How To Get Involved When Speaking English
In this blog post I’ll be looking at one of the most dreadful things foreign English speakers come across – making MISTAKES. You might know the feeling – you start talking to someone in English, and then all of a sudden you make the most stupid mistake! And despite being a decent English speaker, the mistakes you make may create an impression that you’re just an English learner. It’s really irritating. It’s frustrating. Making mistakes like saying “he” instead of “she” or mixing up tenses and saying “had” instead of “has” should be something that only beginners do, isn’t that right? Yet it’s something that can happen to any of us no matter how fluently we speak! I’ve discussed this phenomenon at length on my blog previously and given plenty of advice on how to deal with those moments when you feel that you just can’t speak normally. At times there’s nothing better than just jumping into an English conversation and ignoring the mistakes you’re making. If it’s bound to happen, accept it and let go of the very fear of making those mistakes! Strangely enough, on many occasions it works. Having spent a few minutes chatting and forcing yourself to draw away your focus from mistakes to the conversation itself, you alleviate the self-imposed stress and your English fluency returns to normal. If it doesn’t help, you have to resort to another powerful tactic I’ve suggested previously on a number of articles and videos – slowing your speech down. On many occasions foreign English speakers are trying to match the speed of native English speakers’ speech and it can have quite the opposite effect. You may start stumbling upon words and make terrible mistakes just because you’re rushing your speech, and slowing down and pausing to pick the best fitting word is definitely a good idea. And sometimes when you’re so overwhelmed by the inability to speak normally, the best thing you can do is just forget about English for a while! Immersion in other activities allows your mind to “restart” itself and you can return to a normal English speaking mode the next day. There is, however, one aspect of making mistakes when speaking English that I haven’t yet touched on my blog. It’s about GETTING INOLVED when speaking. (more…)
Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced English Grammar? Nonsense!
Much of that stress you experience when learning and improving your English could be alleviated if there were no different English grammar complexity levels, isn’t that right? Just think about it. The moment a foreigner decides to learn or improve English, his success hugely depends on his attitude towards the process. Depending on the perceived difficulty he can either achieve that long-desired English fluency or become completely unmotivated to improve if the end goal of being a fluent English speaker seems like an epic task. I believe that ANY process – be it English learning, or learning high level chemistry isn’t difficult as far as you fully understand what’s being discussed in the particular lesson or book’s chapter OR you can replicate the results without focusing too much on the details :!: Even rocket science is easy once you know what you’re doing! ;-) I believe the same goes with English grammar. Well, first of all, I don’t think English students should focus on grammar as much as the industry requires them to do in the first place. Grammar is nothing more than bunch or rules determining how words are arranged in a sentence and you can learn it all just by speaking mimicking native English speakers because spoken English already has all NATURAL grammar in it! But if you do incorporate certain amount of English grammar studies in your English improving routine, you may become overwhelmed by its complexity. All the grammar terms ranging from very easy ones such as a verb and a noun and ending with advanced high-end grammar stuff like conditional sentences and compound sentences will make you feel that there’s so much to acquire and that you need to spend long, long years learning all that stuff. And you’re right. If you want to become an English teacher and know all ABOUT English grammar, it will be a lengthy task indeed. If, on the other hand, you want to become a fluent English speaker, your perception suddenly changes. You don’t need to divide English grammar into beginners, intermediate and advanced because it will only inhibit your progress. Do you want to see a proof that there’s no easy and difficult English grammar? All right, no problems! (more…)
Spoken English Topics and Technical Aspects of Spoken English Exercising
Find It Hard to Do Spoken English Practice? Write It Down First! This video is a follow-up to the last video episode which was about the importance of practising spoken English with yourself in case you’ve got no-one to talk to! After the last episode I received quite a few e-mails asking what topics you can discuss with yourselves. I’ve come to realize that it’s not that easy for everyone to think of something to talk about so I decided to dedicate today’s video episode to various topics you can use as source of inspiration to kick-start your English practicing routine. But before you even attempt practicing English with yourself, you should remember the following. Don’t try to talk about something that is detached from reality. Don’t try to convince yourself that you should speak about something that you don’t actually take any interest in :!: A typical example of this would be taking some English learning material and reading a certain topic and then trying to create a monologue around that topic. Well, you may succeed and have a nice chat with yourself about, say, concepts of time and distance, and similar. On most occasions however, if you try to create a monologue around something that isn’t relevant for you personally, the chances are that you’ll find the very idea of such speech practicing very boring and you’ll give up after a while! :-( So the most important piece of advice to anyone who decides to engage in regular English monologues is the following – talk about something that reflects your interests, your personal and professional affairs, generally speaking – your life! And now let’s look at particular spoken English topics you can always count on not be become boring! (more…)
Does Integration of Foreigners into English Speaking Society Work?
