Robby Kukurs

I’m Robby, and I’m a non-native English speaker. Throughout my entire life I’ve always wanted to speak in English fluently, but because of the way English is taught in schools, I always struggled with my spoken English.

I couldn't learn to speak fluent English for 5 years - read about what I was doing to learn to speak fluently HERE - are YOU in the same situation?

Then, one fine day, after years of constant pursuit of English fluency, I realized the key aspect of spoken English improvement – learning English phrases and word combinations instead of studying grammar rules and trying to construct sentences in your head from scratch!

If you’re interested in improving your English fluency too, please check out the English Harmony System which is a product I created to help all my fellow foreigners to better their spoken English and achieve so much more in professional, social and personal life.

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For those foreign English speakers whose English understanding, writing and grammar is already good but they're struggling with spoken English!

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20 most common ‘Words often confused’ in English

I really liked the ‘desert’ at the party. What? How can someone like a desert at a party? Oops! I made a mistake up there. It should have been ‘dessert’ in the above sentence which is the sweet course eaten at the end of the meal. English pronunciation can be quite weird sometimes, isn’t it? It is for this reason that not only non-natives, but also a native English speaker gets confused with its usage sometimes, and hence they are often referred as  ‘Words Often Confused’ or 'Homophones'. Hey to everyone out there, Welcome back again to English Harmony and I hope you are all doing good. So today we will learn about ‘Homophones’, which are also known as ‘Words often confused’. What are Homophones? Homophones are the words that have exactly the same pronunciation but different meaning. The root of the word ‘Homo’ means ‘same’, while ‘phone’ means sound. Be it a non-native or native, people get confused with these homophones because of the same pronunciation; so you see, you are not alone. There is no doubt ‘practice makes a man perfect’, and the same goes with learning homophones. They are not that easy, but with a regular practice and proper learning, it will be a piece of cake for you. So without further ado, let’s get down to the business and see some of the most common homophones in English: Accept/ Except Accept (verb): consent to receive or undertake. Example: I accepted his proposal for the meeting this weekend. Except (Preposition): not including, other than. Example: Everyone came to my birthday party, except Ben. Advice/ Advise Advice (noun): guidance or recommendation about what someone should do. Example: You should always follow his advice if you want to improve your game. Advise (verb): recommend that someone should do something. Example: He advised his brother not to be in the bad company of rogues. Ate/ Eight Ate (verb): The past form of ‘eat’. Example: I ate my lunch after I came from school. Eight (noun): The number between seven and nine. Example: There are eight rooms in our house. Bear/ bare Bare (adjective):  not clothed or covered. Example: He bared his chest to show his scar. Bear (noun): a large, heavy mammal with thick fur and very soft tail. Example: I saw a black bear in the zoo yesterday. Desert/ dessert Desert (noun): a waterless area of land with little or no vegetation typically covered with sand. Example: Sahara is the largest hot desert in the world. Dessert (noun): the sweet course eaten at the end of the meal. Example: I don’t think a meal is complete without a dessert. Deer/ dear Deer (noun): a hoofed animal, the male of which usually has antlers. Example: I saw a deer on a roadside while dropping Joe to school. Dear (Adjective): regarded with deep affection Example: “God bless you my dear son”, said the church father. Die/ dye Die (verb): to stop living. Example: His uncle died in a car accident. Dye (noun): natural or synthetic substance used to color something. Example: He bought a dye for just 40 cents. Band/ banned Band (noun): a flat, thin strip or loop of material used as a fastener or as decoration. Example: John gave Emma a friendship band on her birthday. Banned (verb): past form of the ban. Example: Alcohol has been banned for some days in some of the cities due to the increasing number of accidents. Haul/ hall Haul (verb): To pull or drag something with effort. Example: He hauled his bike out of the shed. Hall (noun): the room or space just inside the front entrance of a house. Example: The students were ordered to assemble in the hall so admit cards could be distributed. Higher/ hire Higher (adjective): the comparative degree of high. Example: The prices of these products go higher every day. Hire (verb): pay to be allowed to use something for an agreed period. Example: I can't say for sure if they will hire you or not. How many of them did you know? A few? Or all? I hope you would have found this article useful and easy to learn. Make sure you learn their meanings off by heart so you never get confused down the line. Lemme know in the comment section below about your views and suggestions and keep learning and improving. In case you wanna give my personal blog ‘Your English Vocabulary’ a knock, you are always welcome. Till then, take care and? Bye-bye.

