English Harmony Highlights of January 2012
Hi my fellow foreigners, it’s been another month at English Harmony and here I am again to deliver another monthly highlights report to those of you who didn’t get a chance or were too busy to read my blog posts regularly. First of all, I’d like to tell you about a motivational poster I created on the New Year’s Day. Many of my mailing list subscribers and blog visitors have already printed it out and stuck it up on the wall, and you’re welcome to do the same. Just Click HERE to Open the Poster, and a large format image is going to open up so that you can conveniently send it to your printer. The poster consists of the main premises of the English Harmony project such as – “Focus on what you CAN say instead what you CAN’T” and “Don’t mind your mistakes. Even native English speakers make plenty of them!” and many more; and the whole point of having the poster printed out is to keep yourself motivated to improve and maintain your English fluency throughout this year. As you might have noticed, my approach towards English improvement is a bit different than you’d see elsewhere. I don’t preach grammar perfection and I don’t promote sophistication when it comes to speaking in English. Basically what I’m saying is – stop giving yourself a hard time, have an open mind and you’ll stand a much bigger chance to succeed as a foreign English speaker, and this poster is the essence of my English fluency philosophy. (more…)
Why Reading an English Newspaper is 100 Times Better than Studying a Grammar Workbook
It’s OK to Feel Like an Idiot – Sometimes Even Native English Speakers Get Tongue-tied!
FAQ: How to Improve My English?
At the moment of writing this article I’ve posted more than 150 posts on this blog, and they’re all dedicated to the topic of spoken English improvement. That’s why I find it slightly strange to receive e-mails asking a question “Robby, can you help me improve my English?” Normally I would reply with another one-liner – “Please feel free to browse around my website, there’s plenty of articles and videos and they’re all about improving your English fluency!” – because I just couldn’t fit everything there is to say about improving your English in one e-mail! Also, I was under the impression that such queries are most likely asked by those who haven’t bothered checking out my blog. After all, all the information is available right here, on my website, and all you have to do is just read a few articles to start seeing the big picture, right? Recently, however, I realized that it’s probably not as easy as it looks to me. First of all, I’m dealing with a host of English fluency related issues and I have to admit not all of them are relevant to those who just want to IMPROVE their overall level of fluency. For example, if you have the typical English fluency issue whereby you can’t speak on certain occasions but you’re perfectly find on others, your main concern isn’t spoken English improvement as such; in this case you want to learn how to manage your fluency and make sure you don’t get severe anxiety and lack of confidence when you experience reduced ability to speak properly. Secondly, I can also imagine that the abundance of information on my blog might be a bit overwhelming and it’s not that easy for someone having arrived here for the first time to figure out what EXACTLY they have to do to improve their English. That’s why I decided to write this 5 step plan with easy, to-the-point instructions on how to make sure your English is experiencing constant growth and improvement. Enjoy! ;-) (more…)
Don’t Judge Foreign English Speakers by Their Mistakes!
I have to make a confession to you, my fellow foreigners… Despite having struggled with English fluency myself, and despite making mistakes while speaking myself, I do sometimes make assumptions about other foreigners and their level of English … You see, the strange thing about it is that I’m fully aware of the fact that making mistakes and struggling for words is normal. I know only too well that there’s a multitude of different factors affecting one’s spoken English performance – starting with stress and anxiety and ending with such complicated English fluency issues as preparing speech in one’s head before speaking and a total information overload. After all, I have a first-hand experience of what it feels like when you know EXACTLY what you want to say, but your mouth suddenly disobeys you and says the wrong thing… So quite naturally I’d expect myself to be the last person to draw hasty conclusions about somebody’s level of English, yet it does occasionally happen! Of course, the moment I catch myself thinking something like – “All right, I have to choose slightly simpler words when talking to him because he just used a completely wrong English Grammar Tense, so most likely he won’t understand me if I speak the way I speak with native English speakers…” – I immediately say to myself: “Robby, common, don’t be such a meanie, are you always perfect yourself?!” Imagine, if it takes me so much effort to stop patronizing others, how must native English speakers feel when they hear me make some stupid mistake when speaking to them? Can I blame them for assuming that my English is poor just because I mispronounced a very simple word? I, for instance, stressed the wrong syllable in the word ‘monopoly’ the other day. I said [‘monopoli] instead of [mo’nopoli], and had my workmate Will not known me for years, he probably would have judged my English skills by that one stupid mistake! On another occasion, I made a mistake by misplacing a word in a phrase. I said “Fair done!” which is a mix of two phrases – “Well done” and “Fair play to you!” Once again, for someone who doesn’t know me this would be a reason good enough to extrapolate that mistake to everything I might say. It’s the so called reverse halo effect, and now let’s look at this phenomenon in depth! (more…)
How to Improve Spoken English While Entering Sales Orders on a PC
Isn’t It Weird That I Can Write In English Better Than Speak?
