≡ Menu

Start Improving Your Spoken English Today! Sign Up NOW!

Want Solid Proof that Spoken English Self-practice Works? Check This Out!

Check out these comments made by foreign English speakers who practice spoken English by themselves – just goes to show how effective the strategy of speaking with yourself is when improving your English fluency!

Speaking in English with yourself works

Speaking in English with yourself works

Speaking in English with yourself works

Speaking in English with yourself works

Speaking in English with yourself works

Speaking in English with yourself works

Speaking in English with yourself works

Now, did it convince you guys that speaking with yourself really IS a very, very powerful technique in your array of tools when working on your English fluency?

I bet it did! 😉

Chat soon,

Robby

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • “…replicating what we have heard obviously requires a lot of effort and attentiveness. That’s why it’s much easier to believe a very common misconception that little children are like sponges who just soak up a language and to listen passively instead of actively with great attention and to skip the whole replicating process altogether and to hope that the miracle happens and one day we’ll start to speak like natives” – this is just spot-on – and I think that it puts the final nail in the whole learn-English-like-a-baby myth coffin! 😉
    Thanks so much for the prolific debate, Juhapekka, and let me tell you that such comment exchange makes my day every time I see a comment from you!
    Btw – I just realized you’ve been reading my blog for about 2 years or even longer – massive thanks to you man, I really appreciate it and I hope you’ll stick around for the years to come! ;-)))
    Best Regards,
    Robby

  • Juhapekka

    Yes. That’s exactly what I meant! When it comes to your last reasoning, I think that it makes a lot of sense:

    We have just forgotten how hard it was and how much effort it required to learn to speak and that’s why we have that notion in our minds that we learnt our native language very easily and effortlessly when we were babies. Secondly, babies and little children tend to enjoy learning despite all the difficulties and frustrations and that’s the second reason why it’s so easy to forget how much babies actually work and how much they practice without being even aware of it. I think we have found the common factor: Both babies and adults should do their UTMOST given their level of capabilities while being immersed in the English speaking environment that is comprehensible enough. That way the whole learning process kind of takes care of itself as long as we are really attentive when we are listening and as long as we do our utmost to replicate what we hear and we also try to speak creatively.

    Now it seems to me that even though “learn like a baby-approach” isn’t necessarily the best way to learn, it’s still much better way to learn than we initially thought. The real problem is that very few people are really learning like babies because it seems to require a lot of effort and willingness to enjoy the learning process. Both of the following things that babies do in their own way given their level of development require a lot of effort: 1) attentive listening is actually very active process because we have to distinguish new pronunciation patterns and to make sense of the speech that is completely unintelligible gibberish at first (Even attentive listening is still totally passive in the sense that our mouth muscles aren’t engaged at all) and 2) replicating what we have heard obviously requires a lot of effort and attentiveness. That’s why it’s much easier to believe a very common misconception that little children are like sponges who just soak up a language and to listen passively instead of actively with great attention and to skip the whole replicating process altogether and to hope that the miracle happens and one day we’ll start to speak like natives. In fact, little children may be even the most hard-working language learners who just are able to relax when they have to relax. Babies also don’t have inhibitions and they don’t get embarrassed when they make mistakes. All of these things explain why little children seem to be “sponges” even though they aren’t “sponges”.

    And of course, it’s better to find the way that works best for adults, but we still have a lot to learn from babies. As I said, I think that the problem is that most people don’t have the right understanding what babies actually do when learning a language.

    The equivalency between babies and adults may be more complicated and trickier than our reasonings would suggest, but I think we have already shed a lot of light to this issue.

  • Hi Juhapekka,

    Your point is taken – now I understand fully what you meant and it’s actually a VERY, VERY valid point that you just brought up!!!!

    We can’t just take the concept of a mumbling baby who’s being observant of the surrounding world and transfer it into our adult world because, just like you said, “it’s surprisingly difficult to know what is the exact equivalent of babies’ crying and syllable mumbling because the differences between babies and adults are so big!”
    Well, actually… Come to think of it – maybe we can try and think of what an equivalent adult behavior would be like? (it just literally crossed my mind this very second!!!)
    Perhaps we should think along the following lines – the baby most likely does his UTMOST given his level of development. If he can’t physically speak yet – he’ll listen at best he can. The moment his level of development allows him to start making some sounds – he’ll do his utmost to mumble thus pushing himself to the very limits thereby advancing his sound producing organ development.
    So, if we go by this logic, an equal level of performance from an adult language learner would be doing their UTMOST and trying and replicating the target language with their mouths as soon as they start hearing it!
    What do you think of my reasoning?
    Robby

  • Juhapekka

    Thanks Robby for your detailed comment! Everything that you said makes perfect sense and I understand your points perfectly. I’ll elaborate my last paragraph a bit because I noticed that it may be misleading or at least it is ambiguous:

