Relationship Between Written and Spoken English is Really Weird!

By Robby

If you are new here please read this first.

Relationship between written and spoken English is weird

Improve Spoken English

Over the years I’ve been working in a number of jobs where I’ve been dealing with both non-native and native English speakers.

  • My work colleagues.
  • My superiors – managers, team leaders, supervisors – you name it!
  • Our customers as well.

Quite naturally, I’ve been constantly communicating with them.

  • I’ve been engaging in all the necessary work-related verbal communication.
  • I’ve been chatting with them during my break times.
  • I’ve been participating in meetings.
  • I’ve been sending dozens of e-mails a day to a lot of different people.

Also, I’ve been running this blog since 2007 – you can do the math! – and I’m constantly dealing with my blog visitors e-mails and inquiries, not to mention my Fluency Star clients I coach via Skype.

So, as you can imagine, I’ve made a lot of interesting observations in terms of people’s ability to speak and write.

Did you know, for example, that judging by some native English speakers’ writing style, you’d think they’re just beginner English learners?

Not understanding what a native English speaker has written

Yes, it’s totally true and I’ve come across such people time and time again! And to be totally honest with you, sometimes their writing has been so bad that it’s made it next to impossible to figure out what they’ve actually meant in their e-mails ❗

So, would you like to read more about my interesting observations in relation to English speaking, writing, non-native and native English speakers?

Then find a comfortable seat, make yourself a cup of coffee, and keep reading this article! 😉

You Can’t Determine Someone’s Spoken English Level by Their Writing Style!

Let’s imagine you’re contacted by someone you don’t know and you’re reading their written message.

Well, it’s common sense you ignore any messages sent to you by random people on Facebook, for example, but there are definitely other, less dangerous, situations when you may receive an e-mail from someone you don’t know.

Getting contacted by a stranger online

So, you’re reading the written message, and it’s obvious that the person lacks basic English grammar skills.

The first impression is – they’re most likely a beginner English learner from another country and their spoken English is also poor.

And yes, it could indeed be a beginner English learner, and your hunch (your intuition) could be totally right.

But guess what?

Who’s to say that it’s not a foreign English speaker who’s learnt the English language primarily by speaking and it’s only his writing that is lagging behind?

I know plenty of such people among foreigners here in Ireland – many of them have learned to speak quite fluently but they just haven’t got a clue how to write!

And just like a said in the beginning of this article, it could also be a native English speaker writing very fast and not reading through his own writing to see how it flows.

And by the way – it’s not just the speed of writing that such poor writing habits can be attributed to.

You’d be amazed at the number of younger generation native English speakers who just can’t write properly!

BOTTOM LINE: Person’s writing alone isn’t a clear indicator of their spoken English level – they could be a native English speaker, non-native English speaker with good spoken English skills or just a beginner non-native English speaker!

You Can’t Know a Person’s Written English Level by Listening to Their Speech!

Just like you can’t tell for sure whether a person is a good English speaker just by looking at their writing, you can’t do the opposite either.

You can’t know what a person’s writing level is just by listening to their speech!

You can't know a person's writing level just by listening to their speech!

When a non-native English speaker opens his mouth and starts speaking in a hesitant, interrupted manner and constantly gets stuck for words, you’d think his overall English is also poor which would kind of suggest his English writing skills are below average, right?

Yes, it might very well be the case.

But then again – you might be just making an assumption!

What if the person in question has learnt the English language the traditional grammar-translation way?

You see – what tends to happen during the traditional English studies is the following – the main emphasis is put on paper-based studies which would facilitate the written skill development while at the same time the spoken English development is severely neglected.

As a result of such studies you’d end up possessing excellent written English skills but you’d suck at speaking.

There are foreign English speakers whose English writing is honed to perfection. You’d never guess that by listening to their speech though…

Similarly, you might be blown away by a native English speaker’s eloquence, but when it comes to writing – it’s mediocre at best ❗

Blown away by native English speakers' eloquence

I’ve witnessed it time and time again that native English speakers struggle to explain their thoughts on paper with the same clarity of thought as when speaking…

BOTTOM LINE: You can’t make assumptions about an English speaker’s written English level just by listening to them! Their spoken English might be brilliant, but they may suck at writing, and they may be terrible speakers with excellent writing skills!


So, what can we conclude based on everything I just mentioned?

Well, for starterswritten English is something completely different from spoken English! They’re totally different skillsets and you just can’t make any assumptions about one of them based on the level of skills in the other!

Next – don’t be wondering if you’re a weirdo if your English writing is much better than your speech – or vice versa. It’s all about which one of them you’ve been working on most!

But in case you’re one of those non-native English speakers having been following the traditional English study path and now you find yourself in a situation where you can write much, much better than speak – please just don’t try to speak as if you’re writing. You’re only going to develop bigger fluency issues!

So, have you any comments in relation to this article?

Please, publish them below!


Robby 😉

P.S. Would you like to find out why I’m highlighting some of the text in red? Read this article and you’ll learn why it’s so important to learn idiomatic expressions and how it will help you to improve your spoken English!

P.S.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System

P.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out the English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System
  • Well, as a matter of fact, I’ve never looked at English comprehension from this perspective, and you’re totally right – being able to understand speech and reading are different skill-sets. As you rightly pointed out, when you read, you can go through the text a number of times to make sense of it and on top of that there’s no other factors affecting the comprehension process such as specific pronunciation, speech of speech, accent etc.

    It’s an interesting enough to cover in one of the future blog posts/videos, thanks for that! 😉



  • lanspa

    Hi Robby , do you think there is a difference between understanding spoken English and written English ? I guess there is as much as a difference as there is between speaking English and writing English because while listening you don’t have time to think reading on the other hand is a lot more easier since you have enough time to translate the words from English to English and make a sense of it ?
    Please shed some light on this …..

  • Hi Lanspa,

    Thanks for the positive feedback, much appreciated!

    And yes, pretty much the only thing that’s going to make you into a better writer is plenty of WRITING practice! It’s ridiculous that advice such as the one you got even exists out there – you have to read in order to become better at writing…

    What kind of non-sense is that?

    It’s the same as if to say that in order to become a better speaker you have to listen a lot, and it just goes to show that most English teachers are totally detached form reality!

    On the finishing note, let me tell you that for the most part this blog caters for those foreigners who struggle with spoken fluency while having developed great writing and reading skills – that’s why I don’t talk too much about written English development on my blog.

    I have, however, published quite a few blog posts about this topic, here’s a few:



  • lanspa

    Hi Robby , I actually never focused on my writings skills throughout my English studies now my spelling and everything sucks . I have been told that a lot of reading will make you a better writer but guess what it didn’t , it didn’t make ME a better writer , now I recently started working on my writing skills spelling , punctuation marks and so forth . After reading the previous article you posted ( thanks to you ) that you are what you do I realized that if you don’t write you will never become a good writer . I recently learned 10 difficult words that I have read literary more than 10,000 times but could never really spell here we go , deliberately , Dermatologists , Melanoma , Caucasian , Period , Separated , and so on ):—– Love you Robby keep up the wonderful work you have been doing …………