Travelling abroad as means of enhancing English communicative skills | January 2015 | Translation Journal

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Travelling abroad as means of enhancing English communicative skills

Translation Journal Travelling Abroad

Abstract:

Nowadays life demands knowing a lot of things and in this modern world we wish to go with the times. That’s why more and more people understand the value of foreign languages, especially English, as it is one of the most popular languages in the world. Some of us study it only in schools, colleges and universities, others attend different courses. And only a small number try to improve it in order to talk fluently and use it in work, studies or everyday life.

So we try to find the best ways of enhancing our speaking skills and common knowledge of this language. Nowadays there is a great variety of means to achieve such aims, and every person can choose the best one. Looking for some special way to improve our English, we use a great number of methods, which have their advantages and disadvantages. And only travelling abroad and good practice could help us understand that it’s the best means of enhancing English communicative skills.

Thus the present study is devoted to research of the issue of enhancing English communicative skills by traveling abroad and existing methods of different skills improvement.

Keywords: Knowledge of English, enhancing, methods, travelling abroad, communicative skills.

1. Introduction

Nowadays life demands knowing a lot of things and in this modern world we wish to go with the times. That’s why more and more people understand the value of foreign languages, especially English, as it is one of the most popular languages in the world. Some of us study it only in schools, colleges and universities, others attend different courses. And only a small number try to improve it in order to talk fluently and use it in work, studies or everyday life.

Cross-cultural contact, communication and interdependence have become integral parts of today’s world, opening great possibilities for speakers of languages commonly acknowledged as lingua francas. As some authors like I. Abramova, A. Ananyina affirm: “English has been granted the status of 'global language' used for international mediation over the past several decades”. Approximately 400 million people speak English as their first language, and estimates of non-native English-speakers vary from 470 million to more than a billion, depending upon the definition of literacy or language competence.

Recent studies confirm that English learners are increasing in number, and as D. Graddol states: the growing popularity of English in the world “has become one of the few enduring facts of global modern life”. According to the Euronews television channel, in 2008, approximately 56% of Europeans were bilingual and 38% of them spoke English.

Experts predict that by 2020, 30-35% of the Asian population (vs. today’s 8-10%) will use English daily.

Russia, however, is obviously lagging behind this global linguistic unification process. The Russian Census of 2010 demonstrated that only 5.5% of Russia’s population speaks English as a second language, which obviously excludes a great number of Russians from “communication between people representing different cultures”. This warrants the necessity to update and develop English language teaching strategies, enabling non-native speakers in Russia to attain sufficient English language conversation skills.

Within the limits of the world civilization process, scientific-technical progress, means of transport development, forthcoming technological possibilities, and also greater opening up of limits between states, the modern person has received unlimited possibilities to contact with representatives of other cultures. It means that in present conditions cross-cultural communication is carried out in different spheres of human life: economic, political, military cooperation, different cultural events (exhibitions, festivals and so on), studying abroad, fashion, sport and tourism (travelling).

An individual as a bearer of definite culture is one of the key channels of cross-cultural communication. That’s why in the opinion of Rogacheva V. I.: “tourism phenomenon as one of the main forms of cross-cultural communication deserves special attention”.

In modern Russia, the study of the tourism problem as a cross-cultural communication phenomenon represents great scientific and practical interest. Not long ago, Russians received the possibility of going abroad without difficulty; it led to tourism development.

The significance of this topic is confirmed by the fact that tourism began to be considered by Russian and foreign authors more often. The role of travelling abroad in the modern world is enormous, as we have the possibility not only to have a rest, but to enrich ourselves with cultural, historical and communicative plans.

Tourism is one of the leading and most dynamic fields of the world economy. It was recognized as the economic phenomenon of the century for quick growth rate and it’s becoming the most important sector over recent years.

As Kim I. Y. says: “In many countries tourism plays a significant role in forming GDP and actuation of foreign-trade balance. It influences greatly such key fields of the economy as transport, communication, construction, agriculture and the production of consumer goods, in other words, it plays the role of special accelerator of social-economic development”. This means that the role of tourism is important. Therefore, travelling abroad can be considered one of the best means of enhancing English communicative skills. People are crossing national and cultural boundaries more easily and more frequently than ever before. This is especially true for people participating in short-term stays for business, travel and tourism.

