The manager didn't look happy. He said, "We are a global company with 100,000 workers. And I want workers in our Japan office to improve their English. But they have no motivation!"
I looked at the workers sitting at their desks. They looked intelligent and hard-working. I spoke to the manager. "Maybe they don't feel motivation because they study English the hard and boring way. I can show them an easier and more enjoyable way to learn English. . ."
What about you? Are you studying the hard way? If your boss said, "You must improve your English," how would you do it? And how would you show that your English got better?! To show improvement, many people would probably take a TOEIC test. They would go to a bookstore and buy a test prep book. In fact, our university bookstore sells over 200 kinds of test prep books for TOEIC, TOEFL, and IELTS.
But test prep has problems. Yes, it can help you understand how to take a big test. But big tests measure your "total English" ability. And test prep doesn't help so much with total English. Here's another problem. You will probably need to take the TOEIC a few times. So, how many hours should you study between TOEIC tests?
Recently, I asked this question in an online quiz. Out of 137 people, over 30% got the wrong answer. They thought they could study between 10 and 40 hours between TOEIC tests. What's the correct answer? To raise your score, you need to study for about 100 hours between tests. Now think about this. Do you want to study a TOEIC test prep book for 100 hours?!
Most people will say "No, thank you! That sounds boring and hard." I agree. Most people will lose energy if they try test prep for 100 hours. So, we see four big problems with test prep. (1) It's hard. (2) It's boring. (3) It is not "fuel efficient." You easily run out of gas! And (4) it doesn't help much for total English ability.
Can we find a better way? To answer this question, let's look at a case study about Kenta. It comes from the research of Dr. Beniko Mason. She worked as a professor at Shitennoji University Junior College in Osaka. Kenta wanted a higher TOEIC score. So, Dr. Mason told him to try extensive reading (or TADOKU in Japanese).
I call TADOKU "big, easy reading" Why? Because "big" means you read a lot, and "easy" means you read at just the right level. This is not YAKUDOKU reading. With big, easy reading, you read for pleasure. It's like play!
So, Kenta tried big, easy reading. He read many books just at his level. And what happened? In 45 weeks, his TOEIC jumped from 625 to 795. He gained 175 points – .87 points for every hour of reading. Kenta's story is real. And his story fits with much research about big, easy reading.
Big, easy reading is not hard study. It is pleasure reading at your level. It's not boring because you can choose stories that you like. You can more easily keep your energy because you can enjoy stories instead of doing hard and boring study. And don't forget: Big, easy reading will get you results, too.
So how should you start? Go to the Ikuta Campus Library on the 4th floor and check out the Graded Reader section. You can also find graded readers in Building 10 in the Core Zone and in the CALL Self-Study Rooms in Building 1 on both campuses. As you start, find easy books. You should know 98% of the words on every page. Then you can enjoy reading without a dictionary. And as you get better, you can move up levels.
How can you keep going? Set goals. Try to average 10 minutes per day, and in 6 or 7 months, you can read about 300,000 words. Take more time, if you want. But if you read 300,000 words, you can get good results. So, if you want to learn English, then improve HOW you learn. What's the best way to improve HOW you learn English? Do big, easy reading!