Mimicking – The Best Way to Learn English Collocations!
If you read my previous blog post about English collocations, you’ll remember that a collocation is a group of two or more words that are naturally used together in written and spoken English – such as “a tough decision”, “renewable energy”, “foreseeable future” or “to draw a comparison between.” Many collocations are strong, which means that you if you replace one of the words with a synonym, native English speakers would notice that it doesn’t sound right. For instance, if you say “replenishable energy”, it would sound a bit odd because “renewable energy” has been accepted worldwide as a standard way to describe energy sources like wind, water and solar energy. Many collocations aren’t that strong. For instance if you say “a hard decision”, it sounds absolutely fine despite “a tough decision” being a standard collocation you’d find in English Grammar books. But why is it important for us, foreign English speakers? Why should we care about English collocations? The reason is simple enough. Bonds that keep words together in collocations also determine word PATTERNS in spoken and written English in general :!: We may be under impression that collocations were invented by English teachers in order to annoy students and make their studies harder. (Frankly speaking, I can partially agree with this if collocations are looked at as a separate section of English language studies instead of being used as an integral part of speaking and writing English.) In reality if we, foreigners, want to achieve English fluency we need to incorporate learning collocations in our daily English improving routine as part of acquiring new vocabulary and phraseology. You just can't ignore natural English word patterns otherwise your English will sound weird, simple as that! But don’t cram long collocation lists into your brain. Be selective! (more…)
No-one to Talk to? Practice English With Yourself!
Read This if You’re Dreading Making Phone Calls in English!
Are you constantly freaking out over making phone calls because you think you won’t be able to say things in English? Are you always putting off making appointments over phone because you dread the moment when you have to explain something and the person on the other side won’t understand what you’re saying? Or maybe you just fear that you’ll get stuck for words while trying to explain the reason of your phone call? Wherever your fear originates, it’s unfounded! I think you’d be in for a nice surprise to find out that you’re actually much better off holding a phone to your ear in terms of maintaining English fluency, so keep reading this blog post to find out why I’m making such a claim! (more…)
Can Present Continuous Substitute Present Simple Tense?
Unleash Your English Fluency with the English Harmony System 2.0!
What Any Foreign English Speaker Can Learn from Benicio Del Toro
One of the biggest traps that foreign English speakers fall for is trying to speak TOO FAST. You know what? Even I still fall for it every once in a while, and every time it happens I literally have to persuade myself by saying – “Robby, calm down, don’t rush, you know it for a fact that it doesn’t matter if it takes you 10 seconds longer to get the message across! Take your time, slow down and you’re going to be much easier to understand!” Yet so many foreigners are under the wrong impression that to speak fluent English you must speak fast. Well, most native English speakers would indeed speak English quite fast – just like any other native language speaker would speak their language. It’s not always the case though. There are situations when EVEN NATIVE SPEAKERS would find it hard to maintain a continuous, fast speech. Stressful environment, high expectations from others, not being familiar with the topic that’s being discussed – all these and a number of other factors may seriously impede any native English speaker’s natural ability to produce fast, continuous and uninterrupted speech. So if even native English speakers can run into such problems, why would foreigners like me and you be any different? I think that our ability to speak English shouldn’t be judged on our nationality grounds. We, just like any native English speaker, are entitled to have moments of confusion, take time to make the point, and it shouldn’t be perceived as an inability to speak fluent English. It should be taken for what it is – slower speech - and it shouldn’t be attributed to our foreign national background! On many occasions a slow and controlled manner of speech doesn’t even indicate any issues the speaker might be having. It’s just the way the particular person speaks, and whether others like it or not, they have to accept it, full stop :!: One of my favorite actors Benicio Del Toro, for example, quite often speaks slowly and takes his time choosing the right words when giving interviews. He doesn’t give a damn about what others might think about it! And mind this – he’s a Hollywood celebrity and speaks fluent English. Well, originally he’s from Puerto Rico and speaks Spanish, but he’s spent most of his life in the States and his English is absolutely fluent. So here’s what you can learn from Benicio: It’s OK to pause in a mid-sentence; It’s OK to repeat a word a number of times to buy time; It’s OK to speak very slowly! (more…)
Accept Your English Fluency Limitations!
