Robby Kukurs

I’m Robby, and I’m a non-native English speaker. Throughout my entire life I’ve always wanted to speak in English fluently, but because of the way English is taught in schools, I always struggled with my spoken English.

I couldn't learn to speak fluent English for 5 years - read about what I was doing to learn to speak fluently HERE - are YOU in the same situation?

Then, one fine day, after years of constant pursuit of English fluency, I realized the key aspect of spoken English improvement – learning English phrases and word combinations instead of studying grammar rules and trying to construct sentences in your head from scratch!

If you’re interested in improving your English fluency too, please check out the English Harmony System which is a product I created to help all my fellow foreigners to better their spoken English and achieve so much more in professional, social and personal life.

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For those foreign English speakers whose English understanding, writing and grammar is already good but they're struggling with spoken English!

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Builds your English confidence - no more situations when you stop and hesitate when speaking English!

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…)

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…)

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!

I thought I’d become immune to embarrassment because I’ve been following my own advice on using decent doses of ignorance whenever I encountered embarrassing situations. Last weekend, however, I realized that I’m not as emotionally tough as I thought because I got to experience immense embarrassment while I was doing my weekly grocery shopping in the local supermarket… To cut a long story short, I ran into one of my work colleagues – he’s a nice Irish fella – and somehow we both got completely tongue-tied when facing each other. To make the matters worse, he had his wife with him and obviously the whole situation became extremely awkward because I’d never spoken to her. Also considering the fact that I’ve rarely said anything more to him than “Hello!” and “See ya!” at work, I don’t think you’ll find it hard to imagine how two adult men may not find ANYTHING to say to each other. Well, to tell you the truth, the resulting situation was so embarrassing that I literally lost control over it and it started to resemble an accident scene unfolding before my eyes. Do you know the feeling when you’re witnessing something terrible happen but your body freezes up and you’re unable to do anything? I was experiencing something similar at that moment because I felt I was losing grip on reality. Clearly the totally confused red-faced person who just stood staring at the other two people with no ability to say something sensible in English wasn’t me; it was someone else having taken over my body! And the Irish fella wasn’t in a much better position – he was as tongue-tied as me unable to come up with anything reasonable to say to me. As you can imagine, the morale of this story is that it doesn’t matter who you are – a foreign or a native English speaker. Either one of you can get tongue-tied BECAUSE OF EMBARRASSMENT and the language actually plays a little role in it! (more…)

FAQ: How to Improve My English?

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…)

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…)

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!

: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

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…)

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…)

Confidence Lesson From Kristen Stewart For All Foreign English Speakers

A while back I published a blog post where I analyzed 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…)

English Harmony Highlights of November 2011

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

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…)

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…)

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…)

3 Grammar Mistakes Which Are OK in Spoken English

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

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…)

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…)