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ENGLISH AND THE JOY OF READING

Some of my students have encountered difficulties in writing or giving speeches.  For others, they are stunned when they are asked about a particular question.  It is a challenge many people have when they are asked to speak or write about something. They end up saying, “I don’t know what to say,” or “I don’t know anything about this.”  The answer to this is simple: read.  This prevents mental block.  I also had students who already may be good in the English language, yet they don’t know what to say.  Some of my students may say that they lack experience.  This is only partially true.  One must also have some knowledge about other things.  This can be solved through reading.

However, don’t limit yourself to what you already know. You may read something that you are already extremely comfortable with.  That only adds to the information that you already have.  Life becomes monotonous that way, but you haven’t really learned anything new to you.  You shouldn’t be afraid of learning things outside of your comfort zone.  Go ahead and read a book that may be a bit more challenging for you.  Pick something up that is not necessarily mainstream or pop-culture.  This way, you can widen your vocabulary and expand your knowledge with anything.  It opens your eyes to new things; you no longer become ignorant of perspectives of people from different countries, cultures, religions, histories, lifestyles, and specialist fields.  You are able to relate yourself and your knowledge to anyone you meet.  You are no longer afraid of becoming speechless.

Instead, you become more confident in coming face to face with others.  You even become more inquisitive towards others to verify what you have read.  From this formed habit, the learning never ceases.  You become excited to read articles because you enjoyed conveying it to others.  A spark of interest may even come your way when someone provides you an information you haven’t heard of.  Thus, you read further on the subject at hand.  You might also enjoy the fact that you are suddenly the center of attention because people are listening to you talk about anything.

I grew up in a household where books are everywhere.  These were no nursery rhyme books.  These were high school and college textbooks of my mother and cousins.  My dad subscribed me for a monthly edition of National Geographic magazines and children’s encyclopedias.  I naturally learned the English language this way.  I would be delighted to pick up any book that I can get my hands on.  I would be so excited each month to read the latest edition of Nat Geo delivered to our door step.

There were many terminologies that I couldn’t understand from reading these books, but that was all right with me.  I always kept a dictionary handy in case I encountered them.  I wasn’t limited to reading them; I would talk about them to my friends, family, and teachers.  This helped me in my school essays.  In fact, my school would even ask me to compete in essay writing contests and speech competitions because I am knowledgeable.  I may not be an expert on a certain subject, yet I was confident to talk about it in front of class.  The words, phrases and sentence structures stuck in my mind.  I would remember how they were written.  This habit helped me become a good writer and speaker.

People come up with several excuses just so they would avoid reading.  They might even say “it stings my eyes,” or “I have no time,” or “I prefer watching movies.”  However, you shouldn’t be afraid of reading.  It actually helps you with communicating your ideas.  You learn things and then you share them.  You can talk about several topics to your friends.  Also, I do suggest that you should not be afraid of picking up that giant book at the corner of the bookstore.  You may be quite surprised how delighted you’ll end up from reading it.

Source: www.aiepro.comI also suggest that you join the American Institute for English Proficiency and the Philippine Book Club for their book club meetings. Book Club Meeting with AIEPRO

DEVELOP YOUR CRITICAL THINKING: READ PLATO

When I first started studying philosophy, I became instantly captivated by the works of Plato. I’m sure some here have already heard of him, but for those unfamiliar, Plato is one of the most important philosophers in history. He lived from approximately 427 to 327 BC in ancient Greece, and was a student of another great philosopher, Socrates.

The interesting thing about Plato is that he writes his philosophy in the form of a dialogue. In almost all of them, the lead character is Socrates. Most of the time, Socrates never asserts to actually know anything as established fact, but rather plays the role of a questioner, asking his interlocutors if they truly know what they profess to know. Plato, through the character of Socrates, guides you through kinds of “thought experiments” to investigate the valdity of an axiom that you believe is true. This “Socratic method” forces you to reflect on your own patterns of thinking and how you perceive the universe around you.

In fact, the major focus of much of Plato’s work investigates epistemology, i.e. the process of answering the question: “How do you know what you know?” I think the best introductory work to begin with on this question is a dialogue called “Theaetetus” (the-EY-tee-tus), which challenges the notion that knowledge comes from sense-perception. An English translation is posted for download in the link below.

I do hope that readers of this blog see the value in reading something written by a a guy who has been dead for over 2300 years. Plato and Socrates may have lived a long time ago, but their ideas still affect and benefit us to this very day.

As Einstein said: “Somebody who only reads newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely near-sighted person who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything else.”