I exaggerated the title of this journal, but I have not used English in business and I don't think that I am "learning" English. I am just playing around with English without any goal.
I am trying to increase the input and output of English in the fields which I am interested in, and communicate with native speakers in English. I have used only free materials to learn English.
I will begin by talking about listening.
I listen to downloaded podcasts in English on my iPod while going to work.
I listen to the English as a Second Language Podcast (ESL) most. Basically it consists of a short conversation and an explanation of it. Sometimes it introduces American culture. I can almost understand what Dr. Jeff McQuillan the host of this podcast says, because he speaks slower and with less vocabulary than a native speaker. He has a good sense of humor, and it is interesting to listen to it. It deals with very interesting subjects of American culture and I, a geek of American culture, am satisfied with it.
Because the ELS podcast does not update everyday and I listen to it on the way to work and back home, I listen to various news shows in the rest of time.
Voice of America is aimed at foreigners and the speech is slow with a small vocabulary, so I can almost catch what it means. But the contents of it are not interesting, and I do not hear it well.
I watch CNN Student News and NBC Nightly News most. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to watch top news in USA on both of these programs. They are video podcasts, and the images on them help me to understand the news in English. CNN Student News aims at high school students, but the level of the contents of this program is not so different from other ordinal news shows. Recently I am getting able to understand what they say on both of these programs.
I like CNN Anderson Cooper 360° very much. It is a news show based on interviews, and they are very existing and interesting. I am disappointed that Anderson Cooper and his interviewees speak too fast for me to understand completely. It is interesting enough even though I only understand partially, but it will be more interesting when I understand completely.
Next will be about reading. I also mainly read newspapers on the Internet.
I follow the tweets of New York Times and USA Today, and read some articles which I am interested in. Of course I can understand articles on USA Today easier than those of New York Times, but I read New York Times more because its contents are more interesting.
I also follow tweets of NY Yankees and LA Lakers, and read some articles. I can't understand expressions which are used only in sports, but I can guess the meanings of them, because I have a basic knowledge about MLB and NBA.
I don't read other people's weblog in Japanese, and neither weblogs in English. In fact I don't have time to read them. But I follow some native speakers' tweets, and I am very interested in their English which is different from what I have learned in textbooks. Sometimes I can't understand what they say completely, although they don't use any difficult vocabulary. It is new for me how they cut down words, and how living English is.
Next is about outputs, writing.
I had previously written a weblog and Twitter only in Japanese, now I write them in both of English and Japanese. I also post journals on Lang-8, and allow them to be corrected and commented on by members of the community in English. I made this website only in English for English readers.
My journals on my website are not good for English readers, because they need knowledge about Japan to understand my journals. It might be good if I wrote journals for Japanese people and for foreigners separately, but I don't have enough time to do it. My journals might be useful for students who are learning Japanese language and culture.
The last is about speaking.
I don't know anything about speaking practise in English. I just speak in broken English on foreign travels once a year.
There are some people who open their Skype ID, so I could talk to them in order to practice speaking in English. But I don't have enough time to do it, and I have not found someone who writes interesting things and I'd like to talk with.
My way of learning English is not systematic, so it might be inefficient. But increasing my input and output of English improves my skills. Anyway I enjoy it, and it is fun to have more chance to communicate with foreign people in English.
I am getting to feel that the Japanese Internet world is smaller, after I've increased my input and output of English on the Internet. It's a shame to stay only in Japanese on the Internet which connects to all over the world.