Just Because You Have English Textbooks Doesn’t Mean You Possess That Knowledge!

Video Transcript Below: Hi guys, and welcome back to Robby's English Harmony video blog or if you're listening to this as an audio file, welcome back to English Harmony podcast. Now, today's subject is English books: textbooks, grammar books, reference books, collocation compilations, phrasal verb compilations, all sorts of English books, right? And you may possess dozens of them, but just because you have all those books doesn't mean that you possess the knowledge. And moreover, it doesn't mean that you can actually use all that knowledge when speaking with other people in real life. Nothing could be actually further from the truth! If you believe that just by buying a new fancy book will somehow magically make you better English speaker, it's just not working like that in real life. And here’s why. You see, language learning is a quite unique discipline and it's definitely something that I've been touching upon in my previous videos and articles on my blog. And why it's unique? Here’s why. When you learn any other abstract humanitarian subject at school, for example history or geography or psychology - you name it - it's all based on you acquiring information, processing the information, understanding what's – what it is that you actually are being told, right? And being able to produce those facts in a written format, more often than not, right? Basically you have to do tests to show your teacher or whoever could be assessing your test that you actually know the stuff, right? And it's all passive. It's you memorizing things, knowing what it's all about and being able to reproduce all that knowledge in written format, sometimes orally. (more…)

Don’t Try to Figure Out What Something Means in English Grammar Terms – It Serves NO Purpose!

One of the main principles of the English Harmony philosophy is not to fall into the habit of analyzing your speech from the grammar standpoint. The very same goes with reading. You may find yourself trying to figure out what this or that particular sentence in a book or newspaper represents in English grammar terms, and the funny thing is that sometimes you just end up confusing yourself instead of gaining something from it! You’re reading a sentence and the analytical part of your brain automatically starts analyzing the syntax: “Hold on, is it a Passive or Active Voice construct? I’d better Google it up and see if I can figure it out!” So off you go browsing forums and spending your time just to satisfy your curiosity! And you’re not alone. There’s millions of English learners asking questions on forums trying to figure out WHAT ROLE certain words and word groups play in a sentence, what grammar tense is represented by the sentence in question and so on. Sometimes I come across those forum threads when validating my English collocations (read more about how I do it HERE) and it just doesn’t cease to amaze me that there are folks who are quite literally wasting away their lives asking questions such as: Is this clause a predicative expression or is it not? or What exactly does “would have” mean in the following sentence “I would have thought that the unemployment rate is on the rise, but it’s actually the other way around”? It looks like a conditional sentence, so does it mean that the person who speaks doesn’t actually think that the unemployment is on the rise but would think so if certain conditions are met? The moment I see those questions, it instantly brings me back to when I used to analyze everything I was reading or hearing, and needless to say, that’s exactly the reason why I couldn’t speak fluently in the first place! My mind was gone into a permanent analytics mode and I was under the false impression that if I were to become proficient in terms of English grammar, I would also become fluent. Little did I know at that time that it was completely false logical reasoning. Just think about it – how being able to DEFINE what a particular group of words represents is going to help you REPRODUCE that phrase or sentence when writing or speaking? It won’t – that’s the thing! ;-) You see, it’s all because most English learners can’t distinguish (and it’s all because of the traditional way of teaching English at school!) between the following: Theoretical KNOWLEDGE about English grammar and syntax, and Practical SKILLS and ABILITY to use English when speaking or writing! Many of us believe that KNOWLEDGE directly translates into ABILITY – but nothing could be further from the truth! Ability to SPEAK, for example, is all about you being able to REPLICATE correct speech patterns and the best way to go about it is by simply REPEATING and MEMORIZING a specific sentence. When you speak with real people in real life, does anyone care about the sentence being a conditional or not? NO! All that matters is your ability to SAY IT OUT LOUD! (more…)

Why It’s So HARD to Realize You Have to Speak in Order to Speak

I’m a Useless English Teacher Because I Make Mistakes… And I Should Go Back to Farm!

