“Give up on mathematics and you give up on college,” the Korean man said in crisply enunciated English. “But if you give up on English you give up on life,” and this is true not just in Korea but all over the world. English is the global language of commerce, science and diplomacy, and if you can’t understand, speak, think and write in English, if you’re not reading English media two hours a day or more, you can’t expect to prosper anywhere in the world.

This wasn’t always so, but in the modern world _ where second language speakers of English outnumber native speakers by at least three to one _ it is. The object of gaining fluency in English, even for native speakers, is to work with it as the best educated and wisest speakers and writers of the language _ native or not _ do, not to flash it around as an ornament but to use it every day as a valuable tool.

It’s not enough just to be able to understand and speak the language, though. You must keep striving to become better with it through constantly reading English language magazines, books, and newspapers, through watching and listening to astute commentators whenever and wherever you can, through enjoying dramas and documentaries and through engaging in lively conversations with other people who are just as eager to speak English as you are.

You must also be able to write reports, essays, articles and stories in English, crafting them so they are easy to understand, informative, and even a joy to read. To do this well you must read every word you write at least a dozen times before you let others see it. Mastering the craft of writing in English is vital to becoming fluent which alone makes it worth doing. But there are greater benefits.

When students begin teaching themselves how to write, they often buy overpriced writing manuals when all they need is a pen or a pencil and a pad of paper. With just these they can write and read and reread what they have written, aiming to rewrite it so as to make it read better. Students must take the time to read carefully and deeply what they have written, and then rewrite it until they are happy with it. This is how they become good writers.

Nothing helps your writing as much as reading. Reading is like weightlifting for the mind. The more you read, the stronger and better writer you will become. Read the writers who enchant you with their work and learn from them, then strive to make your writing read like theirs. Don’t be afraid to copy the work of your heroes, for all the great writers started out copying the writers who were their heroes.

It is the rare student who is lucky enough to find a teacher who loves to read and who struggles mightily to become a good writer, inspiring students and bestowing upon them insight about what it takes to write. Most of us must teach ourselves. The best teachers will lead the students to read good books, for they know that becoming a writer is an act of self-discovery that will take countless hours of reading, writing and rewriting.

Through dedication and diligence, earnest students will discover for themselves how they can write. In getting to that point, they will face endless frustrations and unavoidable failures as they grapple in their efforts to put this alien tongue on paper so that it might read like fine literature. Becoming a good writer of English doesn’t come easy for anybody. You have to want it as much as you want to breathe.

The best writers write so they can amaze themselves. But if it happens that a reader should enjoy reading something you have written, and it keeps them reading to the last word, still wanting to read more, maybe it will amaze them. Maybe one of your stories or articles articles might inspire a young reader to write.