The research suggests that learning English through following new trends and travelling abroad makes people willing to learn the language, develop their ability to speak fluently and help them overcome the language divide. Therefore, the aim of this study is to find the best way of enhancing communicative skills in English and prove that travelling abroad can be considered one of the means of speaking skills development.

2. Literature review

The literature review deals with two main things: existing methods of enhancing communicative skills and personal experience in this field.

2.1. Different ways of enhancing English communicative skills

An increasingly popular world language, English has been the "power" language of politics, engineering and popular culture for several decades. Its increased popularity is due in part to the easier access to English media through the Internet and other technologies. Still, like any language, English has its peculiarities. Only continued practice with native speakers and lots of exercises will improve your comprehension and communicative skills.

There are many papers and internet articles devoted to the problem of English improvement. Some authors, like Alex Case in his article “70 ways to improve your English”, gives us examples of many useful means. Being interested in his idea, we would like to give short review of it.

The 70 ways of enhancement the author outlines are the following:

  1. Start your own English language blog.
  2. Write a news diary.
  3. Sign up for a regular English tip. Some websites offer a weekly or even daily short English lesson sent to your e-mail account.
  4. Listen to MP3s.
  5. Listen to English music.
  6. Read the lyrics to a song. If you want to really get something out of listening to English music you will need to take some time to read the lyrics of the song with a dictionary.
  7. Sing karaoke in English.
  8. Write a film, music, hotel or book review.
  9. Search only in English.
  10. Read a book you've already read or seen the movie of in your own language.
  11. Read a translation into English.
  12. Skip the first ten pages.
  13. Read a book with lots of dialogue. Dialogue is much easier to understand than descriptive parts of a book, and is much more like the language you will want to learn in order to be able to speak English.
  14. Read English language comics.
  15. Read English language entertainment guides. Nowadays most big cities in the world have an English language magazine and/or online guide to the movies, plays, exhibitions that are on in the city that week.
  16. Read English language magazines.
  17. Take a one-week intensive course.
  18. Follow your intensive course up with an extensive course. The more time you can spend studying English the better.
  19. Supplement your group class with a one-to-one class. Another good way to combine two different kinds of classes is to study both in a group class and one-to-one.
  20. Supplement your one-to-one class with a group class.
  21. Teach your children or friends some English. Teaching someone at a lower level than you in English is a great way of permanently fixing that knowledge in your own brain.
  22. Ask your company to start English lessons.
  23. Have English radio on in the background while you are doing your housework. Even if you are not listening carefully, it will help you get a feel for natural English rhythm and intonation.
  24. Play English language learning games on your Nintendo DS.
  25. Say or think what you are doing in English as you do your daily tasks.
  26. Watch English language films with English subtitles.
  27. Watch films in your language with English subtitles.
  28. Watch English films with subtitles in your language.
  29. Watch the same film or TV episode over and over again.
  30. Be realistic about your level. One thing that holds many language learners back is actually trying too hard and tackling something that their brain is not ready for yet. Check your level with a level check test on the internet, by taking an English language test (FCE, CAE, TOEIC, TOEFL etc.), or by taking a free trial level check and/or lesson in a language school.
  31. Be realistic about your reading level.
  32. Read graded readers (= easy readers). These are books that are especially written for language learners like you, e.g. Penguin Readers.
  33. Read the whole thing with no help.
  34. Read and learn everything. At the opposite extreme, it can be hard work but very satisfying to get to the end of a book knowing that you have learnt every word in it.
  35. Watch English children's films or TV programs.
  36. Read English children's books.
  37. Keep a list of language to learn, e.g. a vocabulary list.
  38. Go through your vocabulary list several times every day.
  39. Convert your vocabulary list to English only. One way to stop yourself translating and therefore increase your speed of comprehension and production is to learn all your vocabulary without the use of your own first language.
  40. Cross out and delete. Crossing out or deleting words, sentences or whole pages that you have learnt can be a great motivator, and save your list of things to learn becoming too big to handle.
  41. Throw everything away and start again. One of the things that can put most people off learning is a stack of half-finished books or a huge list of vocabulary waiting to be learnt. Simply getting rid of all that and starting again with something new from zero can be a great motivator and get your studies underway again.
  42. Label things in your house or office with post-its. The easiest vocabulary to learn is the vocabulary of things you see and use everyday.
  43. Label a drawing. For people who can't put labels on real things, the next best option is to take a photo of a real place in your life like your office, print it out, and then draw lines to all of the things you can see in the picture and label them in English with the help of a dictionary.
  44. Keep a diary in English.
  45. Chat online -the closest thing to speaking for people who don't have the chance to speak English.
  46. Listen to the radio news in English.
  47. Read an English language newspaper. Freebie newspapers like "Metro" in London are usually the easiest to understand, followed by mid-brow titles like "The Daily Express" or "The Daily Mail" in English.
  48. Write fiction in English, e.g. short stories.
  49. Watch English language exercise videos.
  50. Learn a famous speech or poem in English by heart.
  51. Get tipsy (= a little drunk) before speaking English. This can not only improve your fluency while you are drinking, but can also improve your confidence in future days and weeks by showing you that you can communicate what you want to say.
  52. Use a dictionary while you are watching a movie. Films often have the same words many times, so if you look up important words the first or second time you hear them you should have learnt them by the end of the film.
  53. Learn and use the phonemic script. Although there are many sounds in English, there are even more spellings. By learning the phonemic script and writing vocabulary down with it, you can both add another stage to your vocabulary learning that should help you learn it more thoroughly, and improve your pronunciation.
  54. Learn some spelling rules.
  55. Record your own voice.
  56. Use computer pronunciation analysis.
  57. Learn as many words as you can of one category, e.g. animal words.
  58. Take holidays abroad. This is not only a good opportunity to speak English in situations where you really have to make yourself understood in order to survive, but it is also a good motivator to study English seriously in the weeks and months before your trip. If possible, also try to use English even when you could use your own language, e.g. when you pick a guided tour of a museum or historic place or when you book a flight on the internet, and try to avoid package tours.
  59. Draw pictures of the words you want to learn.
  60. Find a foreign boyfriend or girlfriend.
  61. Arrange a conversation exchange. Swapping lessons and conversation with someone who wants to learn your language can be a good alternative for those who aren't looking for romance, or can sometimes lead on to dating for those who are!
  62. Sign up for an English language exam. Even if you don't need to take an exam and don't want to or can't take a special course to study for it, paying to take an exam like TOEFL, TOEIC, IELTS or FCE can really motivate you to take your English studies seriously.
  63. Model your accent on one particular actor.
  64. Use an English-English dictionary.
  65. Occasionally talk to or e-mail your friends in English.
  66. Go to an English or Irish pub. As well as having a menu in English and being a good way of finding out something about the culture of English speaking countries, you might also find there are free English language listings magazines, English language sports on the TV and/or foreign people you can speak to.
  67. Buy a speaking electronic dictionary.
  68. Learn your electronic dictionary's vocabulary list.
  69. Switch operating system to English.
  70. Set goals. Deciding how many hours you want to study, how many words you want to learn or what score you want to get in a test are all good ways of making sure you do extra study.

