The summer vacation is a good time for you to work on improving your English. In fact, if you do nothing at all in the summer, you may find it difficult at the start of the new academic session. It is particularly useful if you can concentrate on the aspects of your English where you are not so strong. (If you don’t know what they are, ask your English teacher!)
Some of the things you can do
• develop your listening skills (by listening to story CDs or watching English-language videos)
• practise speaking (if you can find someone to speak English to, otherwise try your parents or your friends!)
• do vocabulary exercises
• do grammar exercises (there are now many grammar practice sites on the Internet)
• write one page of your daily events in your diary.
The importance of reading
All of the suggestions in the above list can be useful, but probably the best thing to do in the summer is: READ. Reading in English can increase your vocabulary, improve your spelling, help you learn grammar, and make you a better writer. Reading English books and discussing them with your friends in your own language is a good way of increasing your understanding of the elements of fiction – for example, how writers describe setting, create interesting and believable characters, develop plot, explore a theme, etc.
It may seem strange, but if you read good books – both fiction and non-fiction – in your own language, it will help you in English, too. This is because reading is like any other skill – the more you practise, the better you become. Reading also increases your knowledge of the world around you, which can help you when you come to study different topics in your College. And once again, discussing what you read with your parents/ friends in your own language will help you to deepen your understanding.
All these are good reasons to read, but the most important reason is that reading can be such an enjoyable activity – particularly when you yourself choose what to read.
Preparing for next year’s subject work
Another very useful way to prepare for the new session is to find out what topics will be taught in your subject classes in the next session; for example, in science or humanities. If you borrow a textbook, you will be able to read up about those topics in advance. Or you could read about the same topics in a textbook or encyclopedia in your own language. If you discuss what you read with anyone, in your own language, this will help you to understand the topic even better.
Preparing for next year’s mainstream English class
Literature students can check the syllabus of next session. Other students too can pick a story book and try this. I suggest the following method:
• First read the story quickly all the way through to get an idea of what happens.
• Then read it again more slowly and carefully. Use your dictionary to look up five or six words on each page that seem to be important for your understanding of the story. (It’s not a good idea to look up all the new words – this would take too long and make the story very boring!)
• Finally read the story again quite quickly for a more complete understanding.
• When you have finished reading the story, you may wish to talk about it with your parents. Tell them what happens in the story and talk about the characters. You might also like to try to answer the questions that follow each story in the book. You could do all this in English for a little extra speaking practice, but that may feel strange. In fact, it’s probably better to use your own language, because then you can discuss together the important aspects of the story in more detail.
• In English class, you start writing in a ‘Reading Response Journal’ after each story. This is just a small book in which you write some kind of reaction to the story. For example, you could write how you felt about the story; if you liked it and why or why not; about situations from your own life or other books that you have read that were similar to the story; and so on.
• See if you can include some of the new words you found in the story in your reading response – this will help you to remember them better.
Vacation language courses
Some students like to do a summer language course. (Or their parents like them to do it!) It can be fun to attend classes in an English-speaking institution and it should help you to improve some aspects of your language. It’s also important to choose the right course, or you may be unhappy and not learn anything. It’s a good idea to talk to your English teacher if you are thinking of doing a vacation language course.
Instead of doing a language course, you could sign up for an activity holiday organised for native speakers. For example, you could attend a basketball or tennis camp, or you could do a computer course. This would be an excellent way to improve your spoken English, learn a new skill and have a good holiday, all at the same time! And come back to your College with renewed energy and enthusiasm.