Problems in Learning English and How to Improve Them

Are you having difficulty learning English? Are you saying to yourself “If only I could learn English better, I could do so much more.”? If you are answering yes to these questions, I’m sure you’re wondering how you can do that. In this article, I would like to explain some problems many English learners face, and ways to improve your English that are simple and can be fun at the same time.

Problems in Learning English

Poor English Vocabulary

Vocabulary is important when learning a language. Any language, of course including English, has thousands and thousands of words. In many cases, even those native speakers of the language do not know all the words of that language. there are just too many to learn. In fact, according to many sources I have come across, there are only 800 words that you must know to converse in English. That list is too long to display here, but a good start is to read through that list and see how many words you know. You may surprise yourself in the amount of words you are familiar with. I have posted the list on World English club, and you can go over it there. Another problem people face in learning English vocabulary is that they learn new words, but they tend to forget what they have learned quite soon after the just learned them. So what can you do?

How to Improve your English Vocabulary

There are games to play and methods to learn to improve your English vocabulary. The best simple method I want to suggest is this; just make a list. Now there is more to it than just making a list, so keep reading. Once a week, make a list of twenty five words using the World English Club Vocab lists, or choose words from other popular websites. As you are compiling (or making) your list, make sure to write down the definitions if you are unsure of them at the time. Do your best to study and learn these new words. Now break the list down into five words a day. On your first day, study your first five words. On your second day, study your next five words. Now here’s the trick; after your second day of your five vocab words, try to write down yesterday’s words. On your third day, study day three’s words, and then try to remember and write down day two’s vocab words. Are you seeing a pattern yet? I hope so. Do this for five days, and on your sixth day of vocabulary learning, try to write all your vocab words for the last week. Take your time, and do your best. When you are done, review those words and see what you remember. If you use the method above, I guarantee you will improve your English vocabulary and not forget the words you have learned.

Poor English Speaking Skills

One of the biggest complaints I hear about when one is learning a new language, is their inability to communicate successfully. Whether it is an issue with reducing their accent, or not knowing the vocabulary or grammar to create a decent conversation, many people struggle with poor speaking skills. People assume that learning grammar in a classroom or studying vocabulary words will help them speak a English as a language. But those factors only gain you knowledge of the English language and cannot translate into real conversational English skills. Are you having problems with English speaking skills? Here are ways to improve your English speaking skills.

How to improve your English Speaking Skills

Have you tried to watch a movie in English? I’m sure you have. It is one of the easiest things to do while studying and learning English. But what is it about watching movies that is a good idea? I’ll tell you; it’s hearing the words spoken out loud. So there is one thing that I’m sure you haven’t thought of to mirror this learning effect, but it will make a bigger and better improvement on learning English speaking skills. Read a book. Well, it doesn’t have to be a book, but it needs to be in English. Now here’s the trick; As you are reading this book, read it OUT LOUD. Yes, it is as simple as that. Reading out loud will let you hear your English and at the same time, help you gain more confidence in speaking English. It does not have to be for a very long time. But you should read out loud for at least five minutes a day. Do not give up on this. I think this is an important method to practice and not enough people practice in this manner. Make sure you are pronouncing your words, and if you have to read slowly, that’s OK as well. The point is that you are speaking out loud and practicing speaking English. Since many English learners do not have the opportunity to interact with native English speakers, this is one of the best methods to help improve your English speaking skills. Which brings me to my final learning English problem.

Not enough interaction with English speakers

Not being able to have interaction with native English speakers can be a great hindrance on one who is learning English. But there are many things you can do to help improve your interaction with native English speakers, or at least to simulate this experience. Which, let’s face it, is probably the most important part of learning a new language. Interaction. So here are some things you can do.

– As you all are aware, watching movies is a good idea. You can learn slang words and, if you are interested in learning to speak like an American, there are a lot of colloquialisms and Americanisms (as I like to call them) that are difficult to learn about simply by reading. to learn colloquialisms, a person must hear the words and phrases in context. So by watching movies, there can be no way in which you, as a learner, can mistake or misunderstand the meaning of the words or phrases.

