English Harmony Highlights of May 2012
The first article I want you to check out is called Popular Misconceptions About Foreign English Speakers.Â In this blog post I’m looking at a few stereotypical assumptions in relation to foreign English speakers that are so popular that they’ve turned into criteria foreigners are very often judged by. If you’re curious about it, or if you often feel wrongly judged as a bad English speaker just because you have a strong accent for example, definitely check out this article and it might just put your mind at ease! Remember – you’ll do yourself a favor if you just ignore any negative emotions being directed your way. Speaking of which, I recommend you to read this blog post I published a short while ago called What You Can Learn from My Countryman’s Adventures in Britain’s Got Talent.Â It’s a very inspiring story about a Latvian guy Gatis living in Britain and pursuing his dream of becoming a stand-up comedian. There’s a big lesson to be learnt from this story which is – “Enjoy your life through the English language and do what you love to do, andÂ all of a sudden everything is going to be possible!” ;-) (more…)
3 Killer Tips on How to Write in English Like a Native Speaker!
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…)
Check Out the Most Popular Articles on This Blog!
One day I decided to check the statistics of my website and see which blog posts you’ve been reading the most. I selected the top 10 articles and I guess it provides a fair representation of what my average blog visitor is interested in, so you may want to check out the top 10 of English Harmony blog posts of all times! If you visit this blog frequently, you’ve probably read a good few of them, but I’m sure you’ll find at least a couple of links you haven’t encountered before and they might just provide you with some English fluency related info you’ve been looking for to no avail. So, let the countdown begin! (more…)
Popular Misconceptions About Foreign English Speakers
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…)
My Experience in a Polish Beauty Salon & What Foreign English Speakers Can Learn From It!
English Harmony Highlights of April 2012
This month has been prolific in terms of publishing and attracting more and more visitors and commentators to my website, and every day I have to spend more and more time engaging with my blog readers. And I have to tell you it’s very rewarding to see that your opinion matters to so many foreigners and native English speakers alike! The first article I want you to look at is called “How to Develop the Gut Feeling for Correct and Natural English”. You may have had the feeling when you just know that something sounds right when said in English, and you don’t even have to explain why, you just know it.Â I call it the “gut feeling”, and if you want to find out more about it and how to develop it, make sure you read this article! (more…)
Accelerated American Slang Learning: Watching all 7 Seasons of Desperate Housewives in Less than 3 Months
FREE eBook – Practical English Grammar!
How I Started Speaking Fluent English by Pretending to be a Gangster
Probably one of the weirdest strategies among my English fluency improving methods is speaking with a hard foreign accent - and that’s what the original English Harmony eBook was based upon. It’s actually quite straightforward if you think about it: You make an awful lot of effort in order to sound native in terms of pronunciation; You become conscious of your own speech and you start doubting yourself every time you open your mouth to say something; Your speech becomes very hesitant, your mind is racing and you find it difficult to verbalize your thoughts in English. So if you forget about the pronunciation aspect while you’re speaking by allowing your mouth to speak the way it wants, you may just be able to speak more clearly and stop hesitating and preparing speech in your head before speaking out loud. Do you want to know what lead to this discovery? It was my fascination with one of the greatest mafia films ever – “GoodFellas”! (more…)
Crash Course in American English Pronunciation & Slang: Interview With Anthony from AmericanAnthony.com!
