Delivering a DVD set of English Harmony System 2.0 & Discussing my Job, Unemployment and Happiness!

Here’s another broadcast from my car, and this time I’m driving to the local Post Office to deliver a DVD set of my English improving software – English Harmony System 2.0! I’m planning to discontinue the DVD sets at some stage in the near future anyway, so this is the last drive of this kind. You see – at the moment I’m working on the System’s update, and with a lot of new lessons added onto the software the DVD version becomes rather too expensive to manufacture and deliver. Also, considering we’re living in a digital era, it would make an awful lot of sense indeed to encourage my potential customers to contribute to the environment and go for a digital product instead. As we all know, all physical goods have a related carbon footprint, so the less goods we buy and get delivered, the less damage we do to our planet! Of course, I’m not going to turn the whole world’s environmental problems on their head, but then again – every little counts! (more…)

Is It a Problem if Your English is Too Simple, Plain and Lacking Smart Words and Expressions?

I’m receiving quite a high volume of e-mails on a daily basis and they’re all related to English improvement and fluency in some way, shape or form. Today I received an e-mail from a gentleman whose name I’ll keep anonymous – of course! – and he explains the following situation. He’s been told by his friend that his English is quite fluent (which is a reason to celebrate on its own!) but he lacks sophisticated vocabulary and different means of expression – such as phrases, idiomatic expressions and so on. Basically my fellow foreign English speaker asking the question feels that as far as his speech is understandable and he’s making his point, he’s fine. So he wants to know what my take on this issue is, and that’s exactly what I’m doing in the video above! I’m giving a thorough analysis of the issue in question, and I hope all of you will find this video useful! Of course, don’t hesitate to leave your questions in the comments below! Chat soon, Robby ;-)

Practicing Spoken English in Car: Part 2

Here’s another video where you can watch me speaking in English with myself while commuting to work, and this time around I’m trying a different approach to kick-start my English fluency: speaking as fast as possible. It’s one of the different English fluency management strategies, and I know I have to resort to this one because my fluency started dwindling yesterday afternoon. The day before was perfect, my fluency peaked at a two week high, but as it sometimes happens – a peak is followed by a drop :mad: , so I have to figure out a way of reverting back to my normal state of fluency. This is how I manage my fluency, and there are a lot of different strategies: slowing your speech down speaking with an accent (or rather allowing your native accent to come to fore) speaking using short sentences spitting out the first thing that crosses your mind instead of composing sentences in your head All these strategies have been tried and tested over the years, and it’s all a result of my own pursuit after English fluency. (more…)

Spoken English Practice While Driving to Work

11 Things English Fluency Has Given Me

Now that I can communicate in English with ease, I take everything that comes with it for granted. Looking back in time, however, I can clearly see that many aspects of my life in an English speaking country AND my personal life in general weren’t as fulfilled as these days. Even such a simple task as asking for price of roast chicken in a supermarket would make my heart race with the prospect of stuttering and not being understood properly! :mad: Here’s a list I came up with when trying to list as many advantages of being a fluent English speaker as I possibly could. The list is not exhaustive by any means, but it does paint a pretty clear picture of what an average foreign English speaker can achieve when possessing good English communication skills! And please don’t get me wrong – I didn’t create this list to brag about my fluency and make those who haven’t achieved it yet, feel bad about themselves. This list is rather intended to serve as a reminder of what awaits you at some stage in the future IF you’re among those foreigners still struggling with fluency! (more…)

Do You Speak English Enough? You’ve Gotta Speak ALL THE TIME!

Why It’s a Bad Idea to Categorize English Idioms when Learning Them!

English idioms are very useful for foreign English speakers like you or me because they allow expressing our thoughts and voice our opinion quickly and using the same phrase in dozens and hundreds of similar situations. Let’s take the following idiom – “Chip on your shoulder”. You can use it in pretty much every situation when someone feels they’re treated unfairly and they’re acting defensively but it’s obvious that there’s no good reason for them to behave that way and they’re acting so because of their own insecurities. So instead of describing the whole situation you can just use this short phrase instead – “He’s always had a chip on his shoulder, that’s why he’s acting that way!” It saves you time and effort, and such and similar idioms are used worldwide – “chickens have come home to roost”, “on the ball” or “elephant in the room”. But here’s what I’ve noticed – many idiom directories like grouping idioms by the actual words contained in those idioms. For example, the two idioms about chickens and the elephant would fall under the same category – animal related idioms. It might sound like a good idea to give all those hundreds and thousands of idioms some structure and make them easy to find. When learning idioms, however, it may do more harm than good, so read the rest of this article to find out why I’m making such claims :!: (more…)

Use English Comparative and Superlative Adjectives Sparingly – Better Describe than Compare!

