6 Reasons Why Mythbusters is the Best TV Program for Improving Your Spoken English

I’m a huge fan of Mythbusters and I’m eagerly awaiting every new episode of their show. In case you don’t know what Mythbusters is (which I don’t think is very likely…) – it’s a show where assumptions and popular beliefs are tried and tested to see if they hold true or they’re one of so many misconceptions the human kind has amassed over time. For instance, in one of the episodes they’re testing an English idiom “a bull in a china shop” to see how the situation pans out in real life. This particular myth was actually busted because the bulls kept avoiding the shelves in a makeshift china shop even when running around at high speed thus proving that the proverb “a bull in a china shop” is just something people believe but wouldn’t prove right were it to happen for real! Here’s a list of most Mythbusters myths and I bet you’ll find most of them interesting and even fascinating! And, if you haven’t watched the Mythbusters show on Discovery TV yet, I warmly suggest you start doing it! Especially considering how fast your spoken English is going to improve if you keep watching it over a longer period of time! Why? Well, read the rest of this blog post and you’ll find it out! And by the way - even if you don’t have access to the Discovery Channels, you can still watch loads of free Mythbusters content HERE on their website or on YouTube - check out the short video below: (more…)

Don’t Put Up With ESL Industry’s Childish Treatment & Throw Unwanted Gifts Away!

:razz: Happy Christmas to all foreign English speakers around the world! :razz: I've done some research on the Internet about the latest English learning and improving methods, and it appears that all my work on this blog is good for nothing! :sad: In order to improve your English, apparently you don’t have to do anything else but listen and my focus on the spoken aspect of English is just a waste of your time! Forget about plenty of speaking practice, my friends foreign English speakers! Just go online, get one of those revolutionary pieces of English learning audio CDs, sit back, listen to those stories and let the English language seep into your mind automatically! And you know why it works? Results of countless researches have confirmed that children learn their native language by first listening for a good few months and then they start speaking it! So, quite a few English teaching professionals claim that you should take advantage of this fact and start harnessing the power of listening. Basically, you should adopt a position of a child and let the others fuss around you. You don’t have to take any action, and you’ll be able to start speaking fluent English when you’re ready and when all that audio content has settled into your mind. I know, I know my friends, you hate being treated like a child and I also know that deep down inside you are suspecting that such English learning and improving methods don’t work :!: If you’re anything like me, the first question you’d ask to those who came up with this passive immersion listening method would be – “Hold on, could it be that babies only listen during the first year because they’re simply unable to speak?” (more…)

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

Stop Preparing Speech In Your Head Beforehand!

Do you often catch yourself thinking of what exactly you’re going to say a few moments before you say the actual thing? Do you frequently make mistakes such as saying the wrong word or mixing up letters in words because you constantly think of a number of different ways to say the particular thing? If you recognize yourself from my description, don’t worry, you’re not unique. There are thousands of other foreign English speakers who speak following the same pattern – they prepare speech in their head beforehand and then try to say it out loud. As you already know, it creates all sorts of English fluency issues with the most noticeable being hesitation, stuttering and using wrong words or wrong grammar constructs. In other words, you sound very uncertain and your conversation partner may get the impression that you don’t really know what to say although in reality it’s quite the opposite… You know exactly what you want to say, and you know how to say it in five different ways, and all those sentences are right here, in your mind, it’s just that when you speak out loud you kind of want to say it all at once! :mad: I’ve been in the same boat, my friend. I know exactly how it feels and I also know what causes this problem. Would you like to understand the reasons behind this issue so that you can start dealing with it? Then stay with me for a few more minutes and I’ll explain everything to you! (more…)

English Fluency Monitoring & Management

Want To Seriously Improve Your Spoken English? Find a Hobby For Yourself!

Are you into something? Are you a big sports fan and you follow the English Premier League or National Football League and work out in a gym three times a week? Are you mad into photography and you always show up at parties and other occasions with a camera strapped over your neck? Or maybe you’re big into reading and you spend all your free time reading crime fiction? Well, even if you’re not interested in anything I just mentioned, you definitely have some sort of an interest in something that can be classified as a hobby. Even if you spend the biggest part of your free time playing Xbox or just watching telly, it’s something you can use in order to improve your English fluency, I’m sure of it! (more…)