Short answer – “No, it’s not weird at all! It’s actually completely normal for any English speaker – be it native or foreign – to be able to write in English better than speak!” However, having said this, the reverse isn’t always true and I’m not claiming that all English speakers are better writers than speakers. It’s just that it’s NOT WEIRD if you happen to be a better writer than a speaker. Now, would you like to get a bit more elaborate answer to this question? Well, it’s going to take me more than just a paragraph or two to say all I have to say in this regard, so I’d better settle down in front of my laptop with a mug of coffee because writing this article is going to take me a little while. There are many aspects to the curious problem of differences between writing and speaking in English and who else would be more qualified to answer the above question than me? After all, I live in an English speaking country and I spend the biggest part of my day at work communicating with native English speakers; most of my evenings are spent writing articles for my blog and answering e-mails. Years spent on analyzing English fluency related issues have left me with a very good understanding of how one’s writing skills influence one’s ability to speak and vice versa, so let my long answer begin! So, is it weird that you can write in English better than speak? NO, and the reason number one is… (more…)
6 Reasons Why Mythbusters is the Best TV Program for Improving Your Spoken English
Print This Poster to Motivate Yourself to Improve Your English Throughout 2012!
=== Click HERE to OPEN THE POSTER! === (Then print it out and stick it up on your wall!) :!: :grin: Happy New Year, my fellow foreign English speakers :grin: :!: The party is over, and now we have to go back to the grim reality… The holiday season is over, Christmas gifts have been unwrapped long ago, and now we have to go back to our daily routines. How depressing, isn’t it? Well, not everything is looking so gloomy! Despite the reality check we all undergo when the holidays are over, New Year is a time well known for the biggest aspirations and life-changing decisions! === Click HERE to OPEN THE POSTER! === (Then print it out and stick it up on your wall!) (more…)
English Harmony Blog Highlights of 2011
Don’t Put Up With ESL Industry’s Childish Treatment & Throw Unwanted Gifts Away!
The Illusion of Elsewhere – How to Clear Your Mind and Achieve Complete English Fluency in 4 Easy Steps
I love reading English fiction and there are some books I’ve re-read many times because they’ve helped me to grasp very important concepts. One of my favorite fictional characters, for instance – Skilgannon the Damned – is at his best when it comes to fighting when he slips into a special state of mind called the Illusion of Elsewhere. Basically his mind wanders and he allows his body to relax. Surprisingly, this state of mind doesn't make him less of a fighter; it’s actually quite the contrary – by clearing his mind he actually heightens his senses and allows his body to do the fighting automatically. So the key is to allow a process that’s been practiced for years to happen without much of conscious consideration thus eliminating any emotional restraints that might hinder your performance. Over the years I’ve come to realize the very same applies when you engage in English conversations – which essentially is quite an automatic process that you’ve been practicing for years. The only difference is that your mouth and lips have to do the verbal fighting instead of your arms and legs beating the living daylights out of some villain! (more…)
Why Being a Foreign English Speaker Gives Me an Edge Over ANY Native English School Teacher
You can call me a foreign English speaker or a non-native English speaker (although I think that by labelling someone a ‘non-native English speaker’ you set them apart from other English speakers!) , but all that really matters to me is that I’M AN ENGILSH SPEAKER. I don’t care if anybody sees my foreign background as a natural disadvantage when it comes to communicating with others in English because I know it very well that my spoken English is sufficient for the things I do on a daily basis. Well, I do have my ups and downs, but then which foreign English speaker doesn’t experience some fluency fluctuations? Anyway, I am prepared to step it up a notch and make a really daring statement. Not only I think my foreign background isn’t a disadvantage; I also believe that by being a foreign English speaker I have an edge over ANY native English school teacher when it comes to understanding issues experienced by those who learn and improve their English :!: And if you take into account I don’t hold any TEFL qualifications, I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw my claim on the border of outrageous. I mean – how can a chap who’s been struggling with spoken English up until a few years ago, say that he’s better than any professional native English teacher? Keep reading this article and I’ll provide hard proof to back my claim! (more…)
Stop Preparing Speech In Your Head Beforehand!