Here’s a couple of English adjective related problems even an advanced foreigner might run into when having a conversation with others. PROBLEM #1: Analyzing your speech from the grammar standpoint Let’s say for example, you want to describe something during a conversation, but your mind keeps going back to the tables in your English grammar textbook where irregular adjectives were listed. It may happen completely involuntarily, but it’s this traditional way of structuring adjectives according to their forms that makes you analyze the structure of a sentence instead of being fully engaged into the conversation. That in turn may result in all sorts of English fluency issues! PROBLEM #2: Limiting your means of expression You may be brilliant at describing and comparing objects, living creatures and people, but if you only stick with the traditional system – adjective – comparative adjective – superlative adjective – you’ll limit your spoken English development. For example, in a sentence “She’s really resourceful in the way she solves practical problems compared to her sister”… the word ‘resourceful’ isn’t a comparative form of some other adjective. If your mind is tuned to the standard way of using adjectives, however, you may find that you just can’t see past the standard way of using the same adjective you already described her sister with. Let’s say for example, you described her sister as not being practical, so if you go down the traditional adjective comparison road, you automatically may say – “she’s more practical than her sister”. Well, it’s not a bad thing in itself, but it’s just that on certain occasions it may limit your ability to speak freely and improvise. So how do you develop your ability to speak automatically and without analyzing too much if you’ve got to use this or that particular adjective form? WATCH THIS VIDEO WHICH EXPLAINS MY MISTAKE USING 'ADVERBS' INSTEAD OF 'ADJECTIVES' THROUGHOUT THE VIDEO ABOVE... SORRY! ;-)    (more…)

My 5 Year Long Journey to English Fluency

I got out of the plane in the Dublin airport. The weather was great despite rumors that it rains 360 days a year in Ireland. I was full of expectations, and I was also slightly worried because all I knew for sure was that I’d signed up for a job in a warehouse. Everything else was left to my imagination and such insignificant details as where I’m going to live and how much I’ll have to pay for accommodation hadn’t been really communicated neither to me nor to other Latvian guys I met at the airport having signed up with the same international job recruitment agency. I didn’t care too much about it anyway. I’d nothing to lose because all I had was 50 euro in my pocket and a promise of a better life. In a couple of weeks’ time it turned out I’d singed up with the right agency. I was working for a large multinational logistics company, pay was good, and I was able to start stashing away significant amount of money on a weekly basis which was impossible in my previous life in Latvia where I’d been barely able to make my ends meet. Little that I knew back then, however, that my stay in Ireland wasn’t going to be just about making a better life for myself and my family. I couldn’t have imagined that living in an English speaking country would challenge me as an English speaker in ways I didn’t even know existed. It turned out that my English was quite poor for practical daily life and soon after my arrival in Ireland I started trying to improve my English so that I could function properly in an English speaking society. It took me long years to figure out that textbook based grammar studies and learning large English vocabulary lists didn’t really improve my ability to communicate with other English speakers. Now, 10 years on, long after I finally achieved English fluency I can say with honesty that it’s been one hell of a journey! Want to find out more about it? Then read the rest of this article! ;-) (more…)

Your English Has to Be Just Good Enough for You to Be Successful!

