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Fluency Star Case Study: Sergi and His English Fluency Improvement

Hi guys, as you may know, I help my fellow foreign English speakers improve their fluency via Skype, and here you can watch a video with one of my students. His name is Sergi, and we’ve been working on his fluency for quite some time now!


Sergi: Welcome back to English Harmony video blog. This is Sergi and this time round Robby is not the one who is introducing the video, so it’s me!

Robby: Yeah, and thanks Sergi and for everyone who doesn’t know Sergi and I would imagine that none of our audience is actually familiar with him. He is my student from Barcelona and we’re – we’ve been doing the Fluency Star coaching program since… when did we start exactly?

Sergi: Well, we started in the early beginning of December last year.

Robby: Oh, yes. Yes. Yes. So it’s been half a year now, right? And would you mind telling our audience a little bit about yourself, where you come from, what you’ve been doing and so on and so forth?

Sergi: Of course Robby. So as you already told I am from Barcelona and well, it’s the capital of Catalonia in Northern-Spain and now I would like to give you a little background to the audience of who I am.

Robby: Yeah, go ahead.

Sergi: So the thing is that I’m a mechanical engineer and I studied this degree here in Barcelona.

Robby: All right.

Sergi: Well, my duties in my current job are not related to engineering because I’m focused only on being a technical documentation analyst. And well, the other thing is that I’m lucky enough to have a decent job because here in Spain we are facing serious problems related with an unemployment because here the unemployment rate in Spain, in overall Spain is up to 24% or well, to put it simply that means that more than 4 million people are unemployed nowadays here in Spain.

Robby: Yeah, so that’s a pretty dire situation. Yeah.

Sergi: Yeah, I’m not – to give the overall picture to the audience, I would like to point out that Spain has a population up to 45 million people.

Robby: All right. Yeah. But obviously you would consider yourself being a Catalan first and foremost, right? Am I wrong in saying that, Sergi?

Sergi: You’re not wrong in saying that because as we have talked about that so many times. Here’s the thing – Catalans, well a lot of Catalans think of ourselves as a nation.

Robby: All right. Yeah. As a nation in its own right.

Sergi: Exactly, yeah.

Robby: But anyway, I’d like to – sorry for interrupting you Sergi now…

Sergi: Oh no, no problem.

Robby: But I would like to point out to everyone watching our interview now that you’ve been very successful acquiring all these idiomatic expressions, right? And during the last couple of minutes ever since you’ve been talking now, you’ve used a number of them: to put it simply and I actually forgot the rest of them but you’ve been using them almost in every sentence which just goes to show how effective our program and our collaboration has been over the last 6 months. And I would like you to give a little bit of more details to our audience as to what exactly we’ve been doing during the last 6 months and how the whole Fluency Star Program works. If you don’t mind Sergi.

Sergi: Oh yeah, of course Robby. I don’t mind to explain to your audience…

Robby: Thanks.

Sergi: … how we’ve been working during this half a year. So first of all, what we’ve done is to create a study plan in order to show my interest to what aspects I would like to boost my fluency. So well, those topics were work related issues and social aspects such as talking about TV series, music, food, fitness activities, traveling to name but a few.

Robby: All right. Yeah. And then when we had the custom study plan created, what was the next step?

Sergi: Okay. So the first step before each chat session, it was to create an article related to the matter that later on we were going to touch upon during the chat session. And thankfully Robby before provided me a blueprint in order to make it easier for me to write up this article for him. So then…

Robby: So what did I do next with that article?

Sergi: Yes, so, the thing is that you work on it to create a chat session work sheet in order to create a dialog including the important English collocations to use them during the chat session. So in that point I would like to stress the fact that this is the most important part or one of the most important ones in this whole process. Because Robby can do a lot of work for us in order to boost our fluency. But here is the thing guys. Because we are now that ones in that particular point that we have to work very hard because we have to do a lot of preparation with this chat session work sheet because the thing that I had to do is to read it a few times, I would say more than 5 times for each chat session in order to imprint it into my brain, those English collocations. Because if you don’t do that, the thing is that you are not going to find any results to it and as a result you are not going to be able to use those collocations.

Robby: Yeah. Exactly. So there was basically plenty of repetition, memorization and it’s obviously hard work but it yielded beautiful results and or everyone watching us I would just like to point out that when we started our program, Sergi was having typical fluency issues that so many of us foreigners have. He was hesitating, you were getting stuck for words, basically all these issues that we are so familiar with now. And now guys you can see how fluently Sergi speaks now. He doesn’t get stuck for words anymore, you can always say something and even though what he is saying might not be always a 100% grammatically correct, you just don’t care about that, right Sergi? And that’s the right attitude that would – and I would like you to elaborate on that aspect, on the mistakes a little bit if you don’t mind.

