I have been inChina for two months now and I am always asked the same question, “How can I speak better English?” This can present quite a challenge to the traveling and inspired novice of English. However, I had already given this topic considerable thought previous to my arrival to Shanghai .
If you are a university student, more than likely you have undertaken many English classes (English Grammar, Comprehension, Written, Listening and Spoken English), at the junior high and high school levels. You may find yourself at a crossroad in your quest to speak better English at the university, as you seem to have hit a stumbling block in a way of expressing yourself orally. And what could make your situation even worse? You don’t have Gia Lovelady-Johnson as your Spoken English Instructor. What can you do?
During this 30-day diet of English-Only consumption-of-conversation, (Total English Language Immersion Simulation in China), you are to (eat) English everyday for 30 days outside of your regular classroom schedule. You must adhere to this English-only Diet for the sake of your international health and international study-abroad-future endeavors. The following are itemized ways in which a native speaker of China can learn to speak English better in 30 days.
THE BASIC RULES
(These are the basic English-only diet rules for any item that you purchase, rent, or borrow). You must READ ALOUD all of the English content on the item (s) being used or consumed during the 30 days that you are on this diet. For example, if you purchase “JELL-0 Brand Gelatin” dessert, you must read the entire contents on the labeling of the box every day for 30 Days. (Don’t forget to enjoy the JELL-O). In addition, don’t forget to take a photo of yourself before you begin the English-only diet. Then take a photo 30 days later. You may notice a change in your Oral English appearance and dialogue. See below for how to begin the total English immersion program in China. As with approaching any diet, please see your doctor beforehand. (Hint: your English teacher).
Cheating on this Diet: This English-only diet may present a problem in your other Chinese classrooms, however you can explain to your other instructors that you are “under experiment” in the “How to Speak English Better in 30 Days.” Explain to your other instructors that you are on this diet. You are allowed to speak Mandarin, (lets say), if you are to give a presentation in your History class. This is the only time in which you are allowed to cheat on this diet. Ask all of your instructors if this may be acceptable for their classes. (If not you may break the diet only during these class periods).
HOW TO BEGIN
Modify Your Chinese Behavior! You may want to work in a group in order to have a moderate amount of success with the 30-day English-only diet. At least work in pairs, as you may need constant assistance and emotional support.
Purchase / Rent / Borrow English magazines, CD’s, DVD’s, tapes, etc. You must only download English music to your MP3 or MP4 player. DVD Suggestions: Boys: School of Rock, Girls: How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days.
While with friends on campus discuss English-only actors, singers, and all other American or British entertainers. Suggestions: Go to http://www.people.com, the most famous online American magazine containing the latest American celebrity news. Consider surrounding yourself with as many of the most polished English speakers on campus who will support your English-only diet.
While enjoying a heart-to-heart conversation with girlfriends and boyfriends, you are to speak with your girlfriend, (for example), in perfect English. You are not allowed to say, “Wo ai ni”, not even once. You must instead say, “I love you.” Your girlfriend must repeat an identical, “I love you.”
While communicating with your China family, prepare them for your extreme diet change. Explain to them that you are on the 30-day English-only diet and that YOUR CHINESE INTERPRETER, (a friend of yours), will communicate with them on your behalf. If your Chinese family members have an emergency and must contact you over the telephone using Mandarin Chinese, have them use an emergency password over the telephone in case they must speak with you using non-English dialogues.
*Food Choices: Try to limit the amount of Chinese snack choices that you consume and begin choosing English snack choices instead. For example, some American-made snack items that can be found on the campus shelves are the infamous Oreo Cookies, Lay’s International Potato Chips, M&M’s Candy, and other Nabisco and Nestle products. Don’t forget to stay healthy and reach for plenty of fruit like apples, bananas, and oranges. (Also, you must eat a “Skippy” peanut butter, jelly, and banana sandwich once a week during the 30 days. Or, you may try the distinctly American decadent gourmet fluffernutter sandwich, which is made with peanut butter and marshmallows).
