Is it OK to Pretend to Understand What an English Speaker Says When You Don’t?
The other day one of my Irish workmates was telling me a joke. He started off speaking the way he normally does and I could easily make out what he was saying. After all – I’ve spent nearly ten years in Ireland and by now I’ve managed to understand different regional accents and also different types of speech – muffled, very fast, with word endings dropped and so on. It’s not always possible, however, to understand native English speakers, especially when they throw in some slang words and expressions you haven’t heard being used before, and the indistinct speech makes it every harder to figure out what they’re saying :!: As you can imagine, I had to pretend that I got the joke my workmate Louis was telling me and I just gave a short laugh as a sign that his joke was really good… Please, don’t blame me! I know that it’s not quite right to pretend to understand what native English speakers tell you because you run the risk of making a fool of yourself. In fact, you shouldn’t pretend regardless of the speaker’s national background. It should never be a problem to admit that you didn’t get what was being said, even if it’s another foreigner trying to explain you something! You see, denial originates in fear of being perceived as a poor English speaker, but then you can get yourself in even more embarrassing situations trying to conceal the fact that you didn’t understand something. Admitting the truth almost always pays and you should treat such moments very casually; don’t make a big deal out of them. If you radiate confidence, few people will ever think of associating the fact that you asked them to repeat what they just said or to explain what they meant with bad language skills. If, on the other hand, you’re trying to end the conversation quickly and avoid discussing the same topic, it might give an impression of someone who’s not very comfortable using the English language. So how do you know when you should definitely tell your conversation partner to repeat what they just said or say it slower and when it’s OK to pretend you understood them? (more…)
Speaking English in Unfamiliar Settings: Why You’re Ashamed of Speaking With Your Friends in English
Unless you live in a full English immersion 24/7/365 (which is quite an unrealistic scenario unless you’re married into an English speaking family and lost all connections with your home country…), you’re using both – English and your native language on a continuous basis. Usage of English, however, is most likely limited to certain times of the day and certain locations. Traditionally, you’d speak in your native language with your family members and English at work and friends. Sometimes, however, you might be required to speak English on occasions that would normally be associated with using your native language and it may pose some difficulties – and that’s what I’m going to look at in today’s blog post. Are foreign English speakers capable of switching over to English easily or it poses some challenges? Should you aim for long periods of time when you speak and think only in English to facilitate English fluency? And if it’s beneficial to your spoken English improvement – is it a good idea trying to talk your friend into speaking English with you? All these and more questions are going to be discussed in today’s blog post so keep reading it if you’ve ever been wondering why is it that the longer you speak in English, the easier it becomes and why it’s more difficult to communicate in English in unfamiliar settings! (more…)
3 Things ANY Foreigner Can Implement To Boost Their English Communication Skills!
1. Stop agreeing if you didn’t fully understand what was said to you! On way too many occasions foreign English speakers will just pretend having understood the other person and nod in agreement – but it may potentially damage the whole conversation and result in an even bigger embarrassment than if you just asked your conversation partner to say it again! There are many other English phrases you can use in such situations other than the overused phrase “Sorry, I don’t understand”; if you only ever respond to something you don’t fully get using that phrase, you may indeed make an impression that you’re not being able to speak English properly. Partially it’s because natives rarely say “I don’t understand” when they haven’t heard what’s being said, and partially it’s due to the fact that when a foreign English speaker says “I don’t understand”, most native English speakers will assume that that person’s English isn’t good enough. I know it’s just not the case on most occasions because we foreigners, just like native English speakers, might not get the message that has been communicated to us simply because we didn’t hear it properly (background noise, distinct accent of the speaker, very fast speech etc.) and it’s got nothing to do with our English listening skills. (more…)
How To Hesitate Like A Native English Speaker
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…)
It Doesn’t Matter Who You Speak With – It’s All in Your HEAD!
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…)
Don’t Be Conscious Of Your Own English Conversations!
Read This if You’re Dreading Making Phone Calls in English!
Don’t Compare Your English With Others!
Today’s blog post’s topic is about the importance of not comparing your English with others. And I don’t mean it in a way that you’d have to ignore English spoken by people around you. It’s quite the opposite - I want you to perceive this piece of advice as an encouragement not to feel inferior to other English speakers :!: The sense of inadequacy and worthlessness as an English speaker can sometimes overwhelm you and it can have a detrimental effect on your English fluency. The goal of my English Harmony project is to help foreigners deal with occasional drops in spoken English fluency which are quite common in those who’ve followed the traditional path of English learning by focusing on writing and studying English grammar. So not only you have to deal with the actual speech issue itself; you also have to be mentally tough and resilient to maintain the ability to communicate with others when going through the bad English fluency phrase while hearing others perform much better than you :!: Here’s a typical scenario – and if you have the English fluency issue you definitely would have had similar moments. You arrive at work, and say hello to your co-workers, but for some reason your English isn’t as good as normally so you feel that you’re struggling a bit to say the simplest things - like morning greetings. Anyway, you’re already under mental pressure to keep your speech steady and slow – otherwise you risk running into even bigger issues like getting completely stuck in a middle of conversation and getting a total blackout in your mind. And then suddenly you hear some other foreign English speakers having a chat and they just speak away fluently and effortlessly. Or it could even be you involved in a chat with, for instance, your native speaking colleague and another foreign person. The other foreigner speaks freely, but you constantly catch yourself struggling with picking the right word, or expressing your thoughts clearly. So tell me, what would be the most natural reaction on this? Of course, anyone who’s in the situation I just described would start comparing their performance with the other foreign person’s performance :!: It’s a totally natural competitiveness and in normal circumstances facilitates one’s desire to compete, to become better at it. (more…)
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…)
Boring English Grammar or Cool Fiction – Make Up Your Mind!