    “And when it comes to little children, … Babies also mumble syllables such as ta ta da da ma ma and thus training their mouth. As I see it now, there isn’t really much that would support a silent period theory because even little children don’t have any kind of complete silent period. Perhaps certain kind of silent period is needed (although I wouldn’t necessarily call it a silent period anymore), but absolutely not in the way how some language experts are advocating it.”
    I’m not sure whether you understood my last paragraph in the way I intended it to be and I agree what you said:
    “I’ve touched upon this one before. The thing is – we, adult English learners, aren’t babies anymore! Our brain is fully developed and functional, so there’s no reason in the world why we shouldn’t try and speak from day one.”

    My main point was that EVEN IF mimicking babies were the best way for adults to learn a language, we shouldn’t experience a silent period because babies don’t experience a silent period, either, but we should train our mouth somehow. The problem when trying to mimic babies lies in the fact you already said:
    “Our brain is fully developed and functional” and our mouth muscles are also fully developed when it comes to our native language. That’s why it’s surprisingly difficult to know what is the exact equivalent of babies’ crying and syllable mumbling because the differences between babies and adults are so big. I don’t know enough about medical sciences and biology to be sure whether the humankind even knows what would be babies’ way to learn languages if they happened to be adults. But anyway, I think that is one reason why all learning methods where we would learn a language like babies is nonsense because the creators of those “learn like a baby-methods” don’t actually know how we should learn languages if we were to learn them like babies. And the second reason you have already given is completely valid and I agree with you.

    Maybe I should have rewritten my last sentence “Perhaps certain kind of silent period is needed (although I wouldn’t necessarily call it a silent period anymore), but absolutely not in the way how some language experts are advocating it.” altogether because I originally meant that “a silent period is NOT needed” even though I said that “Perhaps certain kind of silent period is needed” in the main clause. The subordinate clause in the brackets “although I wouldn’t necessarily call it a silent period anymore” and the sentence after the but “absolutely not in the way how some language experts are advocating it” are important in order to understand what I meant. But anyway, my last sentence is misleading and in our university we were actually taught that the main point should be in the main clause. Sorry for the tricky wording, Robby.

  • Thanks Juhapekka for commenting, it’s always great to get your comments!

    “I think it starts to be almost impossible to not to get convinced of the benefits of spoken English practice when we visit your blog, Robby” – yes, I know I’ve been CONSTANTLY speaking and preaching about this topic, but guess why I can’t stop? Mostly 2 reasons: 1) most people just don’t get it having been told about the effectiveness of spoken English self-practice for the first time. It’s human nature – people believe what they want to believe, and it takes a lot of exposure to a new concept before people start thinking “hey, maybe there is something to it after all…” 2) there’s a constant flow of new visitors to my blog, so if I didn’t repeat the same message every now and then, my new visitors wouldn’t have a clue what the English Harmony philosophy is all about!

    “This is because, if we think logically, spoken English practice doesn’t only work, but it is the only approach that CAN work” – well, guess what? Most people are so indoctrinated by the mainstream English teaching industry that they simply can’t think straight! They can’t follow this simple logic because what they think is “My English is bad, I have to do more listening and reading, and watching TV, and memorize vocabulary…” – I know it only too well because I was thinking the very same way back in the day.

    “I think this thing is crystal clear both empirically and logically and I wonder why I didn’t understand it in the first place” – well, just like I said – it’s all about the large-scale brainwashing that’s going on in the English teaching industry. If you’re told from an early age that the textbook and listening approach is the way to go, you just can’t see beyond that. Yes, it’s shocking, and I totally agree with you – if you think about it, it only makes perfect sense that one should use one’s mouth in order to get better at speaking, but you would be surprised Juhapekka, at the amount of people asking me the same questions every day “Why can’t I speak Robby, will watching TV and reading help me to speak better; please help me to speak Robby, I don’t understand why can’t I speak – I’ve been doing everything – reading, watching TV but nothing works…” – which just goes to show that my work will never be finished and I’ll have to constantly talk about this very basic concept of spoken English practicing.

    “He acquired excellent writing skills although he had never practiced writing. However, if his paralysis could be cured and he got his speaking skills back with fully functional and health mouth muscles, I bet that he couldn’t say even one single sound that would be comprehensible” – totally agree with you Juhapekka, and your research just proves that it’s typical for the industry – and it’s not just the English teaching industry – to take something out of context and build entire philosophies around misconceptions! We’ve all read ground-breaking news articles from time to time about some latest discovery that completely proves some generally accepted fact wrong. A good example would be a recent revelation that eating whole eggs doesn’t actually contribute to cardiovascular disease because it’s been discovered that your actual cholesterol intake has nothing to do with your blood cholesterol – but for years we’d been taught not to eat too many eggs as it may be harmful. And I’m sure you could think of plenty of such and similar examples yourself!

