.e. you see English subtitles at the bottom of the screen. With closed captioning, you can read every word the actors are saying while listening to them say it. If you watch a movie or videos on Youtube, Netflix, Amazon, or even TED.com, you can find “CC” in a box on the bottom of the screen (see picture below). This is an excellent way to understand and identify each word, see the spelling, and hear the correct pronunciation. You might want to repeat and imitate the words that are new to you. To get you started, click here for a list of what AMC, as well as audiences and critics alike, deems “The Greatest 100 Movies of All Time”. Watching these movies on CC mode will help you with your oral English skills, as well as give you a great insight into American culture.
P.S.: It seems that if you get a “pirated” version of a movie, “CC” will not be available, but it is only $3 to get the original versions. Also, sometime instead of “CC” you will see “subtitles” for the same concept.
3. And, of course, for those of you who are staying around the USC campus during the summer, you can always take advantage of ALI’s free Conversation Groups. This summer, 50 minute group sessions are offered three times a day, Monday through Friday. These groups are lead by native English speaking USC students who are dedicated to helping you practice English through good old fashioned conversation. More information about groups, can be found here.
If you dedicate 30-60 minutes a day to watching, listening, and reading subject matters in English, you will notice how much easier it will become as you continue. Enjoy and let us know how this is working for you, or what other ideas you have for “summer English.”
Zsuzsa Londe is a faculty member at the ALI; she teaches both oral and writing skills. Professor Londe received her BA in Linguistics from UCLA (summa cum laude) and an MA and Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics, also from UCLA. Languages, language- teaching, research, assessment and statistics are her ongoing academic interests. Working memory and its relationship to listening comprehension in a second language was the topic of her dissertation. Her research and publications with other colleagues have taken her to areas of generative linguistic, psycholinguistics and the language-assessment fields