You Are What You Eat

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You need input. Tons of it. Therefore, watch and read anything English. But be smart. What you choose to watch and read about shapes the way you think and speak.

Versatility holds the key. Be flexible enough to feed your brain with both formal and informal English. If you're more into reading newspaper editorials you're likely to speak and write in a formal fashion.

The same is true with watching the news. I've heard a lot of teachers telling their students to watch CNN, BBC, and the like. I would say, "very good!" But bad things happen when you keep your focus on them.

Formal English is what generally appears in business letters, magazines, and newspapers. You also use it when you write company memos, company emails, and company brochures. When you speak to a person of authority, you are expected to use formal English. From national news broadcasts to documentary programs on radio or television formal English is necessary.

Informal English, on the other hand, is basically your day-to-day spoken language. You are not expected at all to be serious and formal. You may also use it when writing a letter to a close friend or relative. Check out these simple examples:

Ken: "Good morning, Bro!" (informal)
Boss: "Good morning, Mr. Suarez!" (formal)
Ken: Hey, can you help me decide which one is better?" (informal)
Boss: "Your opinion on this matter is highly appreciated, Mr. Suarez." (formal)

I have nothing against those who like to present a formal rather than personal voice in the expression of their ideas. However, you don't want to talk like Britain's best-known natural history filmmaker David Attenborough even in the most informal of situations, do you?

Again, be careful about what you read and what you watch. I do not get it when some BEGINNER EFL/ESL students take pride in watching Friends and yet their English competency is not good enough to hold even a simple conversation. 

Do not get me wrong. I do not discourage anyone from watching this popular American television sitcom. My point is: American or British humor can be hard to understand especially for BEGINNER students.

I have seen people watching sitcoms with the most clueless of expressions. When the fake laughter erupts, they also engineer a fake laugh. My friend, take the road less taken. Don't follow the crowd. Select movies that match your current English level. 

For beginners and intermediate students, I usually recommend you watch Pixar animated films such as Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Toy Story.

Here's one for you: Knowing what the movie is all about is as important as the level of English being spoken by the casts. Do not forget context. The movies I recommend make it easier for you to follow what is going on. Not to mention, the level of English in these films is viewer-friendly.

After all, when you talk or write you need to be careful to communicate the kind of English that's appropriate for a particular individual, audience, or reader.

Want something conversational? Read blogs. Bloggers don't write in academic tone. They write like they're talking to their next-door neighbor. However, get selective when picking a blog. 

Not every post is written by the guy who owns it. (A guest blog is okay.) I should know. I was a ghostwriter paid to write articles that don't matter to me. Read blog posts whose writers write with their heart and soul. 

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