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Self-Instruction: Five New Year's Resolutions for English Learners

AA: I'm Avi Arditti with Rosanne Skirble, and this week on Wordmaster: English teacher Lida Baker suggests five resolutions for people who want to improve their English in the New Year.

LIDA BAKER: "My first resolution that I would recommend people make is to spend a certain amount of time listening to English -- and it can be five minutes a day or it can be 10 minutes a week or it can be whatever suits a person's work schedule, life schedule or whatever. But it's really important to set goals and to stick to them. And it would be very helpful if people had Internet access to do this, because what I'm going to recommend is listening to sites that have scripts included. "

RS: "What do you do if you don't have access to a computer, how can you listen better?

LIDA BAKER: "Well, almost everyone all over the world has access to pop music. And one of my resolutions would be to spend time listening to English music. The advantage of listening to music is that it's a really wonderful way to work on your pronunciation, because you get a feeling for the stress and the rhythm of the language when you're singing. And also music is full of idioms, so it's a terrific way to learn colloquial vocabulary and to work on your pronunciation. And a third advantage of listening to music is that it's really easy to remember.

"So for people who have access only to a radio, even they can do something to improve their English just by listening to pop music. And I might add, if you do have access to the Internet, there are lots of Internet sites that will give you the lyrics to pop songs. Do a search, type 'music' or 'songs' plus 'lyrics,' and you'll find sites where you can type in the name of the song and it will give you the lyrics to the song.

RS: "So spend a little bit more time listening, or have a goal for listening. Listen to English music. What else?"

LIDA BAKER: "Something else I tell my students, and they're always surprised when I tell them this, is read children's


AA: "That makes sense, though."

LIDA BAKER: "Yeah. Why do you say that?"

RS: "Well, few words."

AA: "It's simpler."

RS: "Direct, simple. Lots of pictures."

LIDA BAKER: "There you go."

RS: "That puts it in a context."

LIDA BAKER: "There you go. And the other thing is, you can find children's books at all levels. If you were a total

beginner in English, you start with books that have just a few words on the page and lots of pictures, and you can work your way up to books that have relatively speaking more text and fewer illustrations. But again, children's books are very motivating. To this day I enjoy reading the books that I read to my daughter when she was a little girl."

AA: "So now we've got the listening to the radio, listening to music, going online and looking for scripts of programs to go with the audio, reading children's books. What's your next resolution?"

LIDA BAKER: "Learn a new word every day. And if you don't have time to do it every day, do it every other day. Again, pick a realistic goal. Choose your word, look up the meaning, but then don't stop there. Look at the examples in the dictionary for how the word is used. Is it used as a noun? Is it a verb? Is it used to talk about people? If it's an adjective, does it have a positive meaning or a negative meaning? So look for what's called the connotation of the word. And then, when you're sitting in your car, or you're walking to the bus stop or sitting on the bus, practice. Put the word into your own sentences. Think of ways that you could use that word.

"And so now we come to our last resolution, which in a way is the most difficult one, because my last resolution would be, even if it's only very occasionally, talk to native speakers every chance you get."

RS: Lida Baker teaches English and writes textbooks in Los Angeles, California.

AA: That's all for Wordmaster this week. Our e-mail address is And Internet users can read and listen to all of our segments at

RS: With Avi Arditti, I'm Rosanne Skirble.


A version of this program first aired on December 22, 2004