Read the following carefully – you have to be aware of your limitations in terms of English fluency yet you have to constantly improve your spoken English. Are we looking at an apparent contradiction here? Not at all! Let’s introduce some algebra to help us understand this concept. Look at this hyperbolic graph. It’s one of the best ways to help us grasp the concept of confined infinity. Essentially it’s the same way as saying that you can constantly keep improving your spoken English but at the same time you can expect there to be a cap, a limit to that growth. So what the graph above shows is the following. The hyperbolic graph keeps constantly approaching the axis but it never meets it. This line extends infinitely and in theory if you would be able to keep zooming in, you’d see that it never touches the x axis. But just think about this – the axis in itself is a limitation in space, so it marks a certain level. And it’s right here when we can draw parallels with constantly improving English fluency yet it’s limited by your personal circumstances. (more…)
Do You Really NEED to Improve Your Spoken English?
My Controversial Views On Correct English & British and American English
Today’s video episode is dedicated to all those perfectionists out there who are always concerned about the wellbeing of the English language. All those who start whining about the demise of English whenever they hear the slightest deviation from standard English pronunciation or grammar. All those who’ll waste hours of their time on online English learning forums debating merits of using this or that particular adverb or preposition. All those who’ll perfectly spot the slightest difference between American and British English and argue in favor of one or the other referring to lists of differences between the two. All those who say things like – “Just listen to him; he can’t speak proper English despite being American/British/Irish!” My one and only question to you, my dear perfectionists, is the following: “What is this so-called proper English you all seem to be worshipping? How do you define correct speech and why are you so obsessed with making sure everyone speaks super correctly?” I know it’s a rhetorical question and no-one can give me an answer right now, so I’ll try to answer this question myself because I have a very strong opinion in this regard! ;-) (more…)
Don’t Compare Your English With Others!
How To Make Your English Sound Right? Use Collocations!
If you ask an average English speaker what a collocation is, they’ll probably shrug their shoulders and will ask you to provide an explanation. Well, I’ve no problems doing it for you! Collocations are words that normally go together in written and spoken English. They make your English sound more fluent and native-like, and it’s when you get a collocation wrong when people would say – “Well, it doesn’t sound right, they don’t say it like that in English…” The tricky part is that there are no English Grammar rules stipulating how and when certain words go together, you simply have to develop “the feel” of how words are naturally used. Basically you have to learn English collocations and incorporate them into your spoken and written English. For instance, when you go back to work after a few days illness, you’d tell your work colleagues that you’re “fully recovered”. If you use any other word with “recovered” – “completely recovered”, “absolutely recovered” or “totally recovered” – it doesn’t sound as good as the natural collocation “fully recovered”. The two words – “fully” and “recovered” are the ones that naturally go together in English language, so we can say that those words collocate with each other. Collocations are somewhat similar to English idioms. Just like idioms they’re word combinations that are used by native English speakers and you just have to learn those phrases to be able to use them; you can’t just translate the same meaning from your native language and stick relevant English words together :!: However, it won’t make you a better English speaker if you only KNOW what a collocation is. Knowing alone doesn’t make you fluent, and that’s obvious to me now after my years long pursuit of English fluency! So let’s cut the rant, and let’s get straight down to the business! ;-) (more…)
Get the FREE eBook “Power of English Phrasal Verbs”
WILL and GOING TO English Future Forms: How to Use Them in Conversations
2010 in Retrospect – the Best Blog Posts and Videos!