Hungry for lunch or dinner? Some healthier American food choices are potatoes, eggs, bread, and beef. If beef is not an option, of course pork and fish are. For breakfast, you can eat American Cornflakes cereal or cook some Quaker Oatmeal. (Continue to eat your normal Chinese breakfast if you cannot find a suitable American breakfast substitute).
- Drink Choices: Drink plenty of water, milk, orange juice, Tang, and Pepsi-Cola.
- If you smoke, (don’t), as smoking is bad for you. Also curtail your consumption of alcohol.
- Shampoo your hair with American-made shampoo, (American Crew or Clairol), and brush your teeth with American-made toothpaste, (Crest or Oral B). (Also shave your face or legs with Gillette or Venus shaving products and don’t forget to read the labels).
- Walk everywhere you go. If you must ride in a car, try to hitch a ride in an American-made automobile. (If you’re able to locate one). So, hunt down that fabulous friend who owns that International Buick.
- Send an email to President George Herbert Walker Bush, the 43rd President of the United States of America. You can accomplish this by visiting
- Radio, Television and Print: Borrow English-Only books from the library. Read one American Classic or Non-fiction book such as, A People’s History of the United States
by Howard Zinn, Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor M. Dostoevsky, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, (Recite aloud some of the most famous passages). Then go to:
· http://www.randomhouse.com/modernlibrary/100bestnovels.html &
- World Wide Web: Go to www.Yahoo.com or www.Hotmail.com and open an English Email Account. Do not even ((((think)))) about logging onto QQ for 30 Days! And furthermore do not attempt to download “Mah Jong Quest” while on Yahoo.com! If you are working with your own pc, immediately make MTV United States or American Yahoo your homepage by visiting www.MTV.com or www.yahoo.com.
- More “Better English” - World Wide Web Suggestive Websites:
Study the literary contents of these websites as well as the English images on the screen.
- The secret of learning to speak English better is also in studying abroad, so begin your internet search for study abroad programs so that eventually you can study abroad after graduating from your university. Use your search engines, (Baihu, Google, and Yahoo), and type in the keywords, “Foreign Exchange Programs.”
- English Clubs on Campus: Attend every English function on Campus for 30 Days (no exceptions).
- Weigh yourself: “Weigh-in” every week by having a conversation with someone whose spoken English is superb.
- Shopping: Go to a clothes store and purchase one item, (Levi Strauss blue jeans), or one which displays a “Made in America,” manufacturing tag. Yes, the clothing will be more expensive but you can circumvent this problem by purchasing smaller American-made items. If your wallet does not support the American-way-of-sporting-fashion-lifestyle, you may wear red, white, and blue clothing! Furthermore, support your diet by carrying around a small American flag and say “Hello” to everyone that you see! Introduce yourself to new people using English-only conversation.
- Decorating Ideas for your dormitory: Instead of Feng Shui for advice, head on over to PotteryBarn.com or MarthaStewart.com (for both food recipes and home/dorm decorating ideas).
Write of your 30-Day experience and ask for it to be published in this same publication.
Keep 30 days of thoughts, ideas, and other notations in your Notebook. (The author has a signature notebook project which is a part of her teaching methodology). Or, place a journal of your thoughts online. Place your dietary successes online at an American blog website such as MySpace.com in lieu of MySpace.cn.
This total English language immersion in China , (How to Speak English Better in 30 Days), is a very important diet for English Majors and for anyone else contemplating a career using spoken English.
When you finish the 30-days, you should have read nearly 300 American labels, (10 items everyday for 30 days), and you will feel as though you have traveled the 12-plus hour flight on China Southern Airlines to the United States of America.
Happy return home and may you have many delightful days of speaking “better English!”
United States of America
English Language Consultant
|About the author:
Gia Lovelady-Johnson is an English Language Consultant and a private American College Admissions Counselor from the United States of America who teaches English at several locations throughout Shanghai. Ms. Lovelady-Johnson's specialty is a principle methodology for teaching English, "The Notebook Project", which is proven widely successful and whose fast-track format for teaching adults and university students spoken English and American Culture is gaining in popularity in Shanghai.