5 Ways of Passive English Immersion

Recently I wrote an article about 4 Ways of Active English Immersion which included thinking, counting and also speaking with yourself in English – mad stuff altogether! But in order to achieve complete English fluency you should be prepared to resort to unconventional methods, and I really suggest you put my advice to good use if you want to see your spoken English come along. Let’s face the truth, however – you can’t possibly speak English ALL THE TIME. There will be times when you just lie down on a couch to relax after a hard day’s work when all you want to do is enjoy a movie or your favorite TV show, or have a read… As you might have already guessed, today’s blog post is about passive English immersion. It’s when you don’t get actively involved in the process through speaking but you soak up the information by listening, watching and reading. Before we look at the ways you can achieve passive English immersion, here’s another nugget of information for you. It’s been widely claimed that the first stage of any language acquisition is mostly listening and only then comes the speaking phase. Parallels are drawn between studying English and how small children learn their first language. Apparently the child doesn’t know how to speak and he only listens to adults and then starts to replicate sounds, words, and sentences. The proponents of this theory conclude that adult language learners should replicate this language acquisition model because it’s obviously the most natural one, isn’t it? This notion has become so common that many English teachers will even tell you to focus predominantly on listening and reading in order to prepare yourself for the next stage which is speaking… My dear foreign English speakers! It’s the biggest load of crap you’ll ever come across when it comes to learning and improving the English language! The simple truth is – and you can read my life story here - that you just won’t become a fluent English speaker no matter how much time you spend on reading and listening. Passive English immersion is great combined with active immersion and the priority ALWAYS goes to the latter one :!: It’s your MOUTH that you speak with, not your eyes or your ears, and I don’t understand why it’s so difficult to get it? If you spend most of your time listening and reading, you’ll develop huge passive vocabulary (words you RECOGNIZE but struggle using in real life conversations). If you spend most of your time speaking, on the other hand, you’ll develop your ability to speak, and it should be the top priority to any foreign English speaker. So – use the following passive English immersion methods in between your active immersion activities, and you will see your English improve in no time! (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

Shortcut to Complete English Fluency – Learn How to Produce Instant English Speech

Whether you’re a Chinese exchange student heading off to do some studying in Massachusetts, a Russian construction worker getting on a plane having secured a contract in Australia or just another Latvian like myself coming to Ireland to try out luck in finding a job to save up some money – we all have one thing in common. Namely – we haven’t had much experience with speaking English in everyday situations. We may have been academically tutored at quite high standards yet our capability to start and maintain a simple conversation may be limited simply because it’s not normally taught in schools. By far the biggest problem is that you don’t have much time to consider what you’re going to say. When you’re having a conversation, you’re quite naturally expected to answer questions or make your point within a short period of time – and it will prove difficult for many foreign English speakers. Many of us will be more comfortable writing than speaking and it’s quite understandable – when you write you have all the time in the world to plan exactly what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. You can construct grammatically perfect sentences, edit them if need be, and take your time finding the best fitting words to convey the message. It’s a different story altogether when you speak – you have to say what’s on your mind and for some it may present a serious challenge because their mind just goes blank. It’s the so-called information overload when your mind is attempting to process way too much information because all you keep thinking is what grammar tense to use, what are the best fitting words for the given situation, how to say it correctly so that you don’t make a mistake… The key aspects of fluent English speech is the ability to think in English and speak using plenty of collocations and idiomatic expressions; it enables you to speak automatically because nearly every word you say will trigger the next one. It’s the best place to be because you don’t even have to think about what you say – you can just speak as if you’re speaking in your native language. Anyway – this article is about how to use a certain shortcut in situations when your fluency is hindered and you’re desperate to get the message across successfully. So here we go! (more…)

What’s The Worst That Could Happen If You Make a Mistake When Speaking in English

How to Sell Your English Skills and Put On a Show Every Time You Speak

Everybody is a salesperson – even if you’re not aware of it. If you’re looking for a new job, you’re going to attend quite a few job interviews trying to do your best to sell your skill set and experience. When you’re meeting a potential partner you’re automatically putting on a performance to show yourself off – you’re essentially selling yourself just like any professional marketer would sell a product or a service. By concealing the downsides and emphasizing the advantages you’re increasing your chances of having the edge over your rivals, right? Same goes with nearly every other aspect of your life whenever you’re doing something that may possibly work to your benefit. When you’re cooking for your family – you’re selling your cooking skills. When you’re being professional and nice to a customer on the phone – you’re selling your customer service skills in order to remain in high estimation among the management of your company and earn promotion in the future. But here’s the thing – and every good marketer is going to confirm this – it’s very important HOW you sell it; you will outdo your competition 9 times out of 10 even if what you sell isn’t as good as your competitor’s! You may not be a professional cook, yet if you’ve served the food nicely and used enough spices, it may be just as tasty as what your partner cooks. “OK, I get it Robbie, but what it’s got to do with the English language? Your blog is about dealing with spoken English issues but you keep ranting about sales and marketing related stuff!” Fair enough, I understand your impatience; however, I didn’t come up with these sales and marketing related examples out of thin air. There is a very direct connection between being a good marketer and a foreign English speaker. Namely, you have to SELL YOURSELF as an English speaker :!: (more…)

Do You Really Suck At Speaking English?

