Writing and Speaking Professional American English
Writing and Speaking Professional American English
  • Professor Daniel Suh
  • 승인 2012.11.21 23:13
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What do you think is the English capability that is required of future global leaders?
After explaining lessons he had learned through his spectacularly successful career, the invited main speaker at POSTECH’s matriculation ceremony in 2011 concluded his speech with one regret about his life. Declaring that English is not just a foreign language but the international language, the speaker confessed that he could have served Korea much more effectively in  the international arena if he had been highly proficient in English. Then he implored the freshmen to become well versed in English. 
An executive of a major Korean conglomerate, in a special lecture for POSTECH students in 2011, went further. He said that more than 80 percent of his company’s products ― tens of billions of dollars’ worth ― were being sold in the global market. He asked what is required of a global businessman.  One student immediately answered, “English.”  He instantly responded, “No, that’s a basic requirement. A global businessman must understand the global culture, global customers, and their psychology.”
According to the second speaker, high English competency is only a basic requirement for global leaders; they must understand the culture and psychology of global citizens and customers. Such an intimate understanding can be acquired only through intimate interactions and shoulder-rubbing with global citizens and customers.  Without English proficiency, such interactions would be seriously undermined.
In this article, I will discuss how we can effectively study English, one of our essential tools in college study and future career. Our goal is to have a good mastery of professional level American English, not Korean English, and professional English, not basic or street English. Of course, there is nothing wrong with acquiring British or Australian English, as long as it is at a professional level.
I am amazed at people of non-English speaking environment who have had little exposure to an English-speaking environment but speak fluent English. Asked how they acquired such proficiency, they usually provide the same answer; they have put lots of time and effort into the study and use of English.  They read constantly, voraciously and actively.  They constantly and interactively listen to and watch American news and TV programs, dramas, movies, etc. No free lunch.
A baby begins to pick up a mother tongue first by listening; then it begins to speak.  Listen constantly as if you are a baby in an English-speaking environment. Listen to standard, professional American English, such program as NPR, PBS, TED, etc.; there are no shortages of quality choices.
Listen interactively and repeat after what you hear as much as possible.  Gently touch your lower lip with upper teeth for “f” to say “fashion”; do not say “passion.”  Curl your tongue backward for “r” in the beginning of a word (real, run, read), in the middle (card, smart, first), or at the end (for, hour, mother).  Push out your tongue a bit and touch its tip to your upper teeth while gently blowing the air out through the narrow space between your upper teeth and the tongue for “th.” However, the location of the touch and the strength of air blowing are slightly different between “think” and “though.” Keep practicing “think” correctly, not “sink.”  Differentiate pronunciations of “o” in different words; each “o” of “stop,” “cost,” “online,” and “nose,” is pronounced all differently.  And many more.
While listening or reading, keep picking up colloquial, conversational, or idiomatic expressions. The expression, “pick up” in the preceding sentence, is a conversational expression for “learn.”  Such an expression makes your speech or articles sound more natural and native.
Read voraciously; devour high-quality, well-written articles.  Also read actively.  When you read an article, pay whole-souled attention as if you are writing it and learn from the writer; Thomas Edison said that 99% of what we do is imitation and the other 1% is inspiration.  Keep a good note of useful, professional, and colloquial expressions. Frequently refer to high-quality references; a dictionary, a thesau-rus, and grammar books. Try a free but compre- hensive and convenient online reference, such as (www.thefreedictionary.com). But do not use Google as an authoritative source for English use; you can find wrong uses as well as correct uses in it.
Become rich in vocabulary not only in the number of words, but also in the subtle uses of the same word for a wide variety of meanings and nuances.  Look up any commonly-used words, such as “get,” “set,” “go,” etc.; you will see an over- whelming variety of uses for each of them. A word, “tough,” is used for two different meanings in “Tough times never last, but tough people do.” Learn and use the most fitting and precise expressions.
Do you want to write well?  First, make sure that you write well regardless of language.  Develop writing skills in your mother tongue ? clearly, concisely, and coherently (CCC).  “Let every word tell,” Strunk and White have been saying of good writing. Write for high impact. How?  Again, write clearly and concisely.  Describe rather than tell; let the reader form a mental picture of your story.  “I turned down an offer” is more descriptive and communicates a more vivid message than “I refused an offer.”   
Use short and direct expressions; age-old words of wisdom with high impact are all short and direct. Use nouns and verbs and let the fact tell a story; “Our school is a great school” is less convincing than “Every graduate found a job within three months of graduation.”  Use adjectives and adverbs sparingly; resist a temptation to use flowery, grandiloquent, pompous, bombastic, and ostentatious adjectives and adverbs.  Put key points in the front and at the end of an article, a paragraph, and a sentence.
For good English writing, combine your fundamental writing skills with a good mastery of English. Devour high-quality, well-written English articles for a good mastery of good writing.  Whenever possible, let a professional, native speaker constructively destroy or edit your draft. Study books on English writing; excellent books on writing are plentiful.
Keep speaking day and night as if you are living in an English-speaking environment. Murmur English in your bathroom, waiting in line, riding in public transportation, and into the air - whenever and wherever appropriate. You can become an articulate speaker, if you keep reading voraciously and actively, if you listen constantly and interactively, and if you keep writing clearly with high impact like master writers. Guaranteed.  You can write with high impact, if you keep reading voraciously and actively, if you listen constantly and interactively, and if you speak day and night.  Guaranteed. 
You can do it, but expect no free lunch. You should try to use English as often as you use your mother tongue.