20 Random Thoughts on English Fluency, Foreign English Speakers and Life in General

1. The English language is for everyone to speak. It transcends national boundaries, it’s become our modern day ‘lingua franca’, and no-one can really use the argument of ‘proper English’ because it is spoken differently in different places on the planet! 2. There are no quick-fixes or shortcuts when improving your spoken English. Contrary to what some English teachers will tell you, you can’t just listen your way to fluency; you have to SPEAK, SPEAK and SPEAK a lot! 3. It’s quite hard for the average foreigner to achieve a high degree of English fluency in the English language without living in an English speaking country. 4. It’s very difficult to improve your English effectively if you don’t enjoy life through the English language. 5. You may be saying it every once in a while that you’d like to improve your English but you can’t really do it because you haven’t got enough time, money, whatever. The truth is - it’s almost impossible to learn how to speak English fluently if you’re not REALLY MOTIVATED :!: (more…)

Don’t Try to Speak in English as if You Were Writing!

Don’t Make Conscious Effort When Improving Your English

Today’s article is dedicated to the importance of not forcing yourself when it comes to learning the English language and also when it comes to spoken English performance. Have you ever noticed that the harder you try to memorize new English vocabulary, the more difficult it actually becomes? Have you been trying to make certain English words part of your active vocabulary to no avail? And you certainly have had situations when you just can’t remember a word even though it’s right on the tip of your tongue! The funny thing is – the moment you stop forcing yourself to remember the word, it just pops up in your mind when you’ve stopped thinking about it… :grin: Similar things may have happened in terms of new English vocabulary acquisition – you remember odd words or phrases you’ve only heard a few times before and they’re stuck with you all the while you’re trying to drill some other words in your memory but they just keep evading you! (more…)

Simple vs Sophisticated Vocabulary? It’s All Just Semantics (Interpretation)!

Have you ever caught yourself thinking that your English vocabulary needs to be spruced up because it’s too simplistic? Have you recently sat an English exam and you’re dreading a bad spoken test result because you feel you didn’t use enough of fancy vocabulary when answering questions? Do you honestly believe people will judge your English speech based on your choice of words so you’re trying to go for less-known vocabulary when speaking in English with others? Then you may want to give it a second thought because in reality there’s no such thing as simple and advanced vocabulary :!: Everything is a matter of perspective, and while everyone would agree that, for example, a word ‘doglike’ is a much simpler version of ‘canine’, there’s no real reason for that sentiment other than the fact that ‘canine’ isn’t used that often in everyday conversations. So is that all there is to it? Are English words ‘made-up’, ‘exciting’ and a sentence ‘It makes me feel so free’ ranking much lower on the alleged vocabulary importance scale than their counterparts ‘fictitious’, ‘exhilarating’ and ‘It’s a liberating experience’ just because you’d find them in the first year’s English textbook? Or are there more dimensions to this whole simple vs sophisticated English vocabulary discussion? Read the rest of this article to find it out, and also join the discussion in the comments below! ;-) Alternatively, you may want to check out this list of sophisticated practical English phrases you can use in your daily life! (more…)

English Harmony Highlights of June 2012

Want to Improve Your English? Stop Watching TV in Your Language! I warmly suggest you to start watching TV in English as often as possible, especially if you have a limited exposure to the English language in your everyday life. Truth be told, you won’t start speaking fluently by watching TV alone, but it’s a very, very effective way to get the English language to seep into your brain! English Fluency Doesn’t Mean Being Able To Speak About Everything In this blog post I’m trying to dispel a myth that fluency is defined by one’s ability to speak about a very wide variety of subjects. Well, while it’s true to a certain degree, it can also be very intimidating and I suspect that many of my fellow foreign English speakers are holding back their full potential as English speakers because they don’t believe they’re good enough. 5 Things About Robby & The English Language You Probably Didn’t Know Did you know my second language isn’t English but Russian? And did you know that I still mix up English pronouns ‘he’ and ‘she’? Well, there’s more you’ll find out if you read this blog post, so you may want to check it out! (more…)

Check Out My First EVER Interviews – All About Me, English Fluency & How To Stop Struggling When Speaking in English!

