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The Solution to Learning English
Important Mainly because of People in Conversation
By Alan Timblick
President of The Seoul Times
Sogang Language Program (SLP)'s Eunpyoung-gu School

Our children are suffering daily agonies in trying to learn to speak English. An employee of a major company commits suicide rather than face the shame of being posted abroad to an environment where his English language proficiency will be tested and found sorely wanting.

English is the least popular subject among high school students. Surely something is wrong! For a highly intelligent people, why is it that Koreans are so uncomfortable in speaking English?

A recent survey tells us what we probably already knew or guessed:

1. Students consider learning grammar a waste of time.

2. They prefer to be taught conversation.

3. They hardly use their textbooks.

4. This was the surprising one! They get most English reading sources from English language newspapers.

5. They prefer to learn from native English speakers.

We at The Seoul Times recognize a challenge when we see one! And we resolve to rise to this challenge, namely by providing better help to students of English in Korea.

We have always prided ourselves on the quality of our published English and are happy with the feedback we receive from our readers. Now we are going to offer simple examples of frequent mistakes made in business, office and social expressions, and show how these errors can be easily corrected

We are going to publish a series of exercises, easy to read and to understand, and invite students of English to join our Seoul Times English Club. Like our paper, it is free and joining is easy: just click on our website!

Let's begin with the use of the word "until"... So often misused, as in "please reply until. 30th January" or other such deadline. The equivalent word in Korean is 까지 which can mean either "until" or " by". However "until" should be used only to refer to a continuous time period terminating at the specified deadline.

So to request action beginning now and continuing until the deadline means that the action should not cease until then. What is usually intended, however, is that the given action should be taken, once only, before the said deadline. So the correct expression is " please reply by 30th january" or " before 30th january"

To check if this has been properly understood, consider the following sentences and what the difference is in meaning:

A) pay me the money you owe me until 20th May

B) pay me the money you owe me by 30th May

I can assure you there is a difference, and, given a choice I would prefer (A) which results in a stream of on-going payments, rather than (B) which would require a single sum one-time payment only

I hope this explanation helps to avoid repeating this common mistake.

Next time we will look at the use of transitive and intransitive verbs.

Alan Timblick serves as President of The Seoul Times. He grew up in England, graduated from Oxford University, and has lived in Seoul for over three decades. A former banker, he also worked for the Korean government as head of Invest Korea and for Seoul City as head of the Seoul Global Center.






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