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Are you familiar with the feeling when you can’t really explain WHY you know that you have to use certain words when you speak in English but you JUST KNOW IT?
It’s the best feeling a foreign English speaker can have and it’s one of the surest signs that you’ve achieved English fluency ❗
It simply means you have developed such a high number of contextual links between English words and phrases in you inner vocabulary that you can produce speech automatically and without thinking, and you also instinctively feel what words are the most fitting for the particular situation.
Want to know more about the “gut feeling”, its nature and how to develop it?
Then read the entire blog post – you’ll certainly learn something new in it!
The Evasive Nature of the “Gut Feeling”
“Gut feeling”, “the sixth sense”, “instinct” – call it all you want, but it’s essentially the same thing – ability to tell what sounds right in English and what doesn’t WITHOUT conscious consideration, reasoning and analysis.
Let’s say, for example, you’re reading an e-mail you received from your regular office supplies provider, and it reads “… we’d appreciate if you upped your current order with us by another 20 units as our agreed minimum order quantity hasn’t been targeted.”
It all reads well until you reach the last word – “targeted”. The meaning of the message is clear, yet something tells you that it’s not the best choice of words in this context. Obviously whoever was writing the e-mail had been thinking about “meeting sales targets”; however, in this particular context – “agreed minimum order quantity hasn’t been…” – the word “targeted” just doesn’t fit in.
It sounds OK with the following words – “met”, or “reached” – but “targeted” just doesn’t sound right.
So, what was it that told you the sentence sounded wrong?
Exactly – it was your “gut feeling”!
Another example. Let’s imagine you’re having a conversation with your co-worker and he asks you what you think of the last night’s football game. “It was one hell of a game!” – is your immediate response, and the words “one”, “hell”, “of”, “a” just come out in one go without much thinking.
It’s your “gut feeling” in action, my friend! 😉
If not for your instinct, you would have probably said something like “It was a hell of a game!”, or “It was one hell game!” – but you nailed it because your sixth sense in terms of spoken English has been sharpened over years of hearing and speaking this particular English phrase dozens, maybe even hundreds of times.
This instinct, however, may not always be there at your disposal.
Especially when you try to control it, or make CONSCIOUS effort to speak as correctly as you can.
How to Develop Your Instincts When Speaking in English
There are no quick fixes to developing your intuitive ability to “feel” the English language.
Basically what happens when you’re immersed in the English language is the following.
Your mind detects hundreds and thousands of collocations naturally occurring in speech and written word as well. You may not be aware of it, but your brain is getting constantly wired by the English language and associations are being created all the time between English words, phrases and also different personal experiences.
Now, while you can’t develop your “gut feeling” overnight, there are certain things you can do to facilitate it.
The first and foremost is:
1. You have to eliminate the perfectionist within yourself!
Yes, it’s the desire to be perfect when speaking English that makes you:
- over-analyze your own speech and come up with 5 different ways of saying the same thing;
- make even MORE mistakes than you normally would because those 5 different sentences are mixing together;
- feel bad about yourself as an English speaker which may lead to serious self-esteem issues (by the way – other perfectionists are to be blamed for this!)
As you can imagine, your “gut feeling” can’t manifest itself if your mind is in such turmoil whenever you try to speak English, so it stays dormant within you.
How to deal with the perfectionist within you?
The key is to LET IT GO and IGNORE any possible consequences of making mistakes – and please read this blog post to understand that you definitely blow things out of proportion when it comes to assessing what might happen when you make mistakes when speaking with someone.
Of course it’s not an easy job to get into the right mindset, but it can be done with enough dedication and practice.
2. You have to stop concentrating on English grammar and focus on phrases, idiomatic expressions and collocations instead.
If you’re constantly thinking about getting the Tenses right and all the rest, chances are that you start overanalyzing your speech. And we already looked at what it can do to your English language instinct in the paragraphs above, didn’t we?
If, however, you JUST KNOW how to say things right because you’ve acquired natural English speech patterns (phrases, expressions etc.) – you’re killing two birds with one stone:
- You actually acquire all the English Grammar you NEED to know;
- You’re developing your “gut feeling” which is quite straightforward actually – you’re learning how things are said in English THEREFORE you recognize those speech patterns when you hear them. Simple as!
3. You just need to immerse yourself in the English language in all ways possible to increase your EXPOSURE to spoken English language.
Speak with people as much as possible – and every sentence you hear back from a native English speaking person will reinforce your “gut feeling” by imprinting natural English speech patterns into your mind.
Watch English TV channels and movies – every occasion of such passive immersion also wires your mind with spoken English patterns which all contributes towards developing your instincts as an English speaker.
It also helps if you spend plenty of time reading English fiction or being engaged in different online activities, for instance, where there’s plenty of chatting and forum posting going on.
A friend of mine, for example, has developed a unique “gut feeling” for correct and natural English purely due to his professional life and engagement with English speakers online. He’s achieved a near-native level of English writing and it’s all thanks to constant exposure to the English language which has developed his “gut feeling” to incredibly high levels.
So, did you find this article useful?
Are you ready to start developing your own “gut feeling” for natural English?
Have you any questions related to this topic?
Let me know all of that in the comments below!
P.S. Would you like to find out why I’m highlighting some of the text in red? Read this article and you’ll learn why it’s so important to learn idiomatic expressions and how it will help you to improve your spoken English!
P.S.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!