The concept of WRONGNESS of making mistakes while speaking or writing in English is something that’s permeated the English teaching industry and it’s lead so many non-native English speakers to believe that they suck at English unless they can make their speech and their English writing style PERFECT. Just picture the typical English class. The teacher (who speaks perfectly, of course!) is standing at the front of the class and the poor students are crouched over their desks DREADING to hear the test results. Why this fear? Simply because their ability to perform as English speakers is judged based on their MISTAKES! It’s so wrong that I want to start screaming just thinking about it!!! They’re looking closely at your mistakes while at the same time almost dismissing your achievements, and what do you think this kind of approach results into? Yes, that’s right – ANXIETY, LACK OF CONFIDENCE and total DISBELIEF that one they you can actually become a fluent English speaker. I’ve figured it out a long time ago, and ever since I’ve been adopting quite the opposite approach when speaking in English myself and providing advice to others who want to better their spoken English fluency and also writing. MAKE AS MANY MISTAKES AS YOU CAN! That’s the mantra I’m going by, and while you might be skeptical about it at first, you’ll definitely realize there’s a big wisdom behind it – especially when reading the following articles: (more…)

Traditional English Teaching Industry Instils Anxiety and Lack of Self-Confidence!

Your English Teacher’s Expertise Means Little When It Comes To YOUR Ability To Speak!

Some time ago I watched a video where a non-native English teacher was teaching a large class of English students. You know the way you sometimes browse YouTube videos and one video leads to another and you end up watching something you didn’t even intend to look for in the first place? So the Chinese man was teaching his fellow countrymen and women, and he was literally radiating knowledge and expertise. He was really eloquent, he was writing plenty of sample English sentences on a whiteboard to illustrate the grammar related points he was making, and he was talking non-stop thus making a really, really professional impression of himself. And guess what the poor students were doing while our super-teacher was entertaining himself in front of the classroom? They were all crouched over their copybooks frantically trying to write down every single bit of the precious information their English teacher was throwing at them! And believe me – there was A LOT of information to be processed because their teacher was really knowledgeable and you could just tell the guy must have worked really hard to achieve such a level of expertise in the English language and its grammar aspects in particular. What about the students though? Did their super-teacher pass all that knowledge, skill, expertise and ability to speak in English fluently directly onto them by being so generous with information in front of the classroom? Well, I strongly doubt it, and that’s the very reason I decided to write this article! (more…)

Improve Your Spoken English Upon Success!

Any improvement process can be accelerated ten-fold if one focuses on the positive instead of the negative. Speaking in terms of spoken English improvement, I can paraphrase the above statement as follows: You can accelerate your spoken English improvement big time if you focus on your success (things you can say correctly) instead of focusing on your mistakes and imperfections. If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you’ll know that I’ve been writing about similar matters in the past. The following article, for example - Focus on What You CAN Say in English Instead of What You CAN’T! - highlights the fact that many foreigners feel overwhelmed by the feeling of NOT KNOWING certain things in terms of English vocabulary and grammar. I’ve also been pointing out that we, foreigners, should ignore our mistakes in the sense that we don’t have to freak out every time it happens; we merely need to take action upon it, simple as that! Well, this advice doesn’t always go down well with my audience because people often think I’m encouraging my fellow foreigners to ignore their mistakes and not improve their English (I’ve tried to explain it in this video and that’s the last time I’ve touched upon that subject), but nothing could be further from the truth! In today’s article, however, I’m going to put a different twist on the whole concept of making mistakes, spoken English improvement and success. I’m going to look at the EMOTIONAL connection between spoken English improvement and success, and how it affects your chances of succeeding as an English student. (more…)

Why Desire to Translate is Irresistible & How to Deal With It

If you’ve been following my blog for a longer period of time, you’ll know that one of the English Harmony cornerstones is elimination of translation. You need to create a separate department for English in your brain. Whenever you have to speak in English with someone, you simply switch over to the English department in your brain. The funny thing is – you might already been doing it without being consciously aware of THINKING and SPEAKING in your target language if you’re a bilingual speaker, for example. Yet, when it comes to English, you might have an irresistible urge to translate from your native language while you’re speaking in English! Basically you’re speaking in English, but you keep thinking in your native language; you’re constantly finding yourself trying to figure out how this or that particular concept can be described in English terms. Guess what? You’re not alone! Hundreds of thousands of your fellow foreign English speakers are having the same issues, and if you’re anything serious about your SPOKEN English development, you’d better make sure to read the rest of this article where you’ll find out: WHY you have this weird process going on in your head; WHY you shouldn’t be thinking in your native language and speaking in English at the same time; HOW to avoid translation and speak and think in English ONLY! (more…)

English Teacher Destroys Student Confidence by Scolding Them? It’s Unacceptable!