Sergi: Of course that I don’t mind because I’m totally sure now after doing this program with you that I don’t have to focus or I don’t need to worry too much about my mistakes because I know for a fact that I will always make mistakes. Well, but here’s the thing because the more that I’m boosting my fluency, the less mistakes that I’m making, so that’s the thing. Because as you already mentioned when we started this program, I perfectly remember my experience and what it felt at that moment because when I stuck for words, I was totally lost and I didn’t know what to say…

Robby: Blacked out basically, there was nothing you could say, right? You did those…

Sergi: Exactly, there was nothing that I could say, so I used to start to feel nervous and I didn’t…

Robby: And it’s a vicious circle, right? The more nervous you get, the more stressed out you get, the less you can actually say…

Sergi: Exactly.

Robby:…and it’s a terrible feeling now. Yeah. But after – I believe it was after the 30th chat session.

Sergi: Right. You are dead right about that!

Robby: Yeah. I remember that chat session we had and all of a sudden you just stopped having those moments. You were having them to a lesser degree all the time but now, but then during that particular chat session, your fluency just changed for some reason. It changed drastically and ever since you’ve been speaking so much more fluent than before.

Sergi: Yeah. I don’t know what happened to my fluency but when we did our 30th lesson, something changed. Perhaps it’s that I got more comfortable with those chat sessions we’ve had that I did even more practice to prepare to those chat sessions.

Robby: It boils down to practice, Sergi. It’s all about practicing. Yeah.

Sergi: I would say that the most, the biggest reason to make that important change to my fluency notable to avoid those periods of lacking any words to say, it was that I prepared even more to those chat sessions with you, so it is the key message, the important message that I would like to leave for the audience that is watching us that practice is the key point in order to improve our fluency as foreigner English speakers.

Robby: Exactly. And now, if you don’t mind Sergi, I would like you to tell everyone how you actually got to know me. When was it when you started following my blog and reading my articles and watching those videos, when was it?

Sergi: Well, so this is…

Robby: How long ago was that?

Sergi: So this is a long story because it started more than a year ago. If I’m not mistaken it was in February 2014 when I was searching for some information about English and about how to improve the overall skills in English because in that moment I wasn’t focused only in improving my fluency, so I was keen on improving the whole aspects as the English traditional teaching system works because I wasn’t aware at that time the importance of speaking English in order to be a good English speaker, so the thing is…

Robby: Which is really weird if you think about it, right? Because it kind of makes an awful lot of sense. In order to speak you have to speak, right? But what the traditional English system has done it has made us believe that we just have to work on everything. It kind of doesn’t specify that there’s so many aspects and that spoken English is actually what we all should strive for, right? And speaking of your previous experience, maybe you could mention what happened when you joined the… what was it called? The British Council Course or something?

Sergi: Yeah. If I’m not mistaken I joined the British Council 4 or 5 years ago but now I don’t remember pretty well, but something like 4 or 5 years ago because…

Robby: And what was your experience like?

Sergi: Well, my experience, it was a bit frustrating because I thought that for being a student of a worldwide known institution in order to teach English for foreigners, I would think that in that moment it was the right goal for me to go for. But it was something totally unexpected for me because here’s the thing. Previously, before going to the British Council I was studying English, well, at my primary school, secondary school as well but then I decided to go for a public institution here in Catalonia and also in the rest of Spain as well that teach languages as a part of the Spanish educational system.

So then I completed the whole English studies that took me 5 years in order to take a certificate, like the Cambridge first certificate. It was a similar level that you can achieve here in Spain going to these public institution and then when I finished going in there, it was when I went to the British Council. So when I went in there I found out that it was more or less the same because they were focusing on the very same teaching system that consisted of having your course book and your wordbook as well to do plenty of grammar exercise and listening exercise, not to mention read exercise and the weird thing it was that the least part that the teachers were focusing he least, it was the speaking part.

Robby: There you go!

Sergi: And it was really weird, well, because when we were doing some of speaking practice it was for situations because they weren’t natural because we had to talk about unnatural situations that are not common or that you are not doing it on a daily basis. And this is the thing because if you don’t learn daily things that you use on a regular basis, there’s no point to learn difficult – when you worked or difficult phrases or words perhaps because there’s no point because you’re not going to use it.

Robby: Exactly. And at this stage – sorry Sergi for interrupting you – at this stage I would like to point out that what we’ve been doing during the Fluency Star program here with Sergi, we’ve been focusing only on English that is a 100% relevant for Sergi.

Sergi: Of course we did.