Most of the ideas are quite simple and realistic and one can choose the best ones for improvement of English communicative skills.

The author of the article “The Best Ways to Improve Your English”, Anestine Hector-Mason, underlined 5 ideas on this topic and presented some means of English enhancement:

1. Know and Motivate Yourself
First, recognize your own capacity to learn and your learning style. If you are a visual learner, seek out images, movies and graphics that complement this strength. If you are a verbal learner, use textual sources. Auditory learners benefit from listening to the radio. Identify through informal testing and trusted friends where your strengths and weaknesses are concerning English and then consider where you need to improve. Set reasonable and attainable goals that can serve to guide you as you progress. Such goals can be specific vocabulary development, taking a formal course, reading a book or joining an on-line English forum for active participation.

2. Practice, Practice, Practice
Learning a language is more than just reading a text or listening to an instructor. Write regularly to practise English vocabulary and syntax. Publish your writings on a blog that encourages reader feedback. Use on-line websites to upload a video of you speaking about any topic you know well. Write letters or e-mail messages to English speakers you know will return your letter with their own style of communicating. Participate in an active forum about a topic you're familiar with so you can learn the jargon of your hobbies, career or other interests.

3. Use the Web
Use reliable web sources to read and hear other proficient English speakers on topics that you are familiar with, and find professionally written articles about your job. By seeing and hearing others use jargon, slang and vernacular in context, your confidence will increase. Watch a video in your language with subtitles in English, or in English with subtitles in your language to see how the same ideas often have different idioms and expressions. Chat with an English speaker regularly on-line and ask for critical supportive corrections and suggestions to your communication. Reading English-language news elevates your vocabulary and typically shows very structured writing patterns.

