Category Archives: reading

What do other people think about your hometown?

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I enjoy reading travel guides, newspaper articles, and blogs about places I would like to visit and places I have visited or lived in myself. I like reading other people’s points of view about where I live. Sometimes they mention things that I didn’t notice. Other times I totally disagree with them. Sometimes I disagree so strongly that I write the author.

Try looking online for stories about your hometown or other places you have lived. The stories may be formal or conversational in style. Look for one that you can read easily enough. Of course, you’ll already know a lot of the words! If you spot an important mistake or if you have useful information to add, you should write a polite e-mail or post a polite comment to the author.

Here is an imaginary note I might send to someone who wrote an article about Fayetteville, the town where I went to college–

Dear Mr. Smith,

I really enjoyed your article about Fayetteville, Arkansas. I consider it one of my hometowns, but it's not well-known. I appreciate your taking the time to write about it. You included several of my favorite places in Fayetteville, like Hugo's (one of my favorite restaurants) and the University of Arkansas (where I went to college).

However, one place that I think should not be overlooked is Wilson Park, which includes the Wilson Park Castle. This is a miniature castle that visitors can walk around in. It's handmade from stone, glass, and concrete. It looks like something from "The Lord of the Rings!" It's a really surprising thing to find in a quiet place like Fayetteville. I hope you will add this to your recommendations. Thanks again for the article!

Basically, I start off with a compliment and end with a compliment or thank-you. I mention my connection to the place so the author knows why I’m writing. Then I add my suggestion or correction.

If you send in a correction such as the location of a restaurant, the correct name of a local food, etc., the author will probably be happy to receive it, if you’re nice about it. On the other hand, if you’re upset, it’s still good to be polite. If I were upset by something in an article, I might have said–

However, I object to your description of Fayetteville as a "country hick town." In fact, although Fayetteville is small and surrounded by countryside, it is relatively cultured. For example, Fayetteville has its own symphony and an arts center which hosts world-famous performers--from rock stars to classical violinists. Fayetteville's university has a respected creative writing program. Former president Bill Clinton used to teach at the university. The atmosphere on Dickson Street, which includes an excellent coffeehouse, a wonderful used book store, a New Age shop, art galleries, and even a safe-sex shop, is not the atmosphere of a "country hick town." It's true that Fayetteville is not as diverse or cosmopolitan as the San Francisco Bay Area, where I currently live, but I still feel that it's unfair to depict Fayetteville as totally unsophisticated.

Today, the San Francisco Chronicle’s website has a series about Seoul, South Korea. There’s the main article about Seoul, an article about food, and a gallery ofphotos. Are you from Seoul? What do you think about the article?

Check out the Chronicle’s Travel page, or the Travel sections of other newspapers, for stories about other places, too.

News! Read all about it.

First, I need to apologize for not posting often enough. I’m trying to finish my master’s thesis, and I only have two weeks left! I hope that by mid-June I’ll be less busy and I can pay more attention to Readable.

Previously, I posted about Learning Resources, a great site featuring news articles. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been updated in over a year. It’s still worth using, but there isn’t anything new being added to it.

A different website that you can try, which is still being updated frequently, is Breaking News English Lessons. This site is aimed at English teachers, but you can use it yourself (for free!). Find an interesting topic under “Latest Lesson” or “Recent Lessons.” Every lesson page includes a fact-based news story, an mp3 of the story being read out loud, activities, and quizzes. You can do the quizzes yourself, and if you have friends who are also studying English, you could even do some of the group activities together. (Answers are included at the bottom of each page.) The author of the site has chosen a wide range of article topics: the current list includes endangered tigers in India, politics in Britain, cars, and more. I hope you can find several stories you’re interested in.

Free Comic Books

If you happen to live in the USA or Canada, you can get free comic books tomorrow (Saturday, May 4), because it’s Free Comic Book Day! The free ones are a mix of typical American superhero comics and other, alternative comics. You can read a FAQ that explains the idea of Free Comic Book Day. To find a comic book store near you that’s participating, visit the Free Comic Book Day Locator. Salon has short reviews of each free comic (3 pages). Some are for adults; others are for children. So tomorrow is a great day to get acquainted with your local comic book store. Go on in and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

A little science fiction for you

The Hugo Awards are given annually for outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy. Recently, many of the works that have been nominated are put online so that the voters can easily read them. They may not be online for a long time, so they’re worth reading now. Because they’re high-level, literary science fiction, some of the stories are very difficult to read. But here’s one you might like: “Impossible Dreams” by Tim Pratt is a wonderful story for fans of classic American films. If you’re a movie-lover, try this story.

I haven’t had time to read any of the novellas or novelettes, but if you would like to recommend one that advanced English learners could read, please do.

Free reading resources: comics!

Finding fun things to read in English is important. Trying to read textbooks all the time can make your head hurt and make you want to quit reading.

  • The Webcomic List is a list of mostly free online comics. Some may be hard to read, but spend some time looking around for something fun understandable. Even simple things like comics are a good way to learn English speech patterns and vocabulary.
  • Comics.com has many popular comic strips that are published in English-language newspapers. I know from reading Chinese comic strips that it can be hard to understand cultural humor sometimes. So, don’t be afraid to ask a friend or teacher to help explain the jokes.
  • MangaNews has links to Japanese comic books that fans are translating in English. You can download the translations. (These translations are unofficial, and if a publishing company decides to print the book in English, the fans will stop translating the series.)

When I have more readers, I would like to ask everyone what you like to read (in any language). That way I can post things that you’ll enjoy reading in English, I hope.