It’s been nearly a full year since I launched my English Harmony System 2.0 - but it seems as if it happened just a few months ago, time is just flying by! Now we’re all standing on the doorstep of yet another New Year with the same dreams and expectations as every year – and I really hope many of them will come true! For my blog readers the main dream is to achieve a level of spoken English fluency where they wouldn’t have to hesitate and experience sudden drops in ability to speak. Many of you have achieved it thanks to what I’m doing here on EnglishHarmony.com - and I can assure you I’ll keep running my website the same way in 2011 as well. Regular blog posts about improving spoken English fluency, confidence building videos, practical English Grammar videos – all of this and a whole lot more is in the pipeline for 2011! But now let’s look back at this year’s most popular blog posts and videos in case you missed them back then or you weren’t following my blog at the time. (more…)
Forget About WILL Future Tense – Use Present Progressive Instead!
Hello my friends, and Happy Christmas to everyone! :-) I’m back with another practical English grammar lesson, and today let’s look at how to talk about future in conversational English. Just to remind you what I'm teaching in Practical English Grammar – it’s conversational English and it’s not always 100% correct. Real life English is different from school books and text books, so I’m using my extensive experience as a foreign English speaker living in an English speaking country to help you speak more fluently. All right, so let’s look at how we speak about future events in English. The standard grammatical Future Tense in English is formed by using “WILL” followed by the verb's infinitive form. However, this is far from the full picture of how you can describe future in English. To be more precise, this is just one quarter of possibilities that the English language offers, and here are the other three ways how you can describe a future action: I’m going to come home, I’m coming home, I come home. Are you slightly confused? Are you thinking now – “Why is Robby giving examples of Present Progressive and Simple Present Tenses? They’re clearly used to describe actions taking place right now, in this very moment!” Well, you’re right, they are used for that purpose, but Present Progressive, for instance, can also be used to describe Future actions which have already been arranged and the very fact of the arrangement is kind of going on right now, does that make sense? If you say “I’m coming home tomorrow” you mean indeed that you are going to arrive back home tomorrow, but you have apparently decided at some stage that you’ll come home. So as far as English grammar is concerned, the progressive action is already taking place – since the moment you decided that you would come the action is kind of happening - only taking place tomorrow instead of now. (more…)
Isn’t English “Improving” and “Learning” the Same?!
Don’t Look for a Silver Bullet when Improving Your English!
In these modern times everyone expects FAST and EASY results. Just look around you – celebrities go on crash diets and lose weight FAST (and EASY, too). Bodybuilders pile on massive poundage within a couple of weeks during the bulking phase of their training regimes (with a little help of anabolic steroids, but – hey, does anyone mind as far as the gains are big and FAST?) Enormous, record-breaking and futuristic-shaped buildings are built in Dubai under very tense deadlines – and it also has to be done in a record-short time and FAST. These days they build faster trains, faster planes, faster food processors and faster computer processors. There’s hundreds of thousands of interlinked industries operating on our planet 24/7/365 and – you guessed it right – they operate under strict regulations, tight deadlines, and people have to work damn FAST to make everything happen. Did you truly believe a couple of decades ago that modern technology-driven world will eventually give us more free time and robots will perform all tedious and time-consuming tasks? I’m sorry to ruin your dream, but the harsh reality is that the more you can accomplish, the more free time you have for being even MORE PRODUCTIVE, so eventually you’re forced to learn how to get things done FASTER (and EASIER – as enforced by modern advertising, so the gullible crowd falls for yet another improved washing powder which helps them achieve impeccably white clothes compared to the old, crappy product X). Not surprisingly, the very technology we design and produce helps as along the way, and these days getting fast results in any aspect of life is irrevocably linked to using special equipment, professional advice, special courses, or a piece of software. Want to have a perfect six-pack abs? You definitely have to use one of those thousand abs machines. If you don’t – you’re guaranteed to sustain spinal injuries or at least a sprained neck trying to do the same ol’ abs crunches (never mind Rocky never used one in any of his films…). Want to make some extra money by doing part-time cleaning job? There’s no way can you start doing it unless you have passed a special course teaching you how to use a brush and mop up the floor! Do you see where I’m going with this? These days the world has gone mad by trying to optimize, standardize, streamline and super-size. These basic assumptions – that one has to achieve things FAST and use a set of sophisticated, very technical METHODS – has been deeply ingrained into our society’s collective awareness :!: The very same goes with English improving. (more…)
Having a Bad English Day? So Does Everyone From Time to Time!