Robby: His work life, social life and concentrating that you’re going to go to the UK to study mechanical engineering or was it not motorsports engineering? Yeah. Motorsport engineering.

Sergi: Motorsports engineering. Yeah.

Robby: We did plenty of chat sessions dedicated to that and obviously it’s going to come in very handy to you when you actually go there. And maybe you could tell everyone a little bit more about your plans, your future plans.

Sergi: Yes, well… as Robby said in a few months’ time I’m going to the UK, specifically I will go to Oxford in order to study motorsports engineering because I want to take a different route to my profession because I would like to do what I really like, what is my passion, my true passion and I’m fighting for it. So a lot part of this fluency program with Robby – well, if I’m not mistaken, we devoted up to 10 chat sessions…

Robby: Yes. 10 chat sessions.

Sergi: …in order to talk about common activities ranging from banking, visiting GP, doing the grocery shopping to dealing with university matters.

Robby: Yeah. Exactly.

Sergi: And they were really useful and also, well, some other aspect that I would like to include is that Robby helped me in order to prepare the application letter to the university. And that it has been very useful because apart from my academic records and also with Robby’s help I got the offer from the university to study in Oxford.

Robby: Yeah. And I’m really glad for you Sergi.

Sergi: Thank you Robby.

Robby: It’s been a great journey together with you and actually we’ve become something like friends, isn’t that right? Over the last 6 months. And I’m really looking forward to each and every chat session we’re having with Sergi and it’s really nice seeing your progress and seeing that you’re actually going to realize your dreams in terms of your professional life and social life and everything. But now, this video has drawn to an end. And I’m really…

Sergi: But Robby, if you don’t mind, before coming to an end this video, I would like to take this opportunity, to thank you for all what you’ve done for me in order to develop my English fluency leaps and bounds because well, the thing is that I don’t want to sound like bragging to the audience that is watching us now but I would like to stress the fact that since I’ve been starting working with Robby, my fluency has changed dramatically for good terms.

Robby: Yeah. Thanks. Thanks Sergi. But…

Sergi: And also as you – and also it’s really beautiful and really nice to build out this friendship since we starting back in December and it’s pretty good…

Robby: Likewise. Thanks Sergi. But for everyone who is listening to us now, I would like to actually point out that even though Sergi is very thankful to me, the biggest part of the work was actually done by Sergi himself. And this is one of the aspects of English teaching and learning that so many people don’t kind of realize. Everyone thinks that the teacher is going to do the work for you, right? But in reality it’s you who is got to be working real hard to achieve real results. And that’s what Sergi has done and Sergi has developed his fluency to a great level and I hope that everyone wishes him the best of luck in his future and diverse. Okay.

Sergi: Thank you so much Robby.

Robby: And just in case someone asks a question or two in the video comments down below, would you be able to response to those questions Sergi?

Sergi: Oh yeah. Of course that I will be available to ask any question from your audience, so if anyone that is watching us wants to make me a question, feel free to do it and I’ll answer down below in the comment section.

Robby: That’s perfect. Thanks Sergi and thanks everyone for watching this video and as a matter of fact this is the very first video of this kind where I’m actually interviewing a real person, right? And Sergi is the first one and I’d just like to let everyone know that the reason for that, basically why I haven’t been making any videos of this nature is quite simple. I just couldn’t get it work on my computer. And Sergi has been kind enough to actually try and test the software on his laptop or is it your laptop or a PC?

Sergi: It is my laptop.

Robby: Yeah. So we finally got it working and there we are now. The video is recorded and thanks once more Sergi for participating and the best of luck. Bye.

Sergi: Thank you so much Robby. Bye bye!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • You’re dead right about that – if there’s 10 students in a class, each of them gets very limited practice time and it just doesn’t cut it…

  • These kinds of classes are definitely on offer, Robby.
    But as I think you’ll agree, it’s better to have individual sessions or very small groups (2-3 students) with your teacher. Even a conversation class with 8-10 students will have its limits.

  • Thanks David, I wasn’t even aware that such conversation classes existed! “Choosing the right course” is indeed something I might cover in the near future, thanks for the suggestion! 😉

  • Interesting, it’s a nice idea to video your students Robby.
    As I’m a former British Council teacher, I’d say that Sergi chose the wrong course. The BC have conversation classes and at least in Prague (where I was based) they had other classes which didn’t have a coursebook (eg one class was Current Affairs, and students talked about issues in the news) ie they had classes based on conversation and vocabulary building.
    A good topic for a blog post – “how to choose the right course for you.”
    If you want to do fluency and concentrate only on speaking, then doing an exam class or a class with a regular coursebook isn’t optimal.
    I’d choose a conversation class – but individual lessons are going to help more than being in a group of 10-12 anyway..