Since we have spent a lot of time in learning English, it is wise to ask ourselves: How have we spent our precious time? Among all the English skills, which one has taken the most time from us and which one the least? Does the allocation make sense?

You probably would agree that most Chinese students spend the majority of their time in memorizing vocabularies or studying English grammar while the least in practicing spoken English or writing. Chinese students emphasize on vocabularies and grammar because they think it is the most efficient way to quickly acquire high scores in the TOEFL or GRE test (although I can make a very convincing argument against it). But what are important in taking tests may not be useful in applying to schools, handling heavy homework, and working as a professional in the future. In real life situations, the importance of different skills may have ranks as the following:

Writing: most important in application and at workplace

Speaking: most important in interviewing

Reading: critical for finishing your homework

Understanding of grammar: useful only for taking tests

Vocabulary: all you need in life are 3-4 thousand words

Let me use an example to show you how different writings can have dramatically different effects and why you need more time to practice it.

One of my friends graduated from Tsinghua University and is extremely intelligent and technically capable. Once he showed me a paper analyzing the success of McDonald's in China. Here is the first paragraph:

"As all know, China is famous for delicious food. Food in China from different areas is so different. When McDonald’s decided to enter Chinese market in 1987, many people doubted whether McDonald would succeed in China thought it was the biggest fast food retailer in the United States. You know, fast food is not as delicious as Chinese food, and Chinese people like to eat and pay attention to the taste of food."

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