We all started with English differently. Others started with self studying because of pure interest, like me. For some it was a necessity after moving to another country. However, as my website is dedicated to people having difficulties with maintaining a consistent level of spoken English, it is most likely that your journey into the world of English started with the written word.
And actually this is where the biggest problems are hidden!
When we learned the language by writing words and memorizing them, we needed to write down the meaning in our native tongue. And this means having to translate the word from our native language to English, which is quite a natural thing, isn’t it? It is indeed. Only if it wasn’t stressed too much!
Learning English at school means learning written English.
Let’s be honest – how much of all the time spent in the English class we were taught to speak the language? I’m afraid – not too much. Teachers have to devote attention to all the students, have to explain grammar rules, new words and have to tell what new beautiful learning methods have come out recently…and as a result our English language develops as almost pure written language – and we can write well, don’t we?
We form nice, correct sentences and we have all the time in the world to think of what words to use, in what order and what grammar rules apply in the particular case. And when it comes to the speaking part in the exam, or class practice we speak slowly and create nice English sentences in our head! OK, not all of the students are the same but I’m addressing us folks, the ones that share this issue of wave-like occurring lack of English speaking skills.
So – in other words – no one teaches us to really SPEAK English!
No one even mentions about how the very language is formed in our brain – native English speakers use blocks of words as they speak rather than linking seperate words together!
Now try to analyze the processes in your head when you speak English.
If your speech is unhindered at this moment and you can speak fluently – everything is fine. The words just flow out of your mouth just as the thoughts appear in you mind and you even don’t notice the very existence of thoughts. You just speak. Wonderful! If we always could perform like this…
But now let’s see what’s happening in our head when the English speech issue takes place.
You try to speak but the words get mixed up, the grammar is a mess, and the thoughts don’t flow naturally.
Well – this is your mind gone into the translation mode! Sometimes you have some odd English words trying to push themselves into the wrong places, sometimes it’s your own language – you speak English, but some pieces of your native tongue’s thoughts just wouldn’t leave you.
In the worst case scenario your mind switches to a mode of preparing the speech even before you speak it out! This one is really bad because it’s the hardest to fight with. Once I had this kind of an issue and couldn’t get rid of it for days – no matter how I tried to speak I had the second mind in my head working on its own and making the sentences up a moment before I spoke the very words.
It feels as if you have two minds indeed. Imagine how the head feels like to work at a double of its capacity!
Some of these symptoms have much in common; some are unique – like preparing the speech before the actual conversation. Anyway, the actual cause is the same – this is all because we’ve been taught to think in our language and even now when you can speak fluent English the reflex just wouldn’t give up!
To put is simply – the English language we use is mostly acquired by studies in the classroom, or by writing, memorizing, reading…in other words – doing everything but learning the language the natural way – like children do, for example.
When I moved to an English speaking country my daughters were four. They started attending the school and soon enough they had picked up the basics of the colloquial English. Did they keep a dictionary, or jotted down grammar rules to memorize? No – all they did was – they chatted with the teacher and the classmates and the English language settled itself in their brain as a separate language – not as a translation version of their native language!
I know this feeling very well – I speak another foreign language – Russian. I learnt it while being a little child and it has settled in my brain naturally. And the most funny thing – although my Russian vocabulary is actually smaller than the English one, I never experience a similar issue while speaking Russian. Even despite the fact that I haven’t actively spoken in this language for years.
Even when I struggle for a word there are never some stupid thoughts nor words in Russian messing in my head – and as a result – I don’t experience this issue.
But don’t despair – we’ll sort everything out and take the control of the language – just keep on reading and soon you’ll see what this is all about!
Another really worrying indication of wrong English studies manifests itself the following way. Quite often I would imagine the word as it is written at the moment of speech. And why? I guess it’s because I used to keep a dictionary and repeat the words every now and then and memorize them as they stand in it.
And what happens now is – instead of associating the word with abstract thought my mind just looks it up from my dictionary notebook. In other words – you can’t just speak out that word straight away; you have to spend a split moment to translate its meaning from your native language.
This is less likely going to happen when the vocabulary is built not memorizing separate words but in real conversations – the very abstract meaning settles in your brain and there’s no need for your mind to look for something in the entries of your virtual vocabulary.
But this all is especially visible at school English lessons – we all tend to think that writing down words and mechanically memorizing them will make our language better and more fluent.
So wrong, it is all so wrong!
A language consists of thoughts, of phrases. Learning words and sticking them together is not going to make your English fluent! It’s all about the translation – if you try to use separate words as links to build the chain – sentence – you will use your native tongue in your mind. But you’ve got to think the language to speak it!
OK – now we’re grown ups, we can speak very well and all the previously mentioned stuff shouldn’t present any problems…Still sometimes it does!
So, how to fight this reflex and move permanently into a state of confident English? Is this issue purely based on anxiety and can you by calming down resolve it? My experience has taught me quite a different thing. I would sometimes experience incredible drops in the ability to communicate without the slightest touch of worrying or anxiety whatsoever!
Well, I think you now got the main point – we have to eradicate the subconscious habit of translating from our native tongue into English!
P.S. Are you ready to get on the fast track to spoken English fluency? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!