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!

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…)

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

Today we’re going to look at a very simple yet often ignored English grammar feature which affects the word order in interrogative sentences, otherwise known as questions - and it's called embedded questions. As we all know, in a question the word order changes, and regardless of what word the sentence begins with – whether it’s an auxiliary verb such as ‘to do’ or one of those ‘wh’ words like ‘why’, ‘where’, ‘when’, or ‘who’ followed by an auxiliary verb – the word order in a question is the following – auxiliary verb followed by the subject and then followed by the main verb in infinitive and then followed by other words. So a statement “You broke the law by trying to help me” becomes “Did you break the law by trying to help me?” when words are re-arranged in a question form. Of course, it’s all common sense, and you’ve probably started wandering why I’m talking about something so simple in this practical English grammar lesson. Well, don’t be so rash, my friends, for here comes the tricky part! (more…)

English Harmony Highlights of August 2011

How to Decide What New English Words to Learn?

I think that once past the learning stage and having large enough vocabulary to allow for free expression in nearly every situation, all foreign English speakers can call themselves fluent. Yet the process of improving one’s spoken English is lifelong, and it inevitably involves learning new English words and phrases on a regular basis. Bulk of that new vocabulary is picked up naturally during conversations with other English speakers, and to tell you the truth – anyone who spends a lot of time among English speakers will grow their vocabularies even if they don’t put much conscious effort into the process. If you’re eager to improve your English at a much faster rate, however, I bet you’re making sure to learn an extra number of new English words every now and then, don’t you? Well, if that’s the case, I’ll also hazard a guess that sometimes you’ve been wandering on what grounds you should choose new English vocabulary words to learn. Should you learn all new English words that come along regardless of how obscure they may be? Should you learn English word lists using online services such as Word Dynamo, for example? Or should you write down every new word you come across when reading English fiction and make sure you memorize them? If you often ask yourself such and similar questions, the rest of this blog post is definitely going to shed some light on the issue! (more…)

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

4 Reasons Why Any Foreign English Speaker Should Read English Fiction

My blog and also the whole English Harmony project are all about spoken English fluency and how to overcome related confidence issues. Reading English fiction most of the time, as I’ve pointed out numerous times throughout my blog posts, won’t help you improve your spoken English fluency and you still need to spend a considerable amount of time speaking English with other people in order to do that. Nonetheless, reading English fiction will definitely help you as a foreign English speaker. After all - who else can judge the usefulness of this pastime other than me - Robby, who reads whenever there’s free time available? At launch breaks at work, in bed before sleep, while waiting on appointments … sitting at an open window on a sunny Sunday morning and drinking coffee – all those and many more occasions are perfect for forgetting yourself while being immersed in events depicted by some English writer. (more…)

Is Google Any Good For Improving Your Spoken English?

Yes, it is! But in this blog post I'm not going to discuss the cool Google speech recognition functionality or some similar tool (I'm probably going to look at it in one of my future blog posts though). By saying that you can use Online Search Engines to improve your spoken English I'm referring to Google, Yahoo and other Online Search Engine search suggestions - simple as that :!: Performing search on certain words and search terms allows you to find out plenty of useful information about naturally occurring English word combinations, and if you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know that I’m always emphasizing the importance of memorizing words that go together in natural spoken English - collocations, idioms, phrasal verbs. Why? Simply because it allows you to speak fluently; as you say the first word, the next ones are triggered automatically because your brain and mouth have been trained to pronounce certain words together :!: So if you’re interested in intricacies of Google, Yahoo or Bing search suggestions that allow you to learn patterns of real life English – keep reading this article and you’ll probably be in for a nice surprise on how instrumental Search Engines can be to a foreign English speaker! (more…)