English Fluency Monitoring & Management
If you’re anything serious about improving your spoken English - and I bet you are otherwise you wouldn’t be reading my blog! – your English fluency is inevitably experiencing growth over time, it just can’t be otherwise. Regardless of all ups and downs you may encounter while having conversations with other English speakers, your English fluency trend is always going up – even if you don’t notice it! Of course, your fluency trend may be steeper than that of someone else’s, and it’s only natural because not all foreigners are getting the same amount of passive and active English immersion. And it’s actually totally understandable because everyone has their own fluency requirements depending on how much they use the English language in everyday life. For many of us, foreigners, practical life determines if we’re going to develop our English fluency at a fast pace or stay on a plateau for years. Anyway, today’s article is about your English fluency management and it’s especially relevant to those who experience sharp drops in fluency resulting in the infamous English fluency issue. Getting tongue-tied and stopping in a middle of a sentence, getting a feeling as if your head is stuffed full with thousands of English words and you know EXACTLY what you want to say but you’re unable to say anything, making stupid mistakes… These are the typical symptoms of the English fluency issue and what’s really baffling is the fact that we, foreigners, often experience such terrible moments right after having been absolutely fluent. We’re hitting the heights of our English fluency graphs, our confidence is very high, we’re achieving a near-native level of spoken English, and then suddenly we experience a downturn in our ability to express ourselves! It may even become so bad that on certain situations we find it hard to say anything at all, and it can be very, very distressing indeed… So how do you manage these peaks of your English fluency trend? How do you prevent the drops from being so sharp? To find answers to these questions, please read the rest of today’s blog post! (more…)
Want To Seriously Improve Your Spoken English? Find a Hobby For Yourself!
Confidence Lesson From Kristen Stewart For All Foreign English Speakers
A while back I published a blog post where IÂ analyzedÂ Benicio Del Toro’s interview. I did it in order to prove to any of you that even native English speakers will hesitate, use simple, short sentences and sometimes even say complete non-sense when asked a question they haven’t had time to think about properly! So is it such a big deal if we, foreign English speakers, can’t say something straight away when we get stuck in a middle of a sentence or can’t wrap words around our thoughts? Of course it’s not! There are only two things that make us different from native English speakers – we hate when others make assumptions about our level of English and many of us are perfectionists trying to finish a sentence once we started it and also trying to make it perfect in terms of grammar and word choice. If you learn to ignore those two factors, however, I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t give an interview just like Kristen Stewart from Twilight did - or even a better one! Now, watch the video below, listen carefully to the whole interview and then read the rest of this article. It just might make a big difference to your spoken English confidence, my friend! ;-) (more…)
4 Ways of Active English Immersion for Foreign English Speakers
As I wrote in the previous blog post, the usage of the English language is limited to certain times and locations for most foreign English speakers. You use your native language in your family and with your native speaking friends, but you speak English at work, when dealing with official institutions and speaking with other English speakers. If you’re committed enough to improving your English fluency, however, there are many ways to immerse yourself in English even when you’re outside of your typical situations when you’d be using the English language. In particular, it’s relevant to those not getting enough exposure to live English and not getting enough opportunities to speak with other English speakers. So here’s the countdown of 4 most effective ways of active English immersion – if you combine them all you can essentially create your own unique English speaking environment! Personally I use all these methods to maintain my English fluency at a high level so you can take my word for it! (more…)
Speaking English in Unfamiliar Settings: Why You’re Ashamed of Speaking With Your Friends in English
Unless you live in a full English immersion 24/7/365 (which is quite an unrealistic scenario unless you’re married into an English speaking family and lost all connections with your home country…), you’re using both – English and your native language on a continuous basis. Usage of English, however, is most likely limited to certain times of the day and certain locations. Traditionally, you’d speak in your native language with your family members and English at work and friends. Sometimes, however, you might be required to speak English on occasions that would normally be associated with using your native language and it may pose some difficulties – and that’s what I’m going to look at in today’s blog post. Are foreign English speakers capable of switching over to English easily or it poses some challenges? Should you aim for long periods of time when you speak and think only in English to facilitate English fluency? And if it’s beneficial to your spoken English improvement – is it a good idea trying to talk your friend into speaking English with you? All these and more questions are going to be discussed in today’s blog post so keep reading it if you’ve ever been wondering why is it that the longer you speak in English, the easier it becomes and why it’s more difficult to communicate in English in unfamiliar settings! (more…)
Shortcut to Complete English Fluency – Learn How to Produce Instant English Speech
What’s The Worst That Could Happen If You Make a Mistake When Speaking in English
Hi my fellow foreigners – tonight is the Halloween night and I think it would be only fair if I gave you a fright! I’m going to use the biggest fear of all foreign English speakers, and I’ll do my best to scare the hell out of you! So what is this fear I’m so certain will have such an effect on you? Well… We all fear making mistakes when speaking English, don’t we? We fear it so much that we become very conscious of our speech thus making even more stupid mistakes. It’s a self-perpetuating mental state and personally I’ve gone through these issues countless times in the past and I know how depressing, annoying and scary it is. Are you ready? So here it goes – a list of 20 things that might possibly happen if you make a mistake when speaking English! You’d better brace yourself because as you’ll see it’s safer not to open your mouth at all than trying to say something in English and face the dire consequences… (more…)
How to Sell Your English Skills and Put On a Show Every Time You Speak
Shocking: Native English Speakers Don’t Always Spot Your Mistakes!