Respect Your Native Language in order to… Speak Fluent English?
I'veÂ been constantly consumed by improving my spoken English so quite naturally I’ve been thinking in English, speaking English, reading English and also writing in English for the biggest part of my daily routines. As for my native language – Latvian – well, not much to say! I use it as means of communication with my family and other Latvians in the area, and I never paid too much attention how I spoke. After all, we all speak our native languages perfectly because that’s what native speakers do, right? I was actually quite surprised to discover that’s not really the case! And what’s more surprising – I also realized that one has to speak correctly in his own language to be good at spoken English :!: Are you confused? Are you thinking – “What on Earth has my native language got to do with my English? They’re too different languages and I already know my mother tongue as good as any other native speaker!” You’re right. Your language and English are different subjects. Languages don’t only differ in terms of phonetics, vocabulary, and grammar – they also reflect particular nationality’s and society’s lifestyle, customs and even different thinking patterns. However, there is one aspect that your language and English have in common. Clarity of thought! (more…)
How To Increase Your English Fluency By 100% in Less Than 12h!
7 Ways to Kill Your English before You Even Start Speaking
Over the years I keep seeing the same mistakes being made over and over again by those who want to improve their English. But it’s really shocking to see that not only is reading and writing based English learning encouraged but speaking English is discouraged! Moreover, I found this genius approach of improving English by cutting out speaking on an authority website - I'd better not give its name here... Well, it would be folly to hold the website responsible for all their contributors posts – after all, even Wikipedia.org is full of wrong and misleading facts. Still the first point on the article I read voices the standard notion in the industry – and here it is: 1. Talk less and listen more. Brilliant, isn’t it? Shut your mouth, foreign English speaker, don’t practice your speech but instead focus on passive language input! This is the gem among all recommendations I’ve read online targeted to foreigners who want to improve their English, and I can’t stress enough how WRONG it is. (more…)
How To Learn A New Language In Super-short Time!
Does It Irritate You If Native English Speakers Make Wrong Assumptions About Your English?
Is English Language Taking Over?
Here’s the dilemma – any language changes over time and can potentially become extinct. It’s part of natural cycle – nothing lasts forever. Yet, when I hear my daughters using English syntax when speaking our native language, it saddens me a lot. I know it’s not their fault that I chose to move to Ireland eight years ago. It’s not their fault that they can’t read and write Latvian properly. After all, we’re living in an English speaking country and they’re completely immersed in English environment. So tell me – should I be fighting for my national background’s preservation at all costs or should I allow things to take natural course? It’s not impossible that I won’t hear my grandchildren use my native tongue – but then there’s thousands of foreigners in Ireland who choose not to use their native language at home at all! Well, I don’t think it’s right speaking English at home despite having your own language – you shouldn’t be denying your national identity no matter what. Once you’re born Egyptian, Ukrainian, Spaniard, or Filipino, you’ll always remain as such. But as for the younger generation… What’s the use of teaching them the native writing and reading if they won’t use it anyway? They can speak with their parents and relatives in the native tongue – fair enough! But why would I want my children to be able to use our language fully? They read and write English only anyway! (more…)
What’s Common Between Running and Speaking English?
I’m into running for nearly 3 years. Two, sometimes three times a week I’m doing a circuit of around 5 kilometers. And my loyal friend Roger – the mischievous beagle – is always doing the 5K with me. He’d do more; I’m sure, because when we run back home it’s me who’s out of breath – not him! And the amazing thing about running that I wanted to share with you is exactly about what I just said – being out of breath! You see, throughout all the years that I’ve been on the run, I was having issues. I was always having pain in my left side. You know, the kind of pain we’ve all had when having too much food and going for some exercise afterwards – be it swimming or running. But I was having the pain all the time – regardless the size of my last meal and how long ago I had it. As a result, I was also having issues with stamina. Most of the times I could run quite fast and keep at my normal pace despite being in that constant, mild pain. However, on some occasions it would get so bad I could barely drag myself back home. A couple of times I nearly passed out – but I always put it down to a bad day or just said to myself – sure it’ll be OK next time! (more…)