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?
Just because your English teacher needs to be paid doesn’t mean you should bury all hopes of speaking fluent English between the pages of your English grammar books!
2. Every English speaker has ACTIVE and PASSIVE English vocabularies, and by studying English the traditional way you’ll neglect your active one
You can say less than you understand, and it’s completely natural. Yet thousands of foreign English speakers are driven mad by the feeling of helplessness when they get stuck while trying to replicate some other English speaker.
Whenever you struggle to say a certain thing, you don’t know what to blame because you “just can’t say it although when the other person says the very same thing, I can understand everything!”
Don’t blame your incapability of learning languages, lack of time for English learning, your genes or bad weather. You can always come up with excuses, but in this case there isn’t need for any!
The simple fact is that your active vocabulary consists of words and phrases you can comfortably use when speaking. Your passive vocabulary is made up of plenty more words and expressions, but you’re not comfortable with using them simply because you HAVEN’T used them that often. They don’t come out of your mouth naturally, and you have to strain your brain to include them in your speech.
The secret to widening your active English vocabulary is to speak as much as possible and transfer part of your passive vocabulary across, but the English teaching industry still keeps making tons of money by selling English grammar books and similar stuff. It’s great for developing your overall vocabulary and understanding skills (read – passive vocabulary), but will contribute little towards your English fluency.
3. English Grammar is a NATURAL part of the spoken language; you don’t need to learn grammar rules separately
Irregular word lists? Tables of English Tenses? Type 1, 2 and 3 Conditional Sentences with practical examples? Throw them all away!
What good is it to learn bits and pieces in order to be good at understanding WHY words are arranged and conjugated in a certain way without being able to effectively arrange and conjugate them as part of a natural, spoken English language?
If your occupation is a linguist – fair enough! Common folks, most likely, will never need to know that Future perfect form of the verb “to understand” is “I will have understood”. In real life most native English speakers have never used such an expression anyway, so why should you waste your time cramming grammar rules in your brain that have little or no practical application?
It’s more useful to focus on learning practical English grammar through speaking correct English phrases so that natural English speech patterns get hard-wired into you.
Don’t let the English teaching industry profit on you; next time you’re reaching for that advanced English grammar book on the bookstore shelf, go for English fiction instead so that at least you get exposed to natural English with all the essential grammar in it!
4. Mimicking, repetition and memorizing, and CONTEXTUAL English language processing are natural whereas direct translation and sticking words together aren’t
Remember your English classes at school? I do remember mine quite well – “…and now let’s write down today’s new English words in your copies. Take out your English – Latvian dictionaries… Robby, now say a sentence using the word “to breach”…”
This type of English learning encourages children and adult English learners and improvers to think in their native language, and speak English by sticking separate English words together following speech patterns found in their native language.
It’s wrong, but then again – the English teaching industry has to make money somehow, isn’t that right?
If mimicking native English speakers, repeating phrases over and over again, and acquiring new vocabulary through context rather than direct translation was made the cornerstones of the English learning worldwide, the industry would go bust. They wouldn’t be able to hire five teachers instead of one to deal with the class! Anything less just doesn’t cut it, so the poor English learners and improvers are forced back into the books and copies instead of real communication, and English fluency is severely neglected.
It’s not the academic approach that makes one into a fluent English speaker. It’s SPEAKING English in a natural or close to natural circumstances, full stop!
P.S. Did you know I’ve created a piece of software that replicates real-life English conversations? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!