I’ve been fascinated with all things American since my childhood and it’s also one of the reasons why I started learning the English language at the age of 10. To this day, however, I haven’t mastered the American English pronunciation and I don’t think it’s that important for me personally. Well, considering that I’m living in Ireland it’s hardly surprising I wouldn’t find a practical application for an American accent! :grin: Anyhow, I haven’t made it my goal to speak with a near-native Irish English pronunciation either. You see, I’ve been struggling with my English fluency for years and I’ve actually found that when I try to speak with a native English accent, it may have a detrimental effect on my ability to speak English fluently. Having said that, I often speak with different English accents when I’m on my own. And, truth be told, I’m getting better at it! Still, when I’m speaking with others in real-life, I revert back to my normal foreign accent because it’s easier for me to speak that way. Many foreign English speakers, however, aspire to adopt a certain native English accent such as British or American, and many of them are very successful in doing so. If your dream is to sound like natural American speaker and you believe it’s what you have to do, there’s a person I’d like you to meet – Anthony Krese! He’s an English teacher and on his website called AmericanAnthony.com he focuses on teaching foreign English speakers American slang and accent. In other words – he makes foreigners sound like native American English speakers! In many ways mine and Anthony’s approach to English learning and improving is very similar. We both understand that real-life English is different from the one you’ll learn in textbooks. We also realize that plenty of foreigners lack in the department of socializing skills when it comes to speaking in English in informal settings. And while I believe that my foreign origin is actually an advantage when it comes to advising other foreigners on overcoming English fluency related issues in terms of mental aspects, Anthony has a natural edge of being a native English speaker when teaching how to speak like an American. Therefore I think it’s only fair that I turn to a professional for advice on how to speak with an American accent so that we all can learn some new tips and tricks and take Anthony’s advice on board! So let’s get started! Anthony, here’s the first question for you… (more…)
My Opinion on Who the English Language Belongs to…
How to Develop the Gut Feeling for Correct and Natural English
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. It’s based on your past experience, hundreds of hours of spoken English practice, and dozens of other things you’ve been doing while being immersed in the English language. 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! (more…)
Funny English Phrases #3 – Money & Finance
The ONLY 3 English Grammar Rules You Need to Know to Speak Fluent English
Personally I stopped studying English Grammar the traditional way years ago. By now I’ve actually forgotten most of the grammar terms and rules I had hammered into my brain, and just as well – they only prevented me from speaking English fluently. Why? Simple enough – I used to spend way too much time analyzing my thoughts, applying Grammar rules and preparing my speech in my head. It was killing my English fluency, and it took me quite a while to figure out the simple truth – English collocations (phrases, idiomatic expressions, most commonly used sentences) already contain all necessary grammar in them! When I speak English now, I don’t think about grammar anywhere near as much as I used to. I just rely on my “gut feeling” and get fully involved in conversations. My intuition takes care of English Grammar! For instance, English preposition usage rules determine that you have to say “ON this occasion” but the word ‘situation’ goes with a preposition ‘in’ – “IN this situation”. Personally I don’t look at it as something that has to be constantly recalled during English conversations. I mean - once you learn the relevant collocations – “in this situation” and “on this occasion” – it sticks with you and you don’t have to consciously think which preposition to use every time you speak. Having said all this, however, I have to admit there are a few English Grammar rules I always bear in mind, and they’re just about the only ones you need to know on top of naturally occurring English phrases and collocations to form correct and fluent English speech. Of course, I’m not saying the ones below are the only English Grammar rules you’ll EVER need. But let me remind you that this blog is for advanced foreign English speakers therefore the main presumption is that you don’t have a problem with Basic English Grammar – it’s completely out of the question here! So, let’s look at the 3 English Grammar Rules that will help you to maintain your English fluency – especially on occasions when your English fluency experiences slight dips and you need to be a bit more careful when speaking. (more…)
More Proof That Context and Associations Play Crucial Role When It Comes to Spoken English Performance
Not so long ago I published an article where I discussed the connection between English fluency, mental associations and context. I’ve touched upon this subject before, but recently I gave it even more thought after reading a book called “Kluge – The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind”. I bought it on Amazon for 4 pennies, and it’s given me the best return on investment I’ve ever achieved in terms of my personal intellectual improvement! The book is very interesting because it looks at different aspects of human behavior and reveals a constant struggle between our rational, decision making mind and our ancestral, reflexive part of brain. To cut the long story short, the book was very interesting for me as an English fluency mentor because it highlighted the fact that we, humans, learn and retain ALL knowledge contextually. Our brain’s information storage facility isn’t structured in an efficient way which would allow us to access and use information as we see fit. Way too often it’s actually quite the opposite – sometimes we can’t recall what we really need to remember (think of those situations when you just can’t think of the right English word to say!), and on other occasions we have random English words popping up in our minds preventing us from expressing our thoughts clearly and properly… In other words, the language processing part of our brain relies heavily on context, associations and emotional ties between the English phrases and words in your memory and your past experience, events and other English vocabulary and phraseology :!: Actually this revelation isn’t anything new – if you give it more thought, you’ll realize that it’s all common sense. For instance, weren’t you aware that you can’t memorize and bring up memories in your mind at your will, just like you’d look up database records? Of course we all know that, and that’s exactly what I’m talking about! If human brain worked like a data storage unit, we’d all speak English like native speakers. After reading or hearing something in English just once, we’d be able to precisely repeat it – what a wonderful world would it be then! (more…)
How Repetition Happens in Real English Conversations and Why It’s Important to YOU!
