Improving Your English in Asia

beach by mrhayata

I wrote these recommendations for someone who used to be my student. She’s going back to Japan soon. These suggestions will be most useful for people who live in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. However, these ideas might be useful for other people, too. These ideas are good for a mix of levels. Some are only for advanced learners.

There are a lot of ideas so you can choose the ones that you like and the ones that work best for you. You should try to do several different things. However, you don’t need to read all of them at one time. You can read them a little at a time.

☆ R E A D !

  • Recommendations: Tadoku.org Japanese-language only
  • Manga: Buy English manga online (it’s expensive), or used at stores like Book-Off. If you can’t buy it, there are sites like OneManga and MangaFox (These sites may not be legal in some countries.)
  • Read newspaper comics (like 四コマ/네컷 만화) such as Mutts or from Comics.com
  • Find a webcomic that fits your interests and level (you might need to ask someone for a recommendation, but there is a big list here; look under Browse Comics)
  • Read easy short articles in English: BeeOasis
  • Check the Reading page and Reading category for more.

☆ L I S T E N !

☆ C H A T ONLINE! (‘talk’ by typing with people from around the world)

☆ S I N G ! (remember: grammar is often strange in song lyrics)

☆ W A T C H English TV like Supernatural, Glee, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, & Veronica Mars

  • Try rental shops and libraries first. Watch the shows with your language as subtitles if you need to, then English subtitles.
  • If you can’t get DVDs, search Sidereel (some of the sites linked here may not be legal in some countries) Turn on [CC]/closed-captioning/English subtitles if you can.
  • Try bilingual/English shows like Begin Japanology. Record them and watch them in both languages if you need to.
  • PBS’ International Videos are available outside of the US

Watch Japanese, Korean, & Taiwanese TV shows with English subtitles made by international fans, which can improve your reading and vocabulary (some of these sites may not be legal in some countries)

  • MySoju
  • DramaCrazy
  • Veoh (look for “English subs” or “subbed”)
  • Viki (especially good–try different combinations of audio & subtitles)

☆Read English blogs! Use Google Reader to collect and read the RSS feeds of English blogs that you think are interesting.

☆Volunteer in your prefecture or city. (Even basic English may be OK!) Start by searching online. Look for an international association, free tour guides/Goodwill Guides, free Japanese/Korean/etc. lessons, Couchsurfing, or other ways to volunteer and speak English. If you can’t find anything, look at your city or prefecture’s website. If you still can’t find anything, START something! I also wrote some posts about how to meet international visitors.

☆Go meet people! Meetup.com has groups in Osaka, Seoul, and more. It’s free to go to a group. (It costs a little bit to start a group.)

☆Write in English.
Even if your English isn’t 100% perfect, non-Japanese/non-Koreans/etc. will be happy if you do things like
a) Write blog reviews of restaurants or sights in your city or town (even if it’s small)
b) Blog about dramas/news/anime/music/fashion/photos/scenery/etc.
c) Blog lyrics you’ve translated from your language to English.
You can use free sites like

Read more about how to blog English!

☆More writing: You can edit Wikipedia about your town, your school, etc., & also Wikitravel. (Wikipedia does not care if your English is perfect. They just want helpful information!)

☆More writing: If you’re Japanese, can answer questions at Japan Guide. You might be able to find a forum for your country or city if you search on Google for something like seoul "discussion board" or seoul forum. You can also search for groups on Facebook. People will be happy to have a local person who can answer questions in English!

☆Look for a book called 日本でいちばん親切な英語学習法 Ways of Learning English Effectively in Japan (Japanese-language only)

☆If you get a tutor or go to an English school in Asia, look for a place where the teachers have training. Each teacher should have a TESOL certificate, a CELTA, a DELTA, an MATESOL/master’s degree in teaching English as a second/foreign language or applied linguistics or education, or a PhD in applied linguistics, linguistics, education, or something closely related. (Most foreign teachers have no training & cannot teach ESL in their home countries.)

You CAN find ways to improve your English anywhere in the world! It just takes time, energy, and creativity. You can do it!
I’ll add more ideas here when I can.
☆ Good luck! ☆