How I Stopped Being a Non-native English Speaker…
Until about a year ago I considered myself a non-native English speaker. I arrived in Ireland back in 2002 from a small country in Baltic region. It’s roughly the size of Ireland but it has only half of Ireland’s population. Its capital is called Riga and our crimson-white-crimson flag represents a blood-stained stretcher used to carry mortally wounded soldiers from a battle-field. The country I’m talking about is called Latvia – andÂ I'mÂ one in a 1.5 million people on this planet whose native language is Latvian. Anyway, I chose the settle in an English speakingÂ country so I’m here for more than 8 years now and by the looks of it I’ll stay here for the foreseeable future. Living in an English speaking society has presented many challenges along the way – most of them due to my lack of English fluency. But I always faced up to the difficulties and thanks to my love for the English language I can enjoy communicating with locals easily and naturally. So after about 8 years spent in Ireland I stopped being a non-native English speaker! Brace yourself! I’m about to reveal one of the biggest secrets of integration into an English speaking society and how to stop being a non-native English speaker! :shock: So here we go… (more…)
Wake Up from the English Grammar Matrix!
Conquer Your Fear of Making Mistakes when Speaking English!
Boring English Grammar or Cool Fiction – Make Up Your Mind!
All foreign English learners, improvers, grammar enthusiasts and bookworms – this blog post is for you :!: But first – a couple of words about me and my relationship with reading. I love reading! No – seriously, even though some of my blog posts might seem to be promoting spoken English exclusively, I do it for the sole purpose of encouraging foreign English speakers to speak. After all, this blog is dedicated to those who struggle with English SPEAKING and I’ll never tell you to read plenty of English literature and print media in order to improve your SPOKEN English because… it’s lies :shock: It’s big, fat lies told to you by traditional English learning proponents simply because they don’t know any better and also because they studied English at school following the very same methods. They still believe you can soak in all the English material you’re reading like a giant sponge and then start speaking and use all you’ve learnt and read. Folks, it just doesn’t happen that way, in order to speak you need to speak! However, it’s worth noting that I haven’t said a single word about English reading being bad as such. And I never will, because I’ve always been reading a lot throughout my life. Since I reached complete English reading fluency, I’ve been reading mostly historical fiction and fantasy in English, and I must tell you – I’m loving it! ;-) OK, I’ll get back to today’s story, so let’s cut the rant and get down to what I wanted to tell you! (more…)
Another 3 Reasons Why Learning English at School Sucks!
Recently I published a blog post called “4 Reasons Why Studying English at School Won’t Make You a Fluent English Speaker” where I discussed drawbacks of the traditional way of studying the English language.Â I’ll give you a quick overview of the previous article but of course if you haven’t read it you’d better check it out – it might prove to be quite an eye-opener for you! So why am I so much against the traditional English teaching methods? :!: First of all, the grammar translation method which is still prevalent even in this day and age, was founded back in the 18th century. Back in the olden days foreign language learning was still in its infancy and academics assumed that it had to follow the same pattern as other disciplines – Math, Physics, and Chemistry. Fast forward to the 21st century… and they still teach English at school with the same grammar translation method that is unnatural and uses students’ native language as reference medium to acquire the target language! :!: Second reason – school English studies focus on STUDYING the language rather than LEARNING English. English students are required to know all about grammar constructs, word types and syntax but real, spoken English is being neglected at the same time. This doesn’t make any sense to me; it’s like learning all about your leg muscle fibers and leg movement kinetics if your main goal is to learn how to dance! :!: The third reason is something even you might find hard to agree with, namely – English grammar difficulty levels. What I’m saying is – there’s no such thing as difficult or easy grammar, if you learn English naturally all grammar already comes with it and the ability of speaking efficiently is mainly down to every individual’s vocabulary size. The old school supporters argue that it’s not the case and one has to spend long years studying English Grammar from the beginner’s level up to advanced. But you’d better go back to the original blog post to read about it in depth and figure out where you stand on this. :!: Lastly I presented a number of counterarguments to approaching English and exact sciences with the same teaching methods. To put it simply, it’s all about recognizing that in the word driven by technological advancements during the Industrial Revolution, exact sciences where in the biggest demand and the modern educational system still mirrors those old, archaic assumptions about how students are to be taught subjects at schools and colleges. But why am I returning to the same topic again? Well, I simply couldn’t pack all the information I wanted to in a single blog post because there’s a whole lot more to say about the traditional way of teaching English! So here we go again with another 3 shocking reasons why academic English studies inhibit your English learning progress. (more…)
Have You Got the Guts To Improve Your English?