A while back I received a comment to one of my blog posts about how useful the Mythbusters show is for your spoken English improvement saying that writing down phrases in a notebook for later repetition while watching TV removes the fun factor from the experience. Here’s the original comment: I haven't convinced yet to carry pocket dictionary, notebook or even use any type of system that allows me to save new words and phrases for later repetitions, I always think that these methods remove the fun factor from the process of learning, and take you away from the true immersion so you always seem as foreigner to that language. I -and may you also- never carry a notebook while watching TV in our native language, watching TV mostly is a fun activity, you just rest and watch, isn't that right? While I can see where the author of that comment is coming from, I can’t fully agree with his sentiment that by taking notes for later repetition all the fun factor is removed. First of all, you don’t have to do it all the time! Let’s say, you’re watching an episode of a TV drama, and throughout its 40 or 60 minute duration three or four phrases draw your attention. Is it really going to kill your TV watching experience if you pause your TV four times during the episode? Secondly, the benefits of jotting those phrases down and repeating them afterwards by far outweigh all possible hassle that such practices may cause to you. I mean, what is more important to you – your spoken English improvement, or being able to watch a TV drama or sitcom in English without ANY interruptions at all? Thirdly – of course you can watch TV in English purely for your enjoyment every now and then without holding a notebook in your hands. I’ve never said that in order to improve your English fluency, you must sacrifice all your free time and be 100% dedicated to it. After all, even passive English immersion will make the English language seep into your brain without you even noticing it, albeit at a slower rate than being actively engaged in spoken practice and repeating and memorizing new vocabulary and phraseology. But if you’re a bit skeptical about using spaced repetition as an effective spoken English improving tool, I want you to read the rest of this blog post before jumping the gun and dumping the idea completely. Do you think repeating and memorizing English phrases is an unnatural way of improving the language? Then think twice, because I’m about to present hard proof that repetition already exists in real life English conversations, it’s just that you mightn’t have noticed it before! (more…)
Incredibly Powerful and Super-Simple Way Of Using Google to Find the Right English Words to Say
Is it Possible to Achieve English Fluency While Living in a Non-English Speaking Society?
Personally I’ve been living in an English speaking country for ten years now, and during this time I’ve gone from a struggling to a fluent English speaker. Has living in an English speaking country helped me to achieve spoken English fluency? Well, there’s no doubt about that! Has being part of an English speaking society been the crucial element in the process of my fluency acquisition? Would I never have achieved my current level of English fluency if not speaking with native English speakers for hours day in, day out? Well… I’m not so sure of that. You see, I haven’t always worked among English speakers, and I’ve also spent quite some time out of work. But did I stop improving my English skills during those times? No way! There’s plenty of ways you can improve your spoken English skills without living in an English speaking country, so let’s analyze the importance of being part of an English speaking society and its impact on your fluency. (more…)
Should Japanese and Vietnamese English Speakers Bend Over Backwards to Get Their Pronunciation Right?