The Single Biggest Culprit Causing Foreigners’ Speech Anxiety

I’ve published loads of articles in the past dealing with English speakers’ confidence issues, but I’m resolute to drive it home this time. I was browsing the Web last night and started reading different language learning articles and related comments, and after reading a particularly heated clash of opinions I suddenly realized WHY so many foreign English speakers and indeed – learners and improvers of ANY LANGUAGE - are intimidated and may potentially develop a phobia of speaking their target language. Not that I didn’t know it prior to that, it’s just that for some reason it became so clear to me last night... So here you go – it’s the academically minded foreign language speakers (and sometimes also native speakers) who feel superior to ANYONE who can’t speak at their level that make others feel that they’re useless as foreign language speakers :!: :mad: (more…)

Unnatural Collocations and Wrong Mental Associations

Highlights of July 2011

The month of July has come to an end, so let’s look back at the most important blog posts – in case you didn't get a chance to read them all. I started the month with a blog post about changing your perspective on the way you conduct English conversations with people. If you often experience embarrassment when speaking in English with certain people in certain situations, in this article you’ll find valuable advice on how to lower your stress levels on such occasions. Of course, I can’t make miracles happen and make you into a super-confident foreign English speaker in five minutes while you’re reading the article. You have to work with yourself but what I can do through such and similar articles is – make you realize what EXACTLY you should be focusing on in order to deal with confidence and mindset issues when speaking English. Another blog post that comes highly recommended explains why I’m highlighting bits of my blog posts in red and it’s all about idiomatic expressions and collocations. This is very important stuff so if you’ve very little time, just read this blog post because it explains the essence of natural English fluency – using word combinations spoken by native English speakers! In another blog post about speaking English with hard foreign accent I’m touching the subject of foreign accent once more, only this time from another angle. Basically this article is about how you can deal with situations when you experience drops in English fluency by putting on much harder foreign accent than you normally would. Controversial? That’s just the way I am! (more…)

Moving to an English Speaking Country is Like Recovering Eyesight

Mad Stuff – Speaking With Hard Foreign Accent to Facilitate English Fluency

When I started EnglishHarmony.com back in 2007, the English Harmony System wasn't there yet. Instead I was offering an eBook to my website visitors explaining the English fluency issue and how to deal with it. Among such methods as elimination of translation and slowing down the speech, I was focusing on something more radical in the eBook. Namely, speaking with your native accent. I know it sounds really strange, and I can understand if you’re somewhat reserved when hearing that in order to get your English speech back on track, you need to do away with proper English pronunciation and start speaking using your native language pronunciation instead. Yet there’s great wisdom concealed within such a technique, and I suggest you keep reading this article if you also experience unexplainable drops in English fluency every now and then! (more…)

Learn English Irregular Verbs Through Collocations, Idioms and Phrasal Verbs

When I used to cram plenty of new English vocabulary words using the wrong techniques (memorizing meaning of the word in my native language, memorizing many meanings of the same word at once), I also memorized loads of irregular English verbs. I had a list of them written down in my notepad and every now and then I’d go back to them to review the irregular verbs and make sure I knew every single one of them. Many years have passed, but I haven’t had a real need to look at the English irregular verb forms since. Do you think it’s because I’m so good at it that I remember all of them? I’m sorry to disappoint you, but it’s not the reason (to be honest with you – I remember all of them as part of my passive vocabulary; active vocabulary is a different story altogether so keep reading to find out why you don’t necessarily need to know ALL irregular verb forms...) The real reasons are of a more practical nature – when I swapped English studies for speaking English in real life, I realized that a big part of those irregular verb forms aren’t used in day-to-day conversations at all! It’s a typical 80/20 rule in action, and to put things in perspective, just think back to when you used, say, Past Participle “sewn” of the verb “to sew” when speaking with someone. Personally I’ve heard it used just ONCE over the two and a half years spent in a knitwear manufacturing company where there’s thousands of garments parts being sewn together every day! And you know what the funniest thing is? The person who said it (by the way – it was a native English speaker), didn’t use the irregular Past Participle form “sewn”. He used “sewed” instead and I remember thinking to myself “Why on Earth did I ever clog up my brain with unnecessary irregular English verb forms like “sewn” if I don’t use them at all?” Also, I realized that there’s so much more to the irregular verb forms, especially Past Participle, than I originally thought. Years ago I learnt them to use when speaking in my translated-from-my-native-language English. I would therefore focus exclusively on the literal meaning of the Past Participle; so for instance, “broken” for me would only be a word that describes a finished action of the word “to break” as in a sentence “I have broken my promise.” But what about word combinations like “broken down”, “broken dreams”, “to sound like a broken record”? All these English collocations have the word “broken” in them yet they don’t represent Perfect Tenses that English students traditionally associate the Past Participle form with :!: If you learn such collocations by heart, you’ll instinctively know when to use the word “broken”, and that’s what fluent English is all about! Of course, you have to know how to use the irregular Past Participle when forming Perfect Tenses and also Passive Voice – “my car wasn't broken by me”, for example – there’s no question about it! All I’m saying is that if you learn to use irregular verb forms as part of useful phrases rather than purely as a string of words – shrink, shrank, shrunk - your chances of using them as part of fluent English are much, much bigger. (more…)