– One way (and I think this is the best way) that many English learners do not think of, is finding an native English speaker in a chat room or English learning website and chat with them via Skype or other internet voice service. There are plenty of people who would love to just talk with you over the phone or internet to help you learn. Or maybe you can offer to teach them a little of your language in return. That way everybody gains something from the experience. If you are in a country or city where you do not have the opportunity to find a native English speaking friend, chatting on the phone or internet is the next best thing.

– If you are lucky enough to know an English speaker that you can meet with (and it should be someone you are comfortable with so as you are trying to speak, you will not be shy), try to meet them in a comfortable place that you can hear each other speak and just spend about an hour talking about any topic that comes to mind. You can also plan some topics to talk about so you don’t waste your time thinking of things to say. maybe write down questions you have or have them ask YOU questions so you can practice answering them.

There are plenty of other problems in Learning English but I think these are the three main reasons. I guarantee that if you know these pitfalls and know how to avoid them, every aspect of your English learning will be improved. And you will be a native English speaker in no time. Good Luck!

Reference Services in Academic Libraries in Sierra Leone


Society is becoming more stratified and polarized, with the rich and the poor, the educated and uneducated, having limited cognitive skills wider apart than in any time in our history. In this period of increasing stratification by income and ability, the library in academic institutions may acts as a bridge between the entrenched social poles.

Reference libraries have the longest history of any type of library. They existed in the days of clay tablet and from such tablets, information was consulted and a list of concerns is being regarded as the primitive forerunners of current library catalogues. From their beginnings in ancient times, the functions of libraries have not altered significantly. However the format, quantity and content of the materials making up their stock and the resultant services have progressively been transformed to the point where the researchers today have access to a network of sophisticated information resources. The primary role of the library is educational and this has been the attitude if not the realization of reference librarians (Higgens, 1988).

Academic libraries are those designed to meet general studies at the undergraduate and graduate levels and which also support their parent institutions in delivering their programs for an effective teaching and implementation of practical skills. Higgens (1988) defined an academic library as that attached to help academic institutions above secondary level serving the teaching and research needs of students, staff and researchers. According to Harrods (2000) academic libraries are those found in universities, polytechnics, colleges and all other institutions forming part of or associated with the educational institutions.

Reference Services at the Fourah Bay College Library

Fourah Bay College library was established in 1827. It is located at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone in the Michael Jollife Building which was named after the late Mr. Michael Jollife, an expatriate who served as College librarian from 1961-1970.

The first floor of the library houses the reception desk; photocopying room; issue desk; Sierra Leone Collection (incorporating the United Nations Collection); the American Shelf; General Reference Collection; Cataloguing Department; Acquisition Department; Circulation Department and the College Librarian’s office. The second floor holds the Textbook Collection. The third floor contains the General Lending Collection.

The lower ground floor houses the Bindery; staff rooms and stores. The library has Professional, Para-professional and other support staff. It uses the Dewey Decimal Classification Scheme and the Triplicate Issuing System with Card catalogue.

Fourah Bay College library is one of the outstanding academic libraries in Sierra Leone established with the mission statement “to build a comprehensive collection of recorded information to support effective teaching, research and training in the Liberal Arts, Pure and Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology, Social Sciences and Law and related fields to facilitate speedy access to information, and to optimize the use of collection by potential library users of Fourah Bay College and other institutions.”

Reference Service is the peak of library activity job. It involves the maintenance of a resource bank from which answers to queries are provided and materials needed by users are made available.Davidson (1979) defined reference service as the provision of information and materials to people entering a reference library and requesting help from the library staff. Katz (1997) viewed reference service as the behind-the-scene activities of the reference library in the selection, acquisition and maintenance of the library stock and its careful recordings and administration.