4 Pieces of Evidence That Past Experience, Context and Mental Associations is Everything When it Comes to Spoken English
We humans are creatures of habit and conditioning and all our actions are rooted in the past performance and experience. No matter what human activity is looked at, chances are that your subconscious remembers similar activity from the past and it dictates you what to do. The tricky part is, you might not be even aware of it because your brain literally has a mind of its own and you might have a very little say in the process. Let’s say for instance, you’ve just started in a new company and you have to speak with plenty of new people during your first days in the new job. Your English performance is quite good, and you’re satisfied with yourself. Then comes along a particular person you experience a few awkward moments with because you don’t really know what to say to each other. You hesitate, you stutter, you say something silly. It’s no big deal, it happens to everyone, right? Yeah, right… Try to say it to your brain :!: :grin: There’s a big likelihood that every time you meet that person, you’ll be more prone to making mistakes and not being able to speak proper English - and all because of that first bad experience. And, if it happens for a few more times, the damage is done. Conditioned reflex has been created. Do you want more proof that past experience and spoken English performance are closely related resulting in conditioned reflexes? Then read the rest of this article and you’ll see for yourself that spoken English is all about past experiences, associations and conditioned behavioral patterns :!: (more…)
Anger Management as Part of Your Overall English Fluency Improvement Plan
English Harmony Highlights of February 2012
Is It OK to Point Out Mistakes Made by Others?
“In this context you should have said “I’ve been meaning to do this” instead of “I was meaning to do this”…” “Sorry, but you got it wrong. It’s “Wellington boots” with “W”, not “Vellington boots!”” “I’m pretty sure you meant “coarse language” instead of “hoarse language”, which is not the correct way of using this word. You must have mixed up the two words – “coarse” and “hoarse” – they sound similar but mean different things!” All such and similar corrections are nice, but did you know that sometimes such well-intentioned advices can actually do more harm than good? It can happen indeed – especially when accompanied by arrogant behavior and that superior look in the eyes which says “I’m a much better English speaker than you are, so just listen to what I’m telling you and don’t you dare to speak such incorrect English in my presence!” Even if it’s not meant to sound condescending, it can still hurt :!: Most of us, foreign English speakers, are ALREADY AWARE of the small mistakes we’re making in our daily conversations. The thing is – it’s not so easy to stop making them and sometimes you just can’t help it! So when someone points out that you just said something wrong, and you already know it yourself, it might really upset you – and others, for that matter – if it’s you giving generous advice to someone else. Anyway, I’m not trying to sow hatred here against those genuinely desiring to help other English speakers to improve their English fluency. In this blog post I’m trying to explain to those who haven’t experienced all sorts of English fluency issues, how it feels when you are already mad AT YOURSELF for making a mistake :mad: … And then you have to hear it from others! (more…)
Random Stuff – Perfectionism, English Word Chunks and Blind Faith
Hi my fellow foreign English speakers :!: Here's a video I recorded on a Saturday night - I just thought "Why not just have a chat with my YouTube subscribers and blog readers? All my video Episodes are prepared and rehearsed; why not record something completely random and speak anything that crosses my mind?" So I did - and in this video you can hear me sharing my views on: perfectionism importance of learning English collocations having faith in your ability as a fluent foreign English speaker making mistakes, hesitation and stuttering when speaking English drinking And please - don't take me too seriously in this video. It's not an official English Harmony video Episode; it's rather a friendly informal chat with you. Enjoy! ;-) Best Regards, Robby
English Harmony System Download Version Goes Live NOW!
Antonio Banderas’s Spanish Accent – So, Is His English NOT Fluent?
