English is not my mother tongue language so I tried to learn it, possibly having fun in the process. At the beginning there was no fun, I studied it in high school but I didn't have occasions to practice it, so it was quite boring. Later, when I moved to the University of Ancona to study Electronic Engineering, I found that computer/software related documentation and some textbooks were available only in English. Later, when I starded working in a big corporation, I was forced to use english to communicate with non Italian speaking collegues, customers and suppliers. I used the following path to learn and improve my english.
Improving English Reading Skills with technical books and newsmagazines
When I was forced to read English manuals and textbook I tried to improve my English reading skills with a lot of practice. At the time, in the early 80's, I was a computer enthusiast and an owner of a Sinclair Spectrum, so I started reading english books on Spectrum itself and on Z80 microprocessor and assembly language. I also subscribed to the once popular Uk computer magazine Your Computer. After some time I learned many english words, using the dictionary a lot, and improved a lot my English reading skills. One day, hearing an english speaking turist, I suddenly realized that I was able to read in English but I wasn't able to understand the spoken English and my own spoken English was so bad that the turist was not able to understand me!
Improving English Listening Skills with a shortwave radio
I was determined to improve my English Listening Skills, for this purpose my dream was to buy, in the early 80's, a powerful shortwave radio receiver, I remember dreaming about a Yaesu receiver, but it was too expensive. At the end I bought a very cheap, small and simple shortwave radio receiver, with it I was able to receive very few stations, with a low fidelity and frequent signal fadings. My preferred station was Radio Moscow, it was easier for me to understand the English news after listening to the same news in Italian and I liked the USSR position (at the time I was a leftist student leader). I also listened very often to BBC World Service, a very very good radio station. Still today I listen to BBC World Service via Internet Radio or Satellite Radio. At the time I couldn't dream about receiving English TV stations: I saw a very big Satellite dish and equipments in an electronic fair in 1983, but the cost was prohibitive: about 9,000$.
Improving English Listening Skills with a satellite receiver
Later, in the middle 90's, I bought a satellite riceiver and installed a satellite dish and it was amazing to be able to receive a lot of English radio stations like BBC World Service, CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg TV etc. For a couple of years I was also able to receive Uk free to view television stations using a digibox satellite receiver bought on eBay from an uk resident.
Improving English Listening Skills sharing documentaries with eMule and BitTorrent
The problem with satellite television is that when I have time to power on the TV set (for 1 or 2 hours in the late evening when my 3 daughters are already sleeping) I am not always lucky to find something interesting on TV.
I am interested mainly in Space exploration documentaries, in History documentaries and in old Science Fiction movies and TV series (Space 1999 is my preferred series)
Luckily we all live in an interisting time, I have a broadband connection and there are some very nice high quality BitTorrent sharing sites out there; i like very much MVGroup (www.mvgroup.org) and UKNova (www.uknova.com). With a DVD writer and a DVD/DiVX player improving English listening skills has never been so funny, but I still need to find some free time to do this activity.
Improving American Listening Skills with podcasts
Understanding a BBC news or documetary is very easy, understanding a movie is more difficult, but understanding an American guy requires, at least to me, a lot of attention. Again I am lucky: it is easy to find interesting American podcasts, download them to my PC and to my PDA (a 2 years old Dell Axim) and improve my American listening skills using the otherwise wasted commute time from home to office and back(about 45 minutes in total). My preferred podcasts are:
- Slashdot Review A 10-Minute Review of recent Slashdot items and one new artist (non-RIAA) song.
- Perlcast Podcasting Perl.
- Linux Log Separating the Linux signal from the noise
- Digital Experience Podcast
I can say that commute time is a well spent time to improve my American listening skills