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…)
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…)
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…)
5 Ways of Learning Natural English Collocations and Creating Useful Vocabulary Associations
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…)
Is Google Any Good For Improving Your Spoken English?
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…)
Moving to an English Speaking Country is Like Recovering Eyesight
Recently I watched a TV program about blind people recovering eyesight. What struck me most in the program was the fact that even if you restore a damaged optic nerve to its full capacity, the blind person isn’t necessarily going to function properly in terms of seeing the world around. IMPORTANT! -> Why I’m highlighting parts of text in RED? It appears that in order to see not only we need our eyes; our brain plays a crucial role in the process, too. And what was most shocking – if a person has been blind since birth or very early childhood, he or she may never learn how to “see” the word properly even if technically it would be possible. Human brain is simply unable to process graphical images from the outside world (read - any audiovisual information) and convert them into an adequate reflection into one’s mind IF it hasn’t been trained to do so :!: The man from the TV program had undergone surgery to recover eyesight, but getting around the town was still a tricky task. He learnt to recognize certain shapes and forms, but can you imagine what it feels like when you look down at a shadow on the sidewalk but you haven’t got a clue whether it’s a shadow cast by some object or a foot deep drop where the sidewalk ends? Your brain has been trained to recognize things from an early age and has seen millions of different shades throughout your lifetime. The man with recovered eyesight has to learn everything from scratch which makes it very, very difficult. What’s it got to do with spoken English, you’ll ask? Simple enough – if you’ve spent the biggest part of your live studying English the traditional way and then you move to an English speaking country, you’re in pretty much the same position as the man with the recovered eyesight walking around his residential estate. (more…)
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…)
Why Thursdays are My BEST English Fluency Days
Top 15 Invaluable Pieces of Advice for Foreigners Settling Down in an English Speaking Country
1. Be realistic about the level of interest in your national background by others. Be proud of your origins, but don’t be obsessed with telling every single person you meet about your country, your nationality, how “How are you” sounds in your native language, the name of your president, your favorite national soccer team… People will listen to you just to be polite, but don’t forget that for someone living in an English speaking country like the US, Australia or the UK, the name of your country might not ring any bells at all! Personally I quite like it when people don’t ask questions about my origins right off the bat and I’ve realized by now that whenever they DO ask that question “Where are you from?” right after you introduce yourself, it’s just small-talk really. So I think we foreigners should be realistic about the interest of locals in our culture and we shouldn’t be too enthusiastic! In my current job, for instance, I got two know two girls a couple of weeks ago and they didn’t seem to notice the fact that I was a foreigner. Not that they couldn’t tell it, but our conversations never went that far. Only recently they showed interest in my background, so I think it’s natural to speak about those topics when you get to know someone better rather than boasting to everyone how cool your country is! Many years ago I used to work with a bunch of Romanian lads, and believe me – there was nothing more annoying than listening to hours long stories of their home country and how great life was back there, and how miserable their situation is in Ireland… For Christ’s sake, will you get a grip on yourselves?!? Don’t take me wrong – I’m not saying there’s something wrong with being proud of your nationality, not at all! My point is – put yourself in the other person’s shoes and maybe you’ll realize the conversation is boring for your conversation partner. IMPORTANT! -> Why I'm highlighting parts of text in RED? 2. Stop spotting mistakes in native English speakers’ conversations and pointing them out to others. There is no such thing as correct English! English is spoken differently in many countries and regions so don’t be the perfectionist telling everyone how awful locals speak, and how grammatically wrong some of the most commonly used local phrases are. Oxford English and real English are hundreds of miles apart, and you’ll be more practical by learning spoken English as it’s spoken in the country you live in than spotting mistakes and pointing out that according to proper English standards this or that particular thing doesn’t sound right. I can tell you one thing I’ve heard quite often in the local Latvian community when we’ve touched the topic of English learning and improving – “Irish themselves don’t speak correct English!” I think it’s rather a handy excuse not to improve one’s English (if the locals don’t speak correctly, how they can accuse me of speaking wrong?), or just trying to show off one’s academic English knowledge which actually has much smaller practical application when going about the daily life. We, foreigners, should realize one thing – theoretical correctness has little importance in dealing with real life situations. So don’t be the perfectionist by keeping saying “Has it been done?” if you hear everyone else around you using a much simpler colloquial phrase “Is it done?” Also it’s important to understand that native English speakers don’t make mistakes because they lack spoken English skills. Their mistakes are “natural”, and we can’t use it as an excuse not to improve our English! (more…)
Learn English Irregular Verbs Through Collocations, Idioms and Phrasal Verbs
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
It Doesn’t Matter Who You Speak With – It’s All in Your HEAD!
Sometimes I don’t feel confident when speaking with native English speakers – I have an uneasy feeling that they’d judge my English skills and make the wrong assumptions. Sometimes I struggle when speaking with another foreign English speaker. I have difficulties choosing the right words if I’m not sure if he or she will understand me. As a result I may start hesitating and making silly mistakes and the other person may sound even more fluent than me! When I speak with a foreigner with a similar English fluency level, I may try to prove I’m a better English speaker. Eventually I also risk losing the natural flow of the language because of the excitement such a challenge inevitably entails. As you can see – you can’t win here, no matter who I speak with there’s a chance my English fluency is going to deteriorate… So the question is – how to deal with this? :mad: The answer, as often is the case, lies in the head ;-) (more…)
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…)
You’ve Gotta Be Ignorant to Be a Fluent English Speaker!