    “Despite this, I don’t still understand fully why this misconception is so common and seems to be wide-spread throughout the world” – well, I guess I know why this misconception is so common! It’s simply because it’s human nature to go with the EASY option, people always tend to look for shortcuts and the easy solution to a problem. So, if presented with the following two options: 1) speak from day one, and speak all the time; 2) listen your way to fluency – it’s quite natural for the latter to seem a whole lot more appealing for the simple reason that it doesn’t require hard work and most importantly – it doesn’t require people to feel UNCOMFORTABLE which is inevitable when you start speaking and making a lot mistakes!
    “Their mistakes are naturally smoothed with more input and spoken practice.” – exactly!!!!
    “Babies also mumble syllables such as ta ta da da ma ma and thus training their mouth. As I see it now, there isn’t really much that would support a silent period theory because even little children don’t have any kind of complete silent period. Perhaps certain kind of silent period is needed ” – I’ve touched upon this one before. The thing is – we, adult English learners, aren’t babies anymore! Our brain is fully developed and functional, so there’s no reason in the world why we shouldn’t try and speak from day one.
    Thanks for the superb comment, Juhapekka, and chat soon!
    Regards,
    Robby

  • Juhapekka

    I think it starts to be almost impossible to not to get convinced of the benefits of spoken English practice when we visit your blog, Robby. We know from experience that it works very well, but it should be clear even without any experience that it is the only way to go. This is because, if we think logically, spoken English practice doesn’t only work, but it is the only approach that CAN work. The reasoning is the following: Mouth is a muscle and our undeveloped mouth muscles can’t produce sounds that require lip, jaw, tongue and other muscle movements that are unfamiliar to our mouth muscles. That’s why the only options that remain are the activities where those muscles are engaged and practiced: actual spoken practice and its other variations such as reading out loud, shadowing, mimicking and any other possible variations of spoken practice. Even if we only think logically without taking our experiences into consideration, it still seems impossible that any other approach than spoken English practice could work. I think this thing is crystal clear both empirically and logically and I wonder why I didn’t understand it in the first place. I think my previous reasoning is pretty convincing, but it still doesn’t assure anyone who fails to realize that mouth is a muscle and those muscles are atrophied just like any other muscles in our body if we don’t use them.

    In order to understand better why this flawed “input only”-approach exists, I googled a little bit trying to find proofs that we could learn to speak through input alone. I found some very interesting examples that we could get great output skills without output practice, but according to those case studies, you can learn to write without any output practice, but they didn’t mention any benefits when it comes to speaking! Here is the link http://www.antimoon.com/how/input-boydell.htm for the remarkable and truly inspiring story of Richard Boydell who was a disabled child and he couldn’t speak or write because most of his body was paralyzed. He acquired excellent writing skills although he had never practiced writing. However, if his paralysis could be cured and he got his speaking skills back with fully functional and health mouth muscles, I bet that he couldn’t say even one single sound that would be comprehensible. Even though my next parallel is a little bit inappropriate in some sense because Richard Boydell is really paralyzed and I have never been by any means, I still mention that paralysis is the word that reminded me of my past inability to say anything: Many years ago I just couldn’t speak because my mouth was so unable to speak correctly that I felt that my mouth was almost like paralyzed when it came to speaking English. This all just goes to show that this boils down to UNTRAINED mouth.

    One authority that is very often quoted when defending input-approaches is Stephen Krashen and his input hypothesis and I have read that he emphasizes the importance of input, but he wouldn’t still think that we shouldn’t speak -it’s actually quite the opposite according to him – Krashen just emphasizes the importance of getting a lot of enough comprehensible input BEFORE and WHILE producing output. I got the impression that Krashen points out the importance of input explicitly, but he points out the importance of output much more implicitly and that’s why many learners and teachers may have understood his theories incorrectly. Despite this, I don’t still understand fully why this misconception is so common and seems to be wide-spread throughout the world.

    And when it comes to little children, they make mistakes constantly while being immersed in their native language environment. I have also read that if children’s mistakes are corrected, it has hardly any effect on how many mistakes they make. Their mistakes are naturally smoothed with more input and spoken practice. All babies also cry a lot from the very beginning (this random thought just came to my mind: perhaps babies cry a lot because the nature has wanted to make sure that their mouth muscles will be trained from the very beginning). Babies also mumble syllables such as ta ta da da ma ma and thus training their mouth. As I see it now, there isn’t really much that would support a silent period theory because even little children don’t have any kind of complete silent period. Perhaps certain kind of silent period is needed (although I wouldn’t necessarily call it a silent period anymore), but absolutely not in the way how some language experts are advocating it.