Business English/Making a Personal Plan to Improve Your English

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Your personal plan should be made up of two parts: 1. Where to go, and 2. How to get there.

Where to go[edit]

SMART Goals[edit]

When we set out to do something, it is to our benefit to set clear goals and to make a plan that will help us reach them. The “SMART” acronym below is a tool that we can use to make sure that we are covering all of the appropriate areas in the process. More information can be found in the time management on Wikipedia. Just remember that if you don’t make your goals specific, measurable, achievable, results-oriented, and time-limited, they are not really goals, but intentions, no more.

S Specific
M Measurable
A Achievable
R Results-oriented
T Time-limited

An example:

Specific I want to improve my natural speech patterns, active vocabulary, fluency, and correct written form.
Measurable Improve my TOEFL score by 10 percent. (Use on-line or offline testing tools to determine beginning numbers, then set a goal for improvement.)
Achievable (The improvement in the measured numbers to be within reason.)
Results-oriented I want practical, real-world improvement in my levels of oral and written English.
Time-limited The follow-up testing will be done two months after the first testing.

Now, using the above example as a guide, write out your own SMART goals for improving your English. Decide which areas of English proficiency will be your priorities. Write down how much you would like to improve in each of the areas.

How to get there (personalizing your plan)[edit]

Following are specific steps that you can take to improve each of your targeted areas of English proficiency.

Vocabulary (passive and active vocab)[edit]

  • Daily reading (news and online articles, books, NYTimes, HBR, Give and Take, Wikipedia.org, The Millionaire Next Door …)
  • Writing summaries of articles and mini research papers

Fluency (finding words quickly)[edit]

  • Conversation with others
  • Your internal mental conversation
  • Reading (news, business literature, novels, magazines, blogs …)
  • Writing
  • Presentations (make up your own or imitate someone else’s)

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Natural speech patterns[edit]

  • Reading regularly in English. Daily is a good goal, even if it is only fifteen minutes. Look for topics on interest on the Internet or in English books or magazines.
  • Conversation and contact in English with native speakers, or at least with others who are learning.
  • Watching TV and movies in English (news, entertainment, documentaries…)
  • Online audio news (NYTimes, VOANews, BBC News …)
  • Presentations of speeches copied from native presenters
  • Listening to and reading CD magazines like English2Go and Speak Up for natural flow and inflection

Written English (grammar and spelling)[edit]

  • Grammar book exercises
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • test

Pronunciation[edit]

  • Conversation
  • TV, music and movies
  • Listening to and reading passages at the same time
  • In general, all oral communication: listening and speaking

Flow of speech[edit]

  • Conversation
  • TV, music and movies
  • Listening to and reading passages at the same time
  • In general, all oral communication: listening and speaking
  • Reading newspapers in front of mirror.

Culture[edit]

  • Reading about culture explicitly in Internet, books, and magazines
  • Observing culture implicit in written materials
  • Entertainment from target countries
  • Interacting with natives

Focus your attention on the activities that will help you improve primarily in the top areas on your personalized list. This takes a bit of discipline, but allow your actions to be guided by where you want to go in your learning. Don’t spend all of your time reading articles about current news if your main objective is to improve your pronunciation.