4 Things Your English Teacher Didn’t Tell YOU!

1. First we should learn SPOKEN English and only then – to read and write Another controversy on EnglishHarmony.com? Well, so be it! I believe that if all foreign English speakers would have learnt spoken English first, nobody would have any English fluency issues. Once your brain is hard-wired with naturally occurring English speech patterns, you can learn to read and write and it won’t mess up your ability to produce coherent speech. Many of us, foreign English speakers though, have difficulties speaking fluently because we speak as if we were writing – in a slow, controlled way, with a chance to go back and correct mistakes and all the time in the world to think things through. Add a bit of stress, and there you go – you can get stuck in a middle of a sentence because real life communication is not your comfortable environment you’re so familiar with; chatting with people happens spontaneously. Remember – speaking comes first, and everything else comes after that, just like in your native language! You spoke long before you learnt to read and write, and you’re so good at speaking your language not because you spent 12 years at school. It’s because you used your language as means of communication long before your first day at school, so why should English be any different? (more…)

You Can Say Nearly Everything Using the Word “THING”!

Idiomatic Expressions: Why I’m Highlighting Some Bits of Text in Red in My Blog Posts

Here’s the short answer – they’re bits of spoken English any foreign English speaker should know to communicate effectively! They’re word combinations used by native English speakers and by using them you’re going to make your spoken English sound more natural and native-like. English collocations, phrasal verbs and sayings all fall under the broad category of these idiomatic expressions, and to put it simply – you can’t come up with these sort of sayings just by sticking the words together; you have to learn the EXACT phrase or word combination to be able to use it :!: There are also typical full English idioms among them, but I have to admit I have some reservations towards learning certain idioms like “It’s raining cats and dogs” or “pot calling the kettle black.” They are typical English idioms that you’ll find on any decent English idiom list online, yet they’re rarely heard in real life, if at all. My take on the whole English idiom thing (like it’s on spoken English in general) is the following – you don’t need to hammer loads of English idioms in your brain that you’re not going to use. You’d much better off using your potential as a foreign English speaker by learning idiomatic expressions because there’s a much bigger chance you’re going to use them in real life! How about the following ones: “for the argument’s sake”, “to jump to a conclusion”, “fit for the purpose”? These are typical idiomatic expressions that have some characteristics of full idioms, but at the same time it would be possible to derive their meaning from the words alone. Also, they don’t even need to be long phrases to fall under the category of idiomatic expressions. “On target”, “straight away”, “I’m all ears”, “big time” and similar short expressions are the ones that can make a difference between you being perceived a so-so English speaker or quite an advanced one! Not that you should care what others think of you, but still it’s nice to be capable of communicating with native English speakers like an equal, isn’t it? ;-) So to help you with learning these idiomatic expressions, I’ve been highlighting them in my blog posts in red color so that you can immediately see which bits are useful to memorize! (more…)

It Doesn’t Matter Who You Speak With – It’s All in Your HEAD!

Focus on What You CAN Say in English Instead of What You CAN’T!