I’m actually tired of repeating the same thing in nearly every blog post but it’s so important that I just can’t help pointing it out once more – you shouldn’t be so conscious of your mistakes made when speaking English! Today I’m going to provide another good reason as to why you shouldn’t be so stressed out when the inevitable happens and you catch yourself having said something weird – be it a wrong word, a wrong grammar Tense or a wrong word combination. So, the reason is the following – when you converse with a native English speaker, they will actually miss many of your mistakes, so your English speech won’t actually sound anywhere near as bad as you think :!: So if you have a tendency to hesitate and struggle for the rightwords to say and eventually get some of them wrong, don’t be overly concerned about what your conversation partner thinks of your level of English – many of those small mistakes will pass unnoticed. But in case if you’re wandering how I can be so sure about making such a claim – after all I’m a foreign English speaker and not a native one – here’s the reason. It’s because I’ve actually asked many of my native English speaking work colleagues what they think of my spoken English level on my bad English days and on many occasions they didn’t have a clue what bad English I was talking about! You see, sometimes when I’m having a down period in terms of English fluency, I struggle a little bit to put my thoughts into words. Over time my fluency has gone up big time because it inevitably happens with anyone living in an English speaking environment, but still I have days when I just can’t perform at a 100% of my ability. So whenever I drop the question to any of my native English speaking colleagues – “By the way, have you noticed that today I keep struggling to find the right words to say and I hesitate all the time?” – their response is pretty much the same – “Well… Not really!” (more…)
Using Past Participles As Adjectives vs Passive Voice
It’s not my job to explain what English Passive Voice is all about, and how it’s constructed. After all, once you’re reading my blog, most likely you fall under the category of advanced English speakers, and you already know that Passive Voice is formed by using the verb ‘to be’ followed by Past Participle of the main verb - “A huge amount of money was stolen from our shop today”. Passive voice is used when the object is unknown or it’s irrelevant to know who’s behind the action; all emphasis is put on the action itself – “money was stolen”. The very same English Tenses are used in the Passive Voice as in the Active Voice – Simple Tenses and Perfect Tenses - and the usage of both Passive and Active Voices is governed by the same rules. So, “Someone seals up the box” and “The box is sealed up” (general statements) are equivalent expressions in the same way as “Someone has sealed up the box” and “The box has been sealed up” (describing a finished action) are. I noticed a long time ago, however, that in conversational English it’s not as straightforward as it may seem if you just look at the Passive and Active Tenses comparison table. I would hear quite often that the Simple Present form in the Passive Voice – “The letter is written” - is used instead of the Present Perfect one – “The letter has been written” - despite the fact that the proper way of expressing the completeness of the process would be by using the Present Perfect Tense… This phenomenon was bothering me for a long time because I used to translate from my native language when speaking English and on many occasions I just couldn’t decide which of the two options I should go for :mad: (more…)
English Harmony Highlights of September 2011
Another month has literally flown by so it’s time to look back at what I’ve been blogging about – just in case you didn’t have enough time to read the English improving related articles and videos I’ve been publishing during the last few weeks! So this is yet another monthly synopsis, and the first thing I’d like to recommend to you for reading is an article about smart English phrases. If you’ve been reading my blog previously, you’ll know that I’m not inclined towards using very rich and sophisticated language; I’m rather a proponent of using simpler language that most foreign English speakers would be more comfortable with. Having a few smart English phrases in store, however, won’t do you any harm because there are many occasions when they’ll come in handy. For instance, is there a better phrase than “it puts things in perspective” to describe a situation when something makes you realize the real nature of a particular issue? So if you want to find out how to use such and similar English phrases read this blog post and start using at least a couple of them in your daily English conversations! Another very important article I want you to read is called “How To Hesitate Like A Native English Speaker” and it touches on the subject of filling moments of silence and hesitation when you speak with someone. It might not sound of a particular importance at first, but if you think about it for a while you’ll realize it’s crucial in order to maintain fluent English speech. (more…)
