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Thursday, March 1, 2007

Am I stupid for not understanding articles?? 

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"Dear Ai, I'm taking a reading and writing class at an ESL school. I have problems reading my homework. My classmates can understand once they read an article, but for me it takes 2 or 3 times to understand half the material. I feel I am stupid in the class. Do you think this class is too difficult for me?" Yasuko - Japan

"Hi Yasuko, thank you for your e-mail. Not long ago, one of my professors told me that he reads a textbook six times to understand it completely. He would read before the class, read after the class, when he had a problem during the homework, before quizes, before the mid-term and he would also read while studying for the final exam. This professor's first language is English and he is considered one of the smart people (to teach in school!). If it takes him six times of reading, you don't need to feel stupid. What you need is to read more. Practice, practice, practice!!

I am taking driving lessons now. (I know some of my "Dear Ai" readers would be surprised that I don't have a driving license by this age!) It is very awkward to find the balance with how much clutch and gas pedal I need in order to move the car after stopping. It is frustraing because what I think in my head and what I actually do are not the same. I've stalled in the middle of the road so many times! I could have given up by believing I am stupid to learn driving by this age. I believe "the more practice I do, I am closer to an "ah-ha!" moment" and practice. This "ah-ha" moment cannot be given by others, I need to get it by forcing myself to practice.

You can give up anytime, so why don't you try a little more?

Here are a couple of reading tips:
1. Use highlighters as you read. It is a good idea to change colours; for example, red represents materials you don't understand or need to ask questions to your teacher: yellow represents importance and need to go over it later.

2. Read it out loud. You will understand more if you use different senses at the same time. By doing so, you use reading, speaking and listening skills!

3. Use margins for taking notes of your thinking and questions. This process helps you to understand the materials on a deeper level.

4. Summarize what it is written, using WH questions. (When, What, Who, Where, to Whom and How). Tell your classmates or friends what you learn from the article with your words.

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