I’ve received countless e-mails saying basically the same thing – “Robby, I’m a useless English speaker, when I try to speak with other English speakers – especially native ones – I get very nervous. I’m struggling to say the right words and I hesitate a lot when speaking…” Well… Maybe you’re right… to a point. You’re useless as far as you believe you are, and the more you convince yourself of it, the deeper the conviction gets ingrained into your mind. It’s the so called self-fulfilling prophecy when something happens just because you believe it will happen :!: Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you should turn a blind eye to the problem and just ignore it. While ignorance may be bliss on some occasions – such as ignoring strangers’ opinion of your level of English simply because they can’t possibly know how well you speak just because you’ve made a mistake when speaking with them – you still have to deal with your emotional and mental issues preventing you from fully enjoying English conversations. So what I’m saying is – even though the issue is there, you have to change the way you view it. You have to analyze the nature of the issue, make conclusions and see if you really are as useless as you think. Subsequently, you should come to realize that the issue isn’t as bad as you believe it is, and that conclusion in turn should make you into a more confident English speaker. Essentially it’s the same self-fulfilling prophecy – only now you have to get it to work to your favor! Now, are you ready to turn your assumption that you suck at speaking English on its head? (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

3 Things ANY Foreigner Can Implement To Boost Their English Communication Skills!

1. Stop agreeing if you didn’t fully understand what was said to you! On way too many occasions foreign English speakers will just pretend having understood the other person and nod in agreement – but it may potentially damage the whole conversation and result in an even bigger embarrassment than if you just asked your conversation partner to say it again! There are many other English phrases you can use in such situations other than the overused phrase “Sorry, I don’t understand”; if you only ever respond to something you don’t fully get using that phrase, you may indeed make an impression that you’re not being able to speak English properly. Partially it’s because natives rarely say “I don’t understand” when they haven’t heard what’s being said, and partially it’s due to the fact that when a foreign English speaker says “I don’t understand”, most native English speakers will assume that that person’s English isn’t good enough. I know it’s just not the case on most occasions because we foreigners, just like native English speakers, might not get the message that has been communicated to us simply because we didn’t hear it properly (background noise, distinct accent of the speaker, very fast speech etc.) and it’s got nothing to do with our English listening skills. (more…)

Useful Tips on Improving Your English Using Google

2 Dictionary Websites You’ll Ever Need To Improve Your English

I’ve been using the Internet to improve my English for a good number of years, especially when it comes to finding out meaning of new words and figuring out how to use them in context, what other words they collocate with, and what idioms there are containing those words. Sure, you can use Google and other search engines successfully to find relevant information; however, there are two websites that just can’t be beaten in terms of the sheer amount of information they provide when it comes to English vocabulary. Also, they are brilliant when explaining how that vocabulary is used in context, and you have to bear in mind that it is crucial for all foreign English speakers. Learning new English vocabulary out of context – just memorizing separate words – is going to do you little good simply because you won’t know that particular word is used by native English speakers. There’s so much more to speaking fluent English than just sticking separate words together, and these two websites will provide you with countless examples on how new words and expressions are used in the English language. Last but not least, those websites will explain you meaning of new English words through English language using dozens upon dozens of synonyms, and this is also of the utmost importance for us, dear fellow foreign English speakers! Why? It’s quite simple – you should build your English vocabulary ONLY through the English language to prevent you from translating from your native language in your mind which can have a terrible effect on your ability to produce fluent and coherent speech! Well, I guess I’ve piqued your interest with describing how good those websites are, so now let’s look at them so that you can start using them in your English improving routine! (more…)

Get the FREE eBook “How To Stop Struggling With English Writing”!

As you can imagine, I spend quite some time writing blog posts for my website and over the years I’ve become pretty good at it. Well, it’s not that I’m bragging about my writing skills, but the facts are speaking for themselves – I can write a 1600 word article in about two hours. Sure, I would have spent some time planning what to write about and editing and publishing it on my blog would also take some time. Still the writing speed is the most notable improvement I’ve achieved when it comes to my English writing skills – compared to how I was writing 4 – 5 years ago – and I believe I could refer to it as “fluent English writing”. What does it mean in real terms? Well, I think I wouldn’t be exaggerating by claiming I can write as fluently as I can speak; I can just start typing and keep at it until everything I’ve wanted to express has been typed into the word processing software. And this is where we can start looking at the reason why so many foreign English speakers find it difficult to compose a coherent piece of writing. While writing an e-mail to an English speaking friend or a customer at work mightn’t be the biggest problem, bigger tasks such as writing formal letters, essays and short stories may present massive difficulties. You may find yourself sitting in front of a monitor for half an hour having written just one or two sentences, and for some strange reason you just can’t overcome the so called ‘writer’s block’. Is this you? Did you recognize your frustrating behavioral patterns in terms of struggling with English writing after reading the above paragraphs? If so – I’ve something really valuable in store for you! (more…)