4. Play in English
Sing karaoke in English to practice diction and vocabulary. Read comics in English to learn street vernacular and context. Watch a movie solely in English, considering context. A popular movie has one level of discourse, while an independent or artistic film has another. Acquaint yourself with English-language learning games, such as those by Nintendo, that have multiple learning levels.

5. Take a trip abroad and converse with native speakers to hear their particular accent and vernacular and to practise everyday speech patterns. Remembering to use multiple resources will provide greater satisfaction and accelerate your progress in English.

Analyzing two different versions of ideas about ways of enhancing English communicative skills, it became clear that among the ways of improvement, both authors underline travels abroad. It confirms the theory that such trips increase your confidence and help overcome language barriers. The next chapter will give evidence that travelling abroad is the best way of enhancing English.

2.2. Personal experience of improving English skills

As they say: “So many men, so many opinions”. The issue of learning and improving English skills provokes disputes and discussions and nowadays we face different problems in finding the best way of English enhancement. As for us, we tried a lot of methods and only some of them suited us and were of real help in solving this problem.

Nowadays in order to improve English skills it is possible to use traditional and modern technologies either separately or in combination. As this language is used in communication, Internet communication tools began to be used in education, especially in English language learning. New trends in technology have supplemented English teaching in authenticity and literacy such as reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills.

English is the only valid language that can be understood by everyone all around the world. Learning English through the web and using new trends in education make people willing to learn the language. It is quite clear that English has become a necessity today. We need it in different fields of life. Web-based technologies and powerful internet connections provide various new possibilities and the latest trends for teachers and students (Khan, 2005).

English has become easier to learn more than ever before with the availability of many sources to help people learn very easily and in an enjoyable way. It could be suggested that internet-surfing is an alternative way to study English. Today it has become possible to enhance speaking skills with the help of such tools as Skype, e-mail, blogs, chats and mobile devices.

We can also improve English by doing the following activities:

- Reading books
- Keeping an oral diary; or an oral weekly report
- Picture description
- Story telling
- Role play
- Debates
- Translation and rendering
- Listening to music and watching films in English.

However, our most important piece of advice is: do something (anything), otherwise you don’t get anywhere. There are many ways to improve your level of English, but only you can find the right one for you.

Here are a few easy tips that might help:

  1. Improve your learning skills;
  2. Motivate yourself;
  3. Set achievable goals, like:

- Join an English course - a virtual or a real one (and attend regularly).
- Read a book or a comic every month.
- Learn a new word every day.
- Visit English speaking forum every day.
- Read a news article on the net every day.
- Do 10 minutes listening practice every day.
- Watch an English film at least once a week.

Another important tip is: travel to an English speaking country:

  • England, America, Australia, Canada, South Africa; one of them is only a few hours away from you.
  • Special holidays are available to improve your English.
  • Take an English speaking tour or activity holiday.
  • You can also make exchange if you find any friend abroad.

This advice can be considered the most important one because it really helps to develop your knowledge and enhance communicative skills.

Spend your time on things that interest you. If you like cooking, then buy an English-language cookbook or find recipes on the net and practise following the recipes. You'll soon know if you have made a mistake.

Start networking with native speakers / teachers and other learners. Don't restrict yourself to seeking out native speakers. Think about it: the likelihood of needing to speak English with non-native speakers is statistically much higher.

This list can be never-ending, because new methods are added almost every day and it’s becoming more and more difficult to choose the best one. From our personal experience we can underline some ways of English enhancement.

First of all, we’d like to stress that learning English is one thing and it can be achieved quite easily, and improving it is another, because it’s very complicated. When we have knowledge and skills in something we should keep up and develop them. That’s why we try to find the best way for it.

As for us, we tried traditional as well as modern technologies for enhancing English, like reading a lot, doing exercises, listening to songs and the BBC, watching movies, thinking in English, writing short stories, and singing songs. We spoke a lot at home and even recorded our speech. Besides, we used internet-based technologies like Skype, ICQ and different social networks. We also attended courses where we could work in groups, share ideas and practise language. We studied to complete a master’s degree in English.

At first it was enough for communication and communicative skills development. But when we began working in the field of translation we faced the problem of not being capable of a quick response to native speakers. We understood almost everything they told us but couldn’t respond properly or had to ask them to repeat what was said. Then we realized it was time to find the most effective way of enhancing speaking skills and speaking fluently.