When we talk of reference service in academic libraries, we mean those activities undertaken by librarians and associated types of staff from the reference department in academic libraries. This is achieved through the use of collection of books, and other materials stocked in the reference department for reference purposes distinct from collection made for home reading or other use outside the library. The reference process in academic libraries involves the following:

• The user recognizes his need for information;
• The user puts his question to the librarian;
• The librarian engages the questioner in a reference dialogue;
• The librarian refines and restates the question;
• The librarian formulates the search strategy;
• The librarian identifies and exploits his own and/or external information resources;
• The librarian presents his tentative findings;
• The user assesses the relevance of these in relation to his requirements; and
• The user accepts an approved answer.

Reference materials at the Fourah Bay College Library include:dictionaries, encyclopedias, abstract journals, directories, yearbooks, biographies periodicals/serials, indexes to periodicals, newspapers, maps and charts, technical reports, patents, standard specifications, dissertations, theses, conference proceedings and the academic and administrative calendar of events or the operation of the college.

In addition to these materials the library offers the following services:

Reference Service: This refers to the personal assistance given to users in finding specific information whether direct or indirect. At Fourah Bay College Library, a resource bank is maintained from which answers to questions are provided and materials needed by users are made available.

Bibliographic Service: The library prepares book lists and bibliographies for its clients, especially post-graduate students which serve as a great aid in their research activities especially in the writing of their theses and dissertation.

Photocopying Service: This service is provided for students who wish to photocopy their notes as well as lecturers who want to reproduce multiple copies of useful materials to make their lecture notes. Users pay a fee for this service.

Internet Service: This is the latest among the services provided at the Fourah Bay College Library. The Library provides an opportunity for staff and students to access information online via the use of the Internet. However, to use the system, the clientele must have some skills in the use computers and a fee is also charged for the service.

Binding Service: Mutilated references materials are sent to bindery to be bound. However it is not a free for all service as some cost is charged for the services rendered especially to students and for personal work of staff members.

The reference department at the Fourah Bay College library is a special one from which materials cannot be borrowed for home reading. It is served by special librarians called Reference Librarians or Information Officers, who assist and advise patrons in their research and other literature needs. They provide bibliographic or intellectual access and offer targeted services and programs with the mission of educating, informing and entertaining a variety of audiences and the goal of stimulating individual learning and advancing society as a whole.

Reference Queries:are also answered in the library. These questions posed by the library patrons to the reference librarians with the aim of getting the right information to satisfy their needs. These queries are divided into:

Directional Queries: These are queries in which the reference librarian is asked simply for directions.

Ready Reference Queries: These are referred to as quick reference questions. They are queries in which the reference librarians need to consult only one source, and that adjacent to the inquiry point, in order to deal with the user’s needs. This is distinguished from the purely directional level of work by the fact that the librarians need to consult some data rather than simply answer from personal knowledge.

Specific Search Queries: These are described as those in which reference librarians may need to consult several sources to ensure complete the satisfaction of user needs. They are the kind which are clearly understood without too much discussion and the sources required are obvious and fairly elementary.

Research Queries: These are queries that require extended searches, perhaps over several days and possibly involving a number of library staff concurrently. The marshaling of facts and figures from a wide range of sources, together with the need to write extensive background notes and explanations, and probably to borrow materials from other libraries and make a telephone call to advice or getting assistance from other libraries will be a feature of this type of query

Challenges of Reference Services at the Fourah Bay College Library

Academic Libraries in Sierra Leone, especially Fourah Bay College Library are not without challenges. These range from shortage of funds through lack of adequate professionally skilled staff to erratic power supply.

The library is wholly and solely dependent upon the college administration for funding. An assessment of funding at Fourah Bay College Library reveals that a very low priority is given to the institution’s academic nerve center. The library is gravely underfunded. Games and Sports Division is given a higher quotation than the library. This financial challenge has therefore limited the library in the provision of an excellent reference service to its clients. The library also lacks the required current reference materials to handle reference queries. This financial constraints has limited the library in acquiring the most recent reference materials.