3 Things ANY Foreigner Can Implement To Boost Their English Communication Skills!
Useful Tips on Improving Your English Using Google
In the previous article about using Google as an English improving tool I looked at the basics of Google Search suggestions. I brought up a good number of examples on how Google immediately displays the most relevant contextual suggestions for your search term if you want to figure out in what context the particular English word is used. Unfortunately, we also concluded that on many occasions Google won’t show you the most relevant collocations when you type in a certain word. The reason behind that is simple enough – Google isn’t used only by linguists, of course; billions of searches are performed every day based on popular trends and news, and it all affects the search suggestions. Not all is that bad, however, if you know certain ways and techniques to get the best out of what Google offers! Here’s my take on the whole Google search thing (find more phrases with the word ‘thing’ here) – if you have to find out meaning of a new English word and see how it’s used in context, use the best English dictionary websites to look them up. Sites like Dictionary.com and TheFreeDictionary.com will display sample sentences along with a very detailed explanation for the word you’re looking up, and you’ll be also given a bunch of synonyms and antonyms to help you understand all connotations of your search term. On the other hand, on occasions when you DO have an idea of what a particular word might mean and how it might be used, but you’re not 100% sure of what collocations and idioms are there containing that word, or if you’re unsure of correctness of a particular phrase – Google is the quickest and handiest tool for the purpose! OK, I won’t keep you waiting for any longer, my friends, so I’ll cut the rant short and let’s get down to business! (more…)
2 Dictionary Websites You’ll Ever Need To Improve Your English
How To Hesitate Like A Native English Speaker
You may like it or not, but every English speaker – be it native or foreign – is bound to hesitate at some stage during a conversation. While excessive hesitation is a sure sign of an English fluency issue whereby you constantly keep mixing up things in your head while speaking, in moderate amounts it doesn’t indicate any serious fluency problems. It’s just normal that you would pause a little bit when you’re not sure on how to put it in the right words – and I’m not talking about you being unable to choose the right English words here. I’m talking about situations when you’re asked some question that you can’t give a straightforward answer to; or situations when you’re a bit tired or just can’t seem to be able to gather thoughts for some reason. It can also happen when you speak in your native language, so you don’t have to feel as if you’re unable to communicate in English properly just because your brain doesn’t fire on all cylinders on this particular day. Some will probably judge your spoken English skills by those occasions when you hesitate a little bit, but you shouldn’t really mind them or else you risk putting your sanity on the line :!: Anyway, there is something that any foreign English speaker should know about hesitation if they want to sound natural, so read on if you want to find out how to hesitate like a native English speaker! ;-) (more…)
Can You Speak Fluent English Without Learning Idioms?
Get the FREE eBook “How To Stop Struggling With English Writing”!
How to Give Weight to Your Opinion? Use Smart English Phrases!
I’ve blogged extensively about the importance of being able to conduct English small-talk and get involved in simple, everyday chats with other English speakers as opposed to trying to sound smart using sophisticated expressions because there’s always a chance you’ll get tongue-tied. Also I’ve stressed how important it is not to lose your head when you can’t remember a certain word or a phrase in English but paraphrase instead. Let’s say for instance, you’re having a chat with your friend and you’re trying to explain that you weren’t aware of a particular fact, but then it slowly became obvious to you. The phrase you’re trying to remember is “it dawned on me” – which means that you started to realize the truth. But if you can’t remember the exact word ‘dawned’, there are still dozens of ways to convey the same message – “I suddenly realized”, “and then I got it”, “I started to understand” etc. While it’s important not to get too hung up on using the exact same phrase you can’t remember – or else you risk constantly getting stuck in the middle of conversations! – it’s also important not to ignore specific English phrases or so called idiomatic expressions that might just help you make your point more effectively and also would help you sound more like a native English speaker. Just imagine that you’re watching news and they’re showing the latest developments in the world which unfortunately way too often involve natural and man-made disasters, atrocious crimes and other bad news that normally make the headlines. You’re watching the news with a couple of your friends, and halfway through the news your own worries and problems that were so pressing a mere ten minutes ago, all of a sudden seem to have become ridiculously unimportant. Compared to what people are going through in North Africa and Middle East at the moment, your life is actually a walk in the park! Now, you can express your feelings to your other family members in a couple of sentences just like I did in the paragraph above, OR… you can use a single phrase – “Yes, it really puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?” That’s the beauty of such and similar English phrases – they allow you to express your feelings in a single phrase! Moreover – they can be used in many different situations so a handful of smart English phrases can indeed help you explain yourself like a native English speaker! But now I’m going to give you some more examples of smart English phrases so that you can clearly see the importance of learning them. (more…)