Don’t Put Up With ESL Industry’s Childish Treatment & Throw Unwanted Gifts Away!

:razz: Happy Christmas to all foreign English speakers around the world! :razz: I've done some research on the Internet about the latest English learning and improving methods, and it appears that all my work on this blog is good for nothing! :sad: In order to improve your English, apparently you don’t have to do anything else but listen and my focus on the spoken aspect of English is just a waste of your time! Forget about plenty of speaking practice, my friends foreign English speakers! Just go online, get one of those revolutionary pieces of English learning audio CDs, sit back, listen to those stories and let the English language seep into your mind automatically! And you know why it works? Results of countless researches have confirmed that children learn their native language by first listening for a good few months and then they start speaking it! So, quite a few English teaching professionals claim that you should take advantage of this fact and start harnessing the power of listening. Basically, you should adopt a position of a child and let the others fuss around you. You don’t have to take any action, and you’ll be able to start speaking fluent English when you’re ready and when all that audio content has settled into your mind. I know, I know my friends, you hate being treated like a child and I also know that deep down inside you are suspecting that such English learning and improving methods don’t work :!: If you’re anything like me, the first question you’d ask to those who came up with this passive immersion listening method would be – “Hold on, could it be that babies only listen during the first year because they’re simply unable to speak?” (more…)

Why Being a Foreign English Speaker Gives Me an Edge Over ANY Native English School Teacher

4 Things Your English Teacher Didn’t Tell YOU!

1. First we should learn SPOKEN English and only then – to read and write Another controversy on EnglishHarmony.com? Well, so be it! I believe that if all foreign English speakers would have learnt spoken English first, nobody would have any English fluency issues. Once your brain is hard-wired with naturally occurring English speech patterns, you can learn to read and write and it won’t mess up your ability to produce coherent speech. Many of us, foreign English speakers though, have difficulties speaking fluently because we speak as if we were writing – in a slow, controlled way, with a chance to go back and correct mistakes and all the time in the world to think things through. Add a bit of stress, and there you go – you can get stuck in a middle of a sentence because real life communication is not your comfortable environment you’re so familiar with; chatting with people happens spontaneously. Remember – speaking comes first, and everything else comes after that, just like in your native language! You spoke long before you learnt to read and write, and you’re so good at speaking your language not because you spent 12 years at school. It’s because you used your language as means of communication long before your first day at school, so why should English be any different? (more…)

4 Reasons Why Studying English at School Won’t Make You a Fluent English Speaker

Many of us, foreign English speakers, began our English studies at school, so it would be only logical if the vast majority of use spoke impeccable English. Seven years long English studies will supposedly make you into a near-native English speaker, and we shouldn’t expect anything less from our educational system, isn’t it right? When an average student is required to speak English in an informal situation, however, the cold reality hits home – most of foreigners having gone through the standard educational system are very poor English speakers :!: I went through the whole spectrum of emotions starting from shock and ending with despair when I realized that my real-life English was useless back in the days when I just moved to an English speaking country. Throughout the following years up to present days I’ve improved greatly and at the same time I’ve also figured out why my school English studies didn’t contribute into my English fluency at all! What you’ll read below might shock you and you’ll realize that you’ve probably never looked at this subject from this perspective before. Sometimes a cold shower is necessary, though, so that you can start thinking outside the box and draw the right conclusions about your previous and existing English studying efforts. Whether you’re in Malaysia, Argentina or Canada and thousand miles separate you from other English students of different race, nationality and language, you’re most likely sitting in a classroom with 10 – 30 other students and staring at your English teacher… (more…)

What’s Wrong With Traditional English Studies?