4 Reasons Why Studying English at School Won’t Make You a Fluent English Speaker
Many of us, foreign English speakers, began our English studies at school, so it would be only logical if the vast majority of use spoke impeccable English. Seven years long English studies will supposedly make you into a near-native English speaker, and we shouldn’t expect anything less from our educational system, isn’t it right? When an average student is required to speak English in an informal situation, however, the cold reality hits home – most of foreigners having gone through the standard educational system are very poor English speakers :!: I went through the whole spectrum of emotions starting from shock and ending with despair when I realized that my real-life English was useless back in the days when I just moved to an English speaking country. Throughout the following years up to present days I’ve improved greatly and at the same time I’ve also figured out why my school English studies didn’t contribute into my English fluency at all! What you’ll read below might shock you and you’ll realize that you’ve probably never looked at this subject from this perspective before. Sometimes a cold shower is necessary, though, so that you can start thinking outside the box and draw the right conclusions about your previous and existing English studying efforts. Whether you’re in Malaysia, Argentina or Canada and thousand miles separate you from other English students of different race, nationality and language, you’re most likely sitting in a classroom with 10 – 30 other students and staring at your English teacher… (more…)
How To Speak About Past Events During English Conversations
Written English is from Venus, Spoken English – from Mars!
I’m so overwhelmed by the need to discuss this topic that I can barely contain my excitement! It’s been a controversy all along the way and it seems to me that many foreign English speakers still don’t differentiate much between spoken and written English. But those two creatures are from different planets indeed, and here’s why it’s important for you as a foreign English speaker: By learning English the traditional way you can become very good at writing but you still won’t be able to speak English fluently :!: Fluency in either of them doesn’t necessarily guarantee fluency in another! Majority of foreign English speakers and also natives aren’t aware of the huge differences between those two. But it’s that simple indeed – judging by your writing you might be mistaken for a native English speaker but when you open your mouth you might be constantly running into difficulties with verbalizing your thoughts and expressing yourself properly! Have you ever encountered such issue? I bet you have – so keep reading this article and you’ll find out a whole lot more about it! I know this for a fact because I’ve been a good English writer for a long time – long before I achieved speaking confidence. And I also know it too well that being an excellent writer can actually have a detrimental effect on your spoken English. Are you surprised to hear that? Well, it should come as no surprise at all if you just dwell on it a bit! If a foreign English speaker has achieved fluency in English writing, he/she is risking becoming too complacent and not paying enough attention to English speaking :!: The awareness of being a very good English writer reinforces one’s notion that they’ve achieved the utmost English fluency. And if you’re clapped on the back for being an excellent English writer by others with comments like: "Your English is perfect, you’re better than most native English speakers that I know!", you really risk losing the grip of reality! (more…)
Respect Your Native Language in order to… Speak Fluent English?
Face Your Biggest Fears – Halloween Ghosts and English Speaking!
Warning! Don’t Start Improving Your English Before Watching THIS!
You’ve figured out that your English needs improvement. You’ve been putting it off for a long time but finally you’re ready to get down to the business. Maybe it’s the circumstances forcing you to start working on your English improvement – such as moving to an English speaking country or facing English speaking customers at work. Maybe you just feel like starting something new and refreshing your English knowledge sounds like a good idea. Whatever the reason – don’t jump into 101 activities for improving your English unless you’ve watched the 25th English Harmony Video Episode! It’s a MUST see video if you don’t want to end up in a vicious circle of chasing your tail :!: (more…)