Further the number of professional staff is small compared to the number of para-professional and other support staff. The reference section does not have adequate staff to handle the volume of reference queries from the bulk of the users of the library especially during peak periods.

Power outages also pose a serious challenge. The problem, though a national one, has affected the operations of the library. The 21st century library is supposed to be a digital library which must thrive on power supply. Sadly power supply in Sierra Leone is erratic and this has handicapped the Fourah Bay College library greatly. As such staff and users could not make use of such facilities as computer, searching the Internet for recent reference materials and information or photocopying materials which cannot be used outside the library or even have access to automated reference materials.

The reference department at the library does not have Internet facilities to aid in answering reference queries that require current response. Also the seating accommodation in the reference department at the library is inadequate and cannot accommodate the large number of students in the college who come in for reference services. The reference department also lacks Current Awareness Services (CAS), Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI) all of which form the basis for reference services. Moreover the reference sources and resources available at the reference department are not well publicized or marketed which could serve as a strong link between the department and the clients.

Indeed, reference service is one of the most important services that a library uses to meet its aims and objectives. There is considerable potential in the use the college library of reference services but there are also many challenges. There should be therefore commitment on the part of the librarians, library administration, users and the college administration in order to achieve quality and sustainability in the development and improvement of reference services. Only through their active participation will reference services transform the teaching and learning process, alter the nature of information seeking, organizing and using behavior at Fourah Bay College.

Getting Self-Published Books in Libraries

Many authors have misconceptions about libraries. I have spoken to several authors who are resistant to have their books in libraries and will not donate copies. The resistance comes from a fear that people will check out their books for free and thereby hurt their book sales. Other authors do not bother with libraries because they believe self-published books are not accepted by libraries and they don’t want to argue with stereotypically snooty librarians.

Not acting based upon these misconceptions actually results in a loss of book sales for authors. Having a book in the library’s collection is one of the best things an author can do. Numerous advantages result from being in the library, but before authors can take advantage of those benefits, they need to get libraries to put their books on the shelves.

Working with Public Libraries

So how do you get your book in the library? The easiest way is to donate a book to your local public library. I have yet to meet a public library that would not add a donated book to its collection, provided the donation was done through the proper channels. Granted, there may be some exceptions because libraries, big as they often are, do have limited shelf space, so they need to make sure the books they carry will be read by their patrons. That said, if you can get your book on the shelf, you will have made a big step toward marketing your book to potential customers.

The key to donating your book is finding the right librarian to accept it. Do not just go to the circulation desk and say, “Here’s a book for the collection.” The person at the circulation desk is usually not the person who makes decisions about what books go on the shelves. He or she might just add the book to the stack of donated books, many of which end up in the library’s book sales to raise money for the library. Instead, call the library and ask to speak to the librarian in charge of collections. That person is the one in charge of buying books and deciding what books get to be on the shelves. Be prepared to give the person information about your book and offer to stop by or email the person with the book cover image. If you are polite and professional, this librarian may be your foot into the library door. Ask other local authors who the appropriate librarian is and what their dealings have been with that librarian so you are prepared for the reception you might get.

Without being pushy, ask for a little publicity once the librarian agrees to accept your book. If the library is in a smaller town, it may have good connections with the local media. I know one library that even takes photos of authors who donate books and sends them to the local newspaper for publication; this gives you expanded publicity and lets people know the book is at the library. At the very least, libraries will often publish in their newsletters, on their websites, in the local newspaper, or on a local access television channel, books recently added to their collections. Remember, everyone can’t read the same copy of your book at the same time. If a waiting list for your book starts, the library will want to buy more books. (Don’t hesitate to ask all your friends to go to the library and request your book so that waiting list does grow). And the longer that waiting list is, the more likely people won’t wait but just go out to buy your book.

Once your book is in the library, it will be catalogued, and once catalogued, it may end up being listed on WorldCat is the world’s largest network of library content and services. Libraries belonging to WorldCat provide access to their resources at which allows people around the world to find your book online. These books are also available for inter-library loan, so if your library is in New Hampshire, someone in Texas might request the book and be able to read it.