When You Focus Too Much on What You CAN’T Say in English… … you find it very hard to concentrate on the topic at hand; your mind seems to be drifting away in a hundred different directions leaving you unable to have a normal conversation… … you have a feeling as if the stuff you want to say is right in front of you yet you can’t read it out… … you keep confusing words and making mistakes when speaking… … you constantly question yourself if you said it correctly – as a result you start making even more and more mistakes… … you’re just unable to produce normal, fluent English speech. What can be worse for you as a foreign English speaker? :sad: But let’s begin by looking at this issue by drawing parallels between spoken English and another type of activity I’m into. (more…)

Funny English Phrases #2 – Visiting a Doctor

Hi my fellow foreign English speakers! Here’s another video of my Funny English Phrases series – judging by the positive feedback I was getting after publishing the first video about shopping you seem to like these type of funny situation videos! This video has a few useful health related phrases and phrasal verbs in it, so watch it to make sure you know the meaning of those expressions! Or else you risk getting in embarrassing situations just like the character portrayed by me in the video! And one more thing – make sure you repeat those sentences out loud. It’s crucial to imprint English speech patterns into your mouth and vocal cords and there’s no way around it. You have to speak to improve your spoken English, my friend! Take care, Robby ;-)

Lost in Translation OR Why I Couldn’t Translate Gulliver’s Travels

I was watching TV the other day with my wife, kids and my sister-in-law. It was Gulliver’s Travels – a very nice family comedy, and as we settled down in the front of TV I was ready to translate it for my sister-in-law because her English isn’t as advanced as to understand every subtlety of English language. You’d think I was very comfortable with the task, right? So would I – until I realized it’s not easy at all given the fact I haven’t built my English vocabulary as direct translation from my native language. I’ve acquired the bulk of English that I use and understand by learning from context, mimicking native speakers and reading loads of English fiction. If you’re still wandering what it’s got to do with my inability to translate Gulliver’s Travels into Latvian for my sister-in-law, here’s a very detailed explanation. (more…)

English Improvement Trend & Inevitable Fluency Fluctuations – Why Is It Happening to Me?

Importance of Letting It Go!

Today I’ll tell you about a phrase I heard the other day on the radio and which got me thinking about how foreign English speakers are sometimes perceived among the native English speaking public. So I was listening to my favourite morning radio show and as usual listeners were sending in text messages and the DJ was reading them out. Among the other messages there was one that wouldn’t make a 100% sense to a native English speaker yet it was obvious what the listener had meant by it. I don’t really remember what exactly it was, to be honest with you. I just know that it was an awkward word combination not used in real life. It is, of course, quite natural for any native speaker to spot such an odd word combination. And indeed, any of us foreign English speakers having spent long enough time among other English speakers would also notice something that doesn’t sound right. Little that the radio DJ knew about how foreigners speak, he jumped to a conclusion that the person who had texted in that particular message hadn’t got a good command of English. You think it’s not a big deal? It is, and let me tell you why. (more…)

English Harmony System’s Review

Taking a Break from Speaking English May Have a Positive Effect on Your Fluency!

Hello everyone! Finally I’m back from holidays and I’m ready to start working on new videos, blog posts and also keep on editing new English Harmony lessons. Yes, yes, you heard me right, the English Harmony System 2.0 is going to be updated with new lessons and I’m planning to launch the new miniModules later on this year. Have you taken this year’s holidays yet? Are you having them later on during the summer? Anyway, no matter when you have them, one thing is for sure – we all need to unwind and get away from it all for a while. And would you believe, it’s not only beneficial for you personally, it’s got a tremendous impact on your performance whatever it is that you do. (more…)

Funny English Phrases #1 – Buying a Pair of Jeans

Hi my friends foreign English speakers! You must have noticed I’m not posting here on my blog as often as I used to, but you can rest assured that I’m not neglecting this project! I’m simply too busy editing new English Harmony lessons and working with my partner Will who creates all content for the lessons. So, while I’m working on the major English Harmony System’s update, I decided to post weekly short videos stuffed with useful everyday English phrases you can use in different situations – when shopping, visiting your doctor or even facing an interviewer in a job interview. Today’s video is dedicated to shopping. Watch it, and who knows - maybe some of those phrases will come handy the next time you’re out shopping for new clothes! Robby ;-)