Functional English Literacy

We live in a world dominated by English, and we rely heavily on our ability to communicate and assimilate information. The level of this ability directly affects your capacity to produce and be successful. We all believe that our English is up to scratch and that we are proficient. It does however come as a harsh realisation, even to first language speakers, how much room for improvement there is for 99% of us. Being proficient in English mean being proficient in four categories.


Table of Content:

Reading and comprehension

Being able to read fast and comprehend what you read is of the utmost importance. We speak at an average of 150 words per minute while most of us possess the ability to read between 200 and 1000 words per minute. The potential for knowledge transfer is thus a lot greater through reading. We suggest Reading Soft as a tool to test your reading speed and comprehension, and to assess whether your reading speed is on par!

Listening and speaking ability

Being able to pronounce words correctly is also of supreme importance. Many of us think we pronounce words correctly but in fact, we don't. We thus recommend a site that teaches you the sounds of English through activities and exercises that you can use in groups to check and practice pronunciation. It is a common problem among native Afrikaans and African language speakers that first language speakers often struggle to understand them and that they even ridicule people who struggle with pronunciation!


Use the following Free Assessment Tests:

* BBC Pronunciation quiz

* BBC - Skillswise - Listening

Industry Specific English

Once you have identified your desired industry and career, it is also incredibly important that you familiarize yourself with business English and industry jargon. This can be done by searching for white papers and ezines concerning your industry and career, or by using BBC's Business English section.

Writing and Typing

Improve your grammar and vocabulary as well by going to BBC's Grammar and Vocabulary section. Note on the left hand side the specific areas of vocabulary like news, business, sport etc. This is especially important for people who write reports, speeches or produce any other type of document or presentation. Let the language that you use project the level of your trait and attitude.
The above should serve as a thorough introduction to why we need to always improve our lingual abilities and to the ways in which to do it. If you wish to improve your English further visit sites like BBC Learning English and use and enter words like "Increasing my reading speed" or "learning correct pronunciation". Using these free tools, you can prepare yourself at home or in your free time to function better and earn more in an English-speaking world!

Tools to help these four categories

  1. Always use dictionaries (and even Wikipedia) to check the meaning and spelling and pronunciation of words you do not know.  Two great online dictionaries to use are Merriam-Webster and Pearson Longman.

  2. Listen to English radio and watch English television programs.

  3. Read English newspapers.

  4. Talk English at home and challenge each other.

  5. Use the Internet tools.

  6. For more comprehensive English learning resources:
    Learning Resources designed to help adults improve basic skills like reading and spelling using real-life stories on interesting topics:

  7. Find access to real English 1st language speakers.  They might want to learn your home language.  See if your can teach each other and do a value exchange!


Web Tools to assist:

* Merriam-Webster

* Pearson Longman

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