1001 Ways To Use The Simplest English Verb “To PUT”!

When I was a kid and only started to familiarize myself with the basics of the English language, one of the first English words I learnt must have been the verb ‘to put’. Why I think so? Well, I remember translating the name of one of the Tom & Jerry cartoons called “Puttin’ On The Dog” in my notebook, and it would have been one of my first encounters with the English language. Shortly after, I was introduced to Ogden’s “Basic English” and the verb ‘to put’ was one of the 850 English words you would have to learn to become a competent English user. Ogden’s key principle was simplicity and he claimed that it is possible to paraphrase any English sentence using only 850 Basic English vocabulary words. I’ll admit that on many occasions important connotations are lost by reducing concepts to the Basic English vocabulary, there is no doubt about it. Let’s say for example, “He was shot in the head” would become “They used a gun to put a small metal thing in his head”. See what I’m talking about? Still, it’s a great example of how ANYTHING can be explained using very simple words so lack of vocabulary is really no excuse for not being able to explain something in English, my friends foreigners! How does this all tie in with the headline of this article? You see, the thing is that English verbs such as ‘to PUT’ and similar play an important role in helping struggling foreign English speakers to ride over bumps in their fluency :!: When you struggle to express your opinion in English using vocabulary you would normally use, it’s very easy to paraphrase more complex verbs by using ‘to PUT’ combined with the appropriate noun. Can’t think of the verb ‘to return’? Use ‘to put back’ instead! Got stuck in the middle of a sentence because you just can’t describe the concept of forgetting painful experiences and moving on? (different phrases – “get over it”, “just forget about it” – are floating in your mind but you can’t seem to use the right one in that split second?) Use "put it behind you" instead! And, considering that you are by no means limited to Ogden’s 850 words, it’s not hard to imagine that your speech is not going to sound too simplistic because of it! You can say things like – “Put a bullet in his head” - which is a totally valid English expression without the risk of sounding as if your English vocabulary consists of only 850 words. (more…)

You Can’t Listen Your Way to Fluency!

Relax Your Abs to Get Your English Fluency Rock-Hard!

When you speak in English with someone, there’s more than just your mind and mouth involved. You’ve probably rarely given it a thought, but when we speak, our WHOLE BODY participates in the verbal and non-verbal communication. Your body responds to stimuli emitted by your brain. That’s why you tense up in stressful situations – your embarrassment, anxiety and stress translates in real body reactions. So far nothing new, right? Let’s keep going! The feedback between your body and mind actually goes both ways. Not only your emotions influence your body reactions – the opposite is also true! Basically I’m talking about how you can influence your mind and mental performance in terms of English communication by controlling your body. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it’s another useful strategy to be added onto a number of English fluency management techniques I’ve spoken about in the very detail on this blog. (more…)

English Fluency Doesn’t Mean Being Able To Speak About EVERYTHING

I’d be totally lost if you started talking with me about herbal medicine, carpentry or car tuning and modification. On the other hand, I’d have a comfortable conversation with someone who’s dealing with knitwear because I’ve been working in a knitwear factory for well over three years now and I know the manufacturing process inside out! Do you see where I’m coming from? You can’t expect anyone to speak equally well about any given topic in English because every person’s profile is different :!: I would find it difficult to name but a few popular flowers such as roses, daffodils and tulips. Some other foreign English speaker working in a flower farm could probably name any possible flower that can be seen in a flower shop! And it’s not just limited to specific industry terms. If you started bombarding me with the latest news from the English Premier League, nearly all of that information would be lost on me because I’m not into soccer. Well, if you were patient with me and took time to explain little details and everything, then yes, of course I’d understand. It’s just that when I hear other guys discuss soccer at work, I don’t even try to follow their conversations – let alone trying to take part in the discussion! I mean – what’s the point in pretending to be a know-it-all if I actually don’t know much about this or that particular subject? (more…)

Want to Improve Your English? Stop Watching TV in Your Language!

Watching TV alone won’t help you to speak fluent English. Yet if you spend most of your time wrapped up in your native language bubble watching TV in your language, you’ll deprive yourself of so much needed passive exposure to the English language which will help you to integrate into the society! To be honest with you, I don’t understand my fellow Latvians and other foreigners living in Ireland who only watch films dubbed in their native languages and opt for different online based solutions to enjoy TV channels from their home countries. You can accuse me of not being a patriot of my nation, but I think it’s plain silly to move to an English speaking country without making any conscious effort of fitting into the local society. Watching TV makes up a big part of our daily lives these days, and if you watch English TV shows and programs and enjoy latest movies in English, over years you’ll absorb an awful lot of new English vocabulary and expressions which will allow you to understand English spoken around you. You’ll also be able to: discuss popular TV programs with your English speaking friends and work colleagues; improve  your spoken English by using new phraseology in your daily conversations; develop a sense of belonging among the locals. You don’t have to deny your national background. It’s something no-one will ever take away from you, and personally I spend loads of time with my family, friends and relatives speaking in Latvian and I keep up-to-date with the latest developments in my home country by checking news online etc. Once you’ve made the decision to move to an English speaking country, however, I think it’s only common sense that you keep an open mind, make some effort to fit into the local society, and use the English language as means of achieving it! (more…)