Are you one of those folks who thinks that in order to speak English fluently one needs to develop a near-native English pronunciation? Then watch this interview with Antonio Banderas – even a small piece will do - and think about the initial question once more. So, what do you think? Would you describe his English as not being fluent? Has his distinct Spanish accent prevented him from becoming one of the most successful Hollywood actors? Obviously not :!: So, why is ACCENT such a bid deal for so many people? Why so many other foreigners and native English speakers alike still hold the view that foreigners definitely need to reduce their accent if they want to come across as fluent English speakers? Well… The answer lies within a stereotype of a struggling foreign English speaker who speaks in broken English AND has a distinct accent. The reverse statement – anyone who has a distinct accent speaks broken English – isn’t always true, but it doesn’t prevent people from believing it. Why, we human beings are notorious to holding to wrong beliefs, and this is definitely not the only one out there! How about the following: Antonio Banderas gets away with his accent because of his good looks; Spanish accent is cool and that’s why it’s OK for him to speak with thick Spanish pronunciation but NOT OK for you or me… While there might be some truth in the above statements, it doesn’t explain HOW Antonio Banderas manages to be fluent YET retain his Spanish accent if fluency is always accompanied by perfect pronunciation... Surely if at some stage an English learner inevitably starts to develop a more native-like (in this case it should be American) pronunciation, then how come that Antonio has never fully mastered it yet he’s totally fluent? (more…)
Speaking in English Made Super Easy – Follow my Tweets and Just Stick Word Chunks Together!
Reverse Psychology – Make Yourself Stutter, Hesitate and Get Tongue-tied in order… NOT TO!
Human is a creature of conditioning – the more often you find yourself in situations when your English fluency is compromised, the deeper your mind gets wired to make sure it happens when such conditions are met next time. For example, if you’ve found it a bit harder to speak in English with a particular person on a couple of occasions, it’s highly likely that this person will cause the same English speech difficulties for you every time they’re around. If you let it happen for long enough time, you get conditioned to stutter, mispronounce words and find it difficult to verbalize your thoughts whenever you speak to that person or even when speaking with someone else in that person’s presence. Sometimes the English fluency issue manifests itself in so seemingly random situations that it may look like a totally out-of-hand problem. You may find yourself making plenty of mistakes when speaking in English having had very fluent conversations with other English speakers the day before, for instance, and there’s nothing you can think of that should trigger such behavior. In order to overcome such issues I recommend different fluency management strategies - starting from speaking slower and pronouncing words clearly, and ending with such non-standard approaches as speaking with a harder accent. There will be moments, however, when you find it quite difficult to get back to your normal English speech regardless of what strategy you apply. You may have tried to speak in English in a number of different ways – slowly and fast, with a hard accent and without, but your mind just can’t seem to work properly! If that is the case, there’s one more trick up my sleeve – reverse psychology! (more…)
101 Wrong Reasons (and 1 True Reason) Why I Love the English Language
3 Lessons Learned While Living Among Native English Speakers for 10 Years
Is it OK to Pretend to Understand What an English Speaker Says When You Don’t?
The other day one of my Irish workmates was telling me a joke. He started off speaking the way he normally does and I could easily make out what he was saying. After all – I’ve spent nearly ten years in Ireland and by now I’ve managed to understand different regional accents and also different types of speech – muffled, very fast, with word endings dropped and so on. It’s not always possible, however, to understand native English speakers, especially when they throw in some slang words and expressions you haven’t heard being used before, and the indistinct speech makes it every harder to figure out what they’re saying :!: As you can imagine, I had to pretend that I got the joke my workmate Louis was telling me and I just gave a short laugh as a sign that his joke was really good… Please, don’t blame me! I know that it’s not quite right to pretend to understand what native English speakers tell you because you run the risk of making a fool of yourself. In fact, you shouldn’t pretend regardless of the speaker’s national background. It should never be a problem to admit that you didn’t get what was being said, even if it’s another foreigner trying to explain you something! You see, denial originates in fear of being perceived as a poor English speaker, but then you can get yourself in even more embarrassing situations trying to conceal the fact that you didn’t understand something. Admitting the truth almost always pays and you should treat such moments very casually; don’t make a big deal out of them. If you radiate confidence, few people will ever think of associating the fact that you asked them to repeat what they just said or to explain what they meant with bad language skills. If, on the other hand, you’re trying to end the conversation quickly and avoid discussing the same topic, it might give an impression of someone who’s not very comfortable using the English language. So how do you know when you should definitely tell your conversation partner to repeat what they just said or say it slower and when it’s OK to pretend you understood them? (more…)