So beginning with your own local public library, you can make your book accessible nationwide and even worldwide. But getting your book in the library is not the end result. Now that it is in the library, let people know it’s there. This is your chance to do a little guerrilla marketing. I know one author who, whenever he goes to the library, looks up his book on the library’s computer, then leaves the screen up with his book on it so the next user will see it. He also will look for his book on the shelf, and if it’s not checked out, he will pull it out an inch or two on the shelf so it stands out, or even face it outward so people will see it.

At book signings or book fairs, if people ask whether your book is in the library, go ahead and tell them it is. I know many authors who have had people buy their books after reading them in the library just because they loved a book so much they wanted to own it, or they wanted to give copies as gifts.

Also, now that you have your foot in the door at the library, you can continue to network. Eventually, all the librarians may get to know you. When you go to check out books at the circulation desk, they will be pleased to meet you and they might say, “Oh, so you’re the author. We have a lot of people check out your book.” It’s a good way to find out how popular your book is and to make the librarians remember you.

Be sure to get involved with the library. Libraries today are turning into community centers. They are always doing special programming for their patrons. Offer to give a talk. Help with a conference. Donate your time helping with a book sale. Whatever you can do to get to know the library staff will benefit you. I know many authors whom the library continually calls to do events, give advice, or help them with programming. By assisting with library events, authors become known in the community. Being a volunteer also might make the library willing to repay you by hosting a book release party for your second book. Even if you hold events in other venues, the library will often be willing to put up posters for the event-think how many hundreds or thousands of people visit the library each day who may see those posters.

Beyond your local library, branch out to other libraries in your state. First you might visit libraries in neighboring towns, then work your radius out to the next county. You can drop names of your local librarians with librarians in other towns. Most librarians know each other within their own county or state, so if you have library references, other libraries will be more likely to want to host you for a book signing or talk-and buy your book for their own collections.

Special Interest Libraries

Beyond the public library, many other types of libraries exist whose shelves would be a good home for an author’s book.

Most states have their own state libraries. For example, I know one author who sent copies of his book to the Library of Michigan. The result was, without his asking, he ended up being listed on a brochure the Library of Michigan distributed to libraries statewide featuring Upper Michigan authors.

Your town might have a library for the visually impaired that would be interested in your books-even if you don’t have an actual audio book, many of the new readers, such as Kindle, will read books out loud to people, so let such libraries know your book is available in electronic or audio form.

University libraries might be more particular than local libraries when it comes to taking self-published books, but if you went through that university’s English degree program, or you worked as an assistant at the library when you were in college, or you worked at the local newspaper-whatever you did as a student-see if you have connections that can help you. Wherever you were an alumni, use it to your advantage to get your book in the university library, and also to do events on campus.

If your book is age appropriate, talk to librarians at the local school libraries, either elementary, middle, or high school. Many schools love to have author visits, and depending on your book’s topic, they might have you come in to talk to the students about being an author or about your book’s subject.

Is there a local history museum near you? Then donate a copy of your book to its research library-generations from now, people may be interested in the local author who lived in the town, and if you’ve written a local history book, all the better. I know one author whose local history book is regularly used by the research librarians as a resource they show to their patrons, and many of those patrons then go out and buy the book since they can only use it otherwise in the research library.

Many organizations and centers have libraries-from the local senior center to churches. They are all opportunities to get your book included in their collections as well. Think of places you are involved with and ask other people you know about organizations with library collections and who to talk to in those organizations.

Libraries are Your Best Friends

In short, having your book in a library is one of the best things you can do to promote it and to sell books. Be friends with your local librarians and you will get local community recognition that in time can become national and then worldwide. And remember, every library is different and has different policies and different staff. Just because one library says “No” to you doesn’t mean another library will. Keep at it and you’ll find your book on more library shelves than you anticipated when you began.