The idea struck us that we could go abroad, travel to Europe or even America and try to merge into another culture and consequently, improve English, having more practice. We read a lot about travelling and its importance, so we decided to check it and prove our theory.

3. Research on travelling abroad with the aim of enhancing your English communicative skills

The modern age is the age of media, propaganda and mass communication. Every person desirous to reap the full benefits of modern education, library use, research knowledge, science, commerce and trade knows how to have a sound knowledge of the English language and good communication skills. The person who does not have good communication skills will suffer badly in this era of competition in comparison to the person who has good communication skills and can soon catch the eye of an authority to award him a higher position or responsibility in order to increase his self-esteem and reputation.

Speech is the prime means of communication and the structure of the society itself would be substantially different if we had failed to develop communication through speech (John Laver, 1994). To develop oral communication, information gap activities are suggested, as they have the scope of integrating all the four skills (Venkateswaren, S., 1995).

It is a fact that it is impossible to conceive of a person being communicatively competent without being linguistically competent. In order for communication to be successful, learners need to know the appropriate social conventions (Hedge, T., 2008). And in order to develop communicative skills it’s important to come face-to-face with another culture, to be part of it even for a short period of time. Only travelling abroad can help you achieve this aim.

3.1. Research framework and experiment

As we mentioned above, we decided to try enhancement of English communicative skills with the help of travelling abroad. We started our experiment in 2013 when we understood the necessity of language practice and improvement. At first we went to such countries as the United Arab Emirates and Cyprus for a short period of time (7-10 days) because we wished to start from simpler places and because of simplified visa formalities. This part of the experiment turned out to be successful.

In both places we met a lot of native citizens who didn't speak English perfectly and of course there were a lot of visitors from other English-speaking countries like America or Britain with whom we had some opportunities to communicate a little bit. We were impressed by the fluent speech of native speakers and soon got accustomed to their speed. We began not only understanding all that was said, but also thinking in English and speaking it freely without any barriers. It became easy to express our thoughts and to react to questions from other speakers.

We realized that even 10 days is enough to practise English speaking skills and improve your knowledge of language.

Then we chose European countries like Spain, Italy and France and were very glad to meet a lot of people speaking English so perfectly. We became engrossed in another culture and felt a part of it. Our short stay for 10 days helped us to enhance communicative skills and learn a lot, not only about other countries, but also about the English language. We were not afraid of making mistakes while speaking and felt free to start any conversation with foreigners. Our short trips helped us achieve our aim to enhance English communicative skills and as a result we could translate at work without any difficulties.

At present we are planning to visit such countries as the USA and Great Britain in order to practise English more and more, and develop good pronunciation and accent.

3.2. Results and ideas

As a result of the experiment, we achieved our aims and proved the theory that travelling abroad could be one of the best means of enhancing English communicative skills. Trips to English-speaking countries not only expand our horizons but also give us the chance to enjoy communication with native speakers and develop our abilities.

The positive results of our experiment proved that travelling abroad is necessary for people wishing to enhance their speaking skills. Of course we can’t travel all the time but we can take at least short holidays once a year and visit foreign countries in order not to stop once we have achieved our aims and develop ourselves further.

We are going to continue the practice we have started and visit more countries in order to become professional English speakers.

4. Conclusion

In this study we discussed the issues of travelling abroad, methods to enhance communicative skills and other ways of overcoming language divide. It was significant to learn the different views of Russian and foreign researchers on the problem of speaking skills development.

So, the aim of this article: “to find the best way of enhancing communicative skills in English and prove that travelling abroad can be considered one of the means of speaking skills development” was achieved as we showed that travelling abroad can give positive results and lead to the improvement of communicative competence and speaking skills development. Learning English through using new trends and travelling and working abroad makes people willing to learn the language, develop their ability to speak fluently and help them overcome language divide.

The findings from this study also show that nowadays people have more possibilities and are more willing to travel to foreign countries in order not only to have holidays, but also to receive new knowledge and enhance communicative skills. We should use this opportunity if we wish to enrich ourselves and enhance English speaking skills.

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About Julia Morozova

Julia Morozova

Julia is 34 and a graduate of Ural Federal University in the name of the first Russian President B. N. Eltsin and has a master's degree in English. At present she works as a translator in a machine building company in Ekaterinburg. She is trying to develop her skills and knowledge by devoting herself to studies and travels. She also writes poems and songs and sings a lot.

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