Why is It Difficult to Speak with Certain People in English?
Your English isn’t the same at all times. It changes. At times you may notice you can speak very fluently, with ease. Yet sometimes you may start struggling with speaking in English with someone for no apparent reason! You have to bear in mind that ups and downs are natural in any human related performance, and spoken English is no different. Unless, of course, you’re experiencing frequent occasions when your mind goes blank and you’re unable to speak in English at all – then we can start speaking about the typical English fluency issue which haunts so many foreign English speakers. Anyway, fluctuating English fluency is normal, and there are many factors playing an important role in your English fluency – your stress levels at the time of speaking, your overall mental performance, familiarity with the topic you’re discussing and also frequency of your spoken English practice. The more often you speak English, the better you should be able to perform – it’s actually common sense, isn’t it? Yet one of the most influential factors holding sway over your spoken English performance is PEOPLE you speak with :!: Haven’t you noticed that it’s very easy to communicate in English with certain people while others make you nervous and your start mispronouncing even the simplest words? I bet you can remember situations when you’ve discussed quite complicated matters in English and it didn’t present any difficulties to you at all; yet on other occasions you’ve felt uncomfortable speaking about simple, everyday topics! As I said – much of it depends on who you speak with, so let’s delve deeper into the issue so that I can finish off this article with a few pieces of useful advice on how to manage your English conversations regardless of who is your chat partner! (more…)
Funny English Phrases #2 – Visiting a Doctor
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!
English Harmony System’s Review
I want you to meet someone, my fellow foreign English speakers! Her name is Diana and she runs a great English learning website Helping You Learn English. Diana is an English teaching professional, and I guess that if she’s saying that my English Harmony System might just be the one thing you need to improve your English fluency, there is something to it, right? Anyway, let’s cut the rant, just watch the video above to see what Diana is saying in her review of the English Harmony System 2.0!
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…)
Improve Your Spoken English by Using Spaced Repetition
Don’t Be Conscious Of Your Own English Conversations!
Probably the most important piece of advice for foreign English speakers who wish to improve their English fluency is to shift their focus from technical details of their speech to the actual conversation and the person they’re speaking with. You know, we foreigners often tend to over-analyze when we speak English and it can lead to making all sorts of stupid mistakes. Being a perfectionist isn't going to make you into a fluent English speaker, so I’d say it’s very, very important to learn how to let it go and speak without being conscious of the way you speak, the way you pronounce words, and finally – the actual words you choose when speaking! It’s even possible to speak fluent English with a limited active vocabulary, and as far as you don’t think about what you can’t say but just say what you can, you’ll be more conversationally fluent than some other person who might possess more formal knowledge yet they’re too conscious to put it to good use! In other words, it’s all about being fully involved when speaking with someone instead of adopting an observer’s role and scrutinizing your own speech :!: Well, I know, I know that it’s easier said than done, but you just have to keep trying. Every time you’re having a conversation with someone in English, you have to force yourself to forget about formal English knowledge and grammar rules, and just speak. (more…)
Funny English Phrases #1 – Buying a Pair of Jeans
The Best English Class for Improving Your English Fluency
If you've any experience with taking English classes and trying to improve your spoken English, you must have realized that by rewriting English sentences in your copybook you won’t become fluent. And it’s totally correct because in order to improve your spoken English you simply need to practice your vocal cords and speak! So the sad conclusion you can draw is that in traditional English classes students are basically beating around the bush. But now I’m going to reveal the secret information about a super-effective English class that will increase your English fluency super-fast. I’ve been attending that class for more than two years now and I’m really excited about efficiency of the fluency improving methods provided in it! OK, I won’t keep you waiting for any longer. The name of the English class that I’m attending is – MY WORK! Is excitement leaving you like air leaves a punctured balloon? "How can Robby be so mean and lure me into watching this video because I’m hoping to find a good English class that would finally teach me how to speak?" Is that what you’re thinking? All right, I’ll be brutally honest with you. I had no intension of fooling you into watching this video under a false pretense. And I can tell you with all honesty that my work has indeed been the best English class ever! Within the last two years I’ve picked up more conversational English than in the previous years spent in Ireland together during which I had also attended advanced English classes. (more…)
The English Language is Multidimensional Indeed!
Retelling Stories Is a Perfect Way of Improving Your Spoken English!
How Robby Improves His Spoken English
I've been going on about improving spoken English for years and given you countless advice on how to become a better English speaker. If you're a bit tired of it all, watch this video where I'm telling about my own spoken English improving routine and what I do on a daily basis to maintain a high level of English fluency. In this video you'll find out the following things: why I still keep practicing spoken English with myself despite having a full time job in an English speaking environment; why I threw away all my English - Latvian pocket dictionaries and now I'm having a pocket phrase book; how playing a guitar helps me have real English conversations with friends and work colleagues; why I read fantasy fiction in English during my breaks at work! If you've any questions to ask in relation to this video or if you want to share your own English improving experiences - use the comments box below! Robby P.S. Are you ready to get on the fast track to spoken English fluency? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!