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…)

Embedded Questions – When Reversing Word Order Isn’t Necessary

English Harmony Highlights of August 2011

Personally for me the whole month of August just flew by because of a single reason – I was MAD busy at work! The moment I would come in and the moment I finished work in the evening felt like just a couple of hours apart because of the massive workload! It’s a good complaint though, considering the way things are at the moment on the jobs front in Ireland, and I hope that whatever your personal circumstances are, you’ve managed to keep your job and hopefully you’re getting plenty of spoken English practice in it! All right, I think I just veered off topic so let’s cut the rant and get down to discussing this month's blog posts! Yes, despite being extremely busy and tired I still managed to find enough time to write quite a few articles, and if you haven’t got round to reading them – now is the perfect time to invest a couple minutes of your time into reading some stuff about improving English fluency. The main blogging topic this month was English collocations, and I wrote three articles dedicated to this very important aspect of English fluency. I started off with a blog post called Unnatural English Collocations and Wrong Mental Associations. It’s probably the most important article in the whole month of August because it sheds light on issues like saying the wrong English word despite being aware of what the correct word is. It’s all about having created wrong associations between English and also your native language’s words, so it’s extremely important for you to know what to avoid in order to stop creating unnatural English collocations in your mind! (more…)

How to Decide What New English Words to Learn?

3 Ways of Hard-wiring Unnatural English Collocations into Your Brain

When fluent English speakers speak, they don’t stick separate words together. Every word they pronounce automatically triggers the next one; the whole sentence is rather a chain of words linked together. Let’s say, for example, you’re asked a question “Would you like to come along to a party on Saturday night?” Most likely your response would begin with words “Thanks for…” and then you’d follow it by either “…asking” or “…inviting”, and come to think of it, when you pronounce the first words “thanks for…” the rest of the phrase kind of comes out of your mouth by itself, doesn’t it? That’s a typical example of collocating English words – they would normally go together in spoken and also written English, and foreign English speakers find it much easier to speak if their vocabulary has been built based on collocations as opposed to memorizing separate words. Well, the aforementioned phrase was a very simple response, and most likely you’d be able to respond using such a simple phrase even if you didn’t memorize it as a single unit of spoken language. Yet I’d say you picked it up by mimicking other English speakers because you surely must have heard someone say “Thanks for asking” or “Thanks for inviting” and that’s why the phrase got imprinted into your mind. Of course, by listening alone you won’t become fluent, you need to speak to add new phrases to your active English vocabulary, but I can’t deny that it does work to some extent. Anyway, when the wrong methods are used and wrong associations between English words are established, you may unwillingly create unnatural collocations. They manifest themselves in the following way – you start speaking by saying a word or two, but instead of continuing with a word that logically complements the phrase, you say something completely unrelated, something out of context, so to speak. OR, such out-of-place words may start pushing themselves into your mind even before you speak, and you may get a feeling as if someone else has taken control of your mind. Freaky? That’s how I used to feel and that’s how many other foreign English speakers feel if they use the wrong English learning methods. But now I’m going to list the worst of them so that you can avoid them like the plague! (more…)

Information Overload: How To Stop Thinking TOO MUCH When Speaking English!

I’m sure you’re familiar with the feeling when you think so much ABOUT HOW TO SAY something in English, that eventually you can’t say anything at all! Different English Tenses, verb forms and synonyms are swarming in your head and the information overload shuts your operational memory down, so to speak. You mightn’t have given it a conscious thought, but all these problems originate in the fact that you prepare your speech before actually speaking out loud instead of speaking instantaneously. Besides, the more you think about HOW to respond to a question or say something in English, the more choices you have to make and the bigger the information overload becomes. Consequently it may become nearly impossible for you to make a decision on what English Grammar Tense is to be used, what words would describe the situation best, and so on; also fear of making mistakes prevents you from saying AT LEAST SOMETHING just to get the speech going. When you write, you can make well calculated decisions and decide what means of expression is the most appropriate for the given situation. When you have all but a split second to make that decision during an actual live conversation, your brain just cannot act that fast. When being forced to deliver an instant speech and make multiple choices at the same time, you may find it overwhelming, and you may develop a monkey-mind syndrome when you feel as if you’re paralyzed and completely unable to deliver a normal speech. Somewhere during your quest for perfection quality of what you’re saying in English has taken over performance - the speech itself - and your perfectionist nature requires you to analyze almost everything you’re saying. How to stop doing it? Why it’s happening? Find out answers to these and more questions by reading the rest of this blog post! (more…)