Tips for the English as a Second Language Student Part Two

As a continuation to tips for English as a Second Language Student from last week, I am including ideas that would further benefit ESL students studying at College or University in Ontario. Although I am targeting those students, really these tips could apply to all writers.

1. Develop a Strategy for Building Your Vocabulary. A visual dictionary would be extremely helpful to you. This once common item, is not so prominent now because of the Internet and Wikipedia that delivers instant results. You can special order them but they are not inexpensive. Investing in such a dictionary, or at least borrowing one from the library will help you to build vocabulary because it not only gives you items but also fully labelled diagrams with all the parts identified.

2. Buy a Book on Social Taboos. Although this book may seem to be ridiculous, it is essential for those new to our Canadian culture, a book on Taboo words, phrases, gestures etc. is quite important. What is perfectly acceptable in other cultures, it offensive here.  What is normal in Canada may be an insult in a different culture. Your ESL studies have probably covered this in some form. If you feel any cultural isolation, please buy one of these books.

For example, I once congratulated a student (ESL studying in Canada) by firmly shaking his hand to honour him for achieving the highest mark possible. He was totally insulted, said I should never touch him and left the room angry. I was completely stumped. A student ( ESL from the same place) explained to me that a woman was not permitted to shake a man’s hand.

3. I would highly recommend a visit to your school writing department or tutor/learning assistance program. Although you may not require special instruction to do well in your studies, you can get much information from a meeting. Ask for a specialist in English to examine a writing sample that you provide. Get that person to make comments on your writing style. For example, irregular verbs may be one comment, using articles, choosing the correct phrase etc. These errors can provide you with important information you may not already know. That gives you a place to begin your own private studies.

4. Record major errors you make on written papers, and begin a study plan for those items. Although you may find much textbook information on those topics or quick Internet solutions, a quick look at them is not what you need. There are free on line resources such as grammar; Search using your Internet browser for “Free English Grammar exercises”. There are several really good free sources.

5. If you are taking an English or Communications Course, find out if there is a website that is a resource to your textbook. All the major publishers have one. The book (if new) comes with a computer code that can be used once. It usually gives you access for a year. On it, there will be diagnostic tests, that show you which topics you should study (by your results). There are text, audio and video tutorials that explain the rules and show you how to apply them. There are exercises graded by the computer so you will know if you are improving. There is a post diagnostic test to evaluate your learning. But there is usually much more!

6. Computer code Access – Usually the grammar and punctuation sections of your textbook website resource has a special ESL component that you will find especially helpful. Usually there are teachings on The Writing process and APA and MLA style citations. This is important because in Ontario The Writing Process is studied from grades 3 – 12. At College and University we build on these fundamental truths. Some countries do not in any way teach this process. This would be a terrible hindrance to you if you do not have these key aspects of our writing theory. Our repoirt and essay writing is graded with the expectation that students have understanding of pre-writing, drafting, editing and revising and proof reading. Expand your knowledge by studying the writing process. There are usually video tutorials on this subject as well.


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