We all started with English differently. Others started with self studying because of pure interest, like me. For some it was a necessity after moving to another country. However, as my website is  dedicated to people having difficulties with maintaining a consistent level of spoken English, it is most likely that your journey into the world of English started with the written word. And actually this is where the biggest problems are hidden! :!: When we learned the language by writing words and memorizing them, we needed to write down the meaning in our native tongue. And this means having to translate the word from our native language to English, which is quite a natural thing, isn’t it? It is indeed. Only if it wasn’t stressed too much! Learning English at school means learning written English. Let’s be honest – how much of all the time spent in the English class we were taught to speak the language? I’m afraid – not too much. Teachers have to devote attention to all the students, have to explain grammar rules, new words and have to tell what new beautiful learning methods have come out recently…and as a result our English language develops as almost pure written language – and we can write well, don’t we? We form nice, correct sentences and we have all the time in the world to think of what words to use, in what order and what grammar rules apply in the particular case. And when it comes to the speaking part in the exam, or class practice we speak slowly and create nice English sentences in our head! OK, not all of the students are the same but I’m addressing us folks, the ones that share this issue of wave-like occurring lack of English speaking skills. So – in other words – no one teaches us to really SPEAK English! :shock: No one even mentions about how the very language is formed in our brain - native English speakers use blocks of words as they speak rather than linking seperate words together! Now try to analyze the processes in your head when you speak English. If your speech is unhindered at this moment and you can speak fluently – everything is fine. The words just flow out of your mouth just as the thoughts appear in you mind and you even don’t notice the very existence of thoughts. You just speak. Wonderful! If we always could perform like this… But now let’s see what’s happening in our head when the English speech issue takes place. You try to speak but the words get mixed up, the grammar is a mess, and the thoughts don’t flow naturally. Well – this is your mind gone into the translation mode! Sometimes you have some odd English words trying to push themselves into the wrong places, sometimes it’s your own language – you speak English, but some pieces of your native tongue’s thoughts just wouldn’t leave you. In the worst case scenario your mind switches to a mode of preparing the speech even before you speak it out! This one is really bad because it’s the hardest to fight with. Once I had this kind of an issue and couldn’t get rid of it for days – no matter how I tried to speak I had the second mind in my head working on its own and making the sentences up a moment before I spoke the very words. It feels as if you have two minds indeed. Imagine how the head feels like to work at a double of its capacity! Some of these symptoms have much in common; some are unique – like preparing the speech before the actual conversation. Anyway, the actual cause is the same - this is all because we’ve been taught to think in our language and even now when you can speak fluent English the reflex just wouldn't give up! To put is simply – the English language we use is mostly acquired by studies in the classroom, or by writing, memorizing, reading…in other words – doing everything but learning the language the natural way – like children do, for example. When I moved to an English speaking country my daughters were four. They started attending the school and soon enough they had picked up the basics of the colloquial English. Did they keep a dictionary, or jotted down grammar rules to memorize? No – all they did was – they chatted with the teacher and the classmates and the English language settled itself in their brain as a separate language – not as a translation version of their native language! :idea: I know this feeling very well – I speak another foreign language - Russian. I learnt it while being a little child and it has settled in my brain naturally. And the most funny thing – although my Russian vocabulary is actually smaller than the English one, I never experience a similar issue while speaking Russian. Even despite the fact that I haven’t actively spoken in this language for years. Even when I struggle for a word there are never some stupid thoughts nor words in Russian messing in my head – and as a result – I don’t experience this issue. But don’t despair – we’ll sort everything out and take the control of the language – just keep on reading and soon you’ll see what this is all about! ;-) Another really worrying indication of wrong English studies manifests itself the following way. Quite often I would imagine the word as it is written at the moment of speech. And why? I guess it’s because I used to keep a dictionary and repeat the words every now and then and memorize them as they stand in it. And what happens now is – instead of associating the word with abstract thought my mind just looks it up from my dictionary notebook. In other words – you can’t just speak out that word straight away; you have to spend a split moment to translate its meaning from your native language. :evil: This is less likely going to happen when the vocabulary is built not memorizing separate words but in real conversations – the very abstract meaning settles in your brain and there’s no need for your mind to look for something in the entries of your virtual vocabulary. But this all is especially visible at school English lessons – we all tend to think that writing down words and mechanically memorizing them will make our language better and more fluent. So wrong, it is all so wrong! :!: A language consists of thoughts, of phrases. Learning words and sticking them together is not going to make your English fluent! It’s all about the translation – if you try to use separate words as links to build the chain – sentence – you will use your native tongue in your mind. But you’ve got to think the language to speak it! OK – now we’re grown ups, we can speak very well and all the previously mentioned stuff shouldn’t present any problems…Still sometimes it does! So, how to fight this reflex and move permanently into a state of confident English? Is this issue purely based on anxiety and can you by calming down resolve it? My experience has taught me quite a different thing. I would sometimes experience incredible drops in the ability to communicate without the slightest touch of worrying or anxiety whatsoever! Well, I think you now got the main point – we have to eradicate the subconscious habit of translating from our native tongue into English! :idea: Robby P.S. Are you ready to get on the fast track to spoken English fluency? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!