English Harmony Highlights of May 2012

3 Killer Tips on How to Write in English Like a Native Speaker!

This blog’s main focus is the spoken English improvement, yet in reality I spend a lot of time creating written content for my blog visitors to enjoy. Here are a few facts about me and writing in English: I’ve been regularly creating written content in English for the last 6 years – I’ve worked in IT customer support (constant e-mailing), I’ve been involved in a few online projects (content creation – articles, video scripts) and I’ve been regularly writing articles for this blog. If I really set my mind to it, I can write a 1000 word article in about an hour. Of course, speed isn’t an indication of one’s ability to write fluently and in a native-like fashion; however, the point is – I write as if I were speaking, and that’s part of the success formula to become a good writer. A few years ago I was involved in an Internet-based project catering for a native English speaking audience and over the course of a couple of years NO-ONE EVER hinted that the content creator might be a foreigner – even though my English wasn’t as developed as it is now. So, the point I’m trying to make here is that writing like a native English speaker is easier than you may think! ;-) (more…)

What You Can Learn from My Countryman’s Adventures in Britain’s Got Talent

My Honest Opinion on Developing English Listening Skills

I hate when I’m told what I didn’t ask for, and so do most people for that matter. Let’s say for instance, I walk into a drug-store and ask for slimming pills because I’m fed up with my extra weight and I want to look more masculine. The pharmacist starts telling me that I should start engaging in some physical activities, eat a balanced diet and use the pills only as a supplement. Would I listen to him? Nope! All that rant about a balanced diet and a workout regime simply wouldn’t register with me because I want the damn slimming pills which will give me the kind of a body I’m dreaming of, right? Same goes with most advice we get in life – it’s very hard to change our beliefs and opinions just because someone tries to convince us of something. Basically it boils down to this – we often hear what we want to hear, and we just screen off everything else - unless we’re really trying to analyse the matter at hand and we have an open mind while doing so :!: For example, I’ve been blogging about English fluency development for years on end, and I always point out the following things: To speak fluent English we need to engage in HEAVY SPEAKING PRACTICE, there are no magic shortcuts! Passive English immersion will mostly develop our understanding – NOT OUT ABILITY TO SPEAK! You can’t listen your way to fluency, you need to speak in order to train your mouth and mind to work together! Still there are many English teachers out there preaching the importance of English listening practice. Some even claim that first we have to spend all our time listening just like babies do, and then we’ll be able to start speaking… Now I’ll adopt the role of the pharmacist trying to tell you something you probably don’t want to hear – but I’ll give it a shot nonetheless! (more…)

Speaking With Yourself Isn’t As Different From Speaking With Others As You Might Have Thought!

I’m a strong proponent of spoken English self-practice – I’ve been doing it for years and I attribute much of my English fluency development to those countless hours of speaking English with myself. I’ve touched upon this subject on this blog a few times before, but today I’m going to provide you with clear and obvious benefits of such spoken English self-practice. If you think that only lunatics speak with themselves and that speaking with real people in real life is the only way forward for foreign English speakers to improve fluency, please read this article and you may actually change your mind :!: Yes, I’ve said it before that you DON’T HAVE TO SPEAK OUT LOUD – you can speak in a very light whisper. I’ve also mentioned it before that you can just speak in your mind barely moving your lips which would be an equivalent of simply verbalizing your thoughts. But if those reasons aren’t enough to persuade you to practice English with yourself and you think that the very CONCEPT OF SELF-PRACTICE IS FLAWED, keep reading and I promise I’ll reveal some aspects of the whole speak-English-with-yourself thing you haven’t ever considered! ;-) (more…)