By Pete Pozner, MA applied linguistics, Delta
As a journalist you might feel that you spend far too much time trying to improve your English. What’s more, you’re not at all satisfied with the results. Firstly, you still have trouble getting the right style as well as problems using communicative language when you write articles. Also, you have issues with your pronunciation and accent, which at times may make it difficult for your sources and colleagues to understand you easily. Another difficulty you have is finding the right words to express yourself when, for example, you interview people.
You’ve watched countless videos, tried to read a lot in English and studied grammar to death. You’ve even spent money on courses promising better English in a short amount of time, but you’re still not at the level you want to be at in your career. The truth is that if you keep trying to learn this way, you’ll probably burn out before you ever reach the level of English proficiency you want. So, instead of continuing to learn everything, you should actually focus on learning specifically what you need to communicate effectively in English in your job as a journalist.
To be clear, let’s use an analogy. Imagine your vitamin C level is low and you want to fix it, but instead of taking concentrated vitamin C pills, you decide to take multivitamin pills. The problem with this is that you can take multivitamin pills every day, but your vitamin C level will not improve as much as you’d like.
This is because you’re not focused on solving the specific problem. It seems very straightforward, but this is exactly what has happened with your English learning journey; I mean, you have tried to learn everything about English, but really you have to only focus on learning the language that you need to become a more effective communicator in English as a journalist. In order to develop your English communication skills so that you can improve your job performance and secure future career opportunities, you need to follow 3 steps.
- Build your communication foundation. You need to learn more vocabulary that is useful in your job and become adept at using natural communicative language that journalists need, like idioms. This will be achieved by using more topic-specific journalistic texts while acquiring and practicing strategies for identifying, organising and learning this “vitamin c” language.
- Improve your professional speaking competence. To improve your job performance, you need to focus on the situations at work when you use English, such as interviewing sources. You need to role play these situations, receive feedback and learn the language functions and structures that will help you to improve.
- Enhance your professional writing competence. If you need to write in English at work or would like to get an international journalist job that requires this, you need to practice writing in English in the specific genres you work with, such as news articles, feature articles etc. Also, you require feedback on any systematic errors and help with useful structures and style for the particular genres.
This 3-step approach focusses on the specific communicative needs of your particular professional context within the field of journalism. so, feel free to contact me if you would like to improve your English communication skills in the shortest amount of time!