Idiomatic Expressions: Why I’m Highlighting Some Bits of Text in Red in My Blog Posts
Here’s the short answer – they’re bits of spoken English any foreign English speaker should know to communicate effectively! They’re word combinations used by native English speakers and by using them you’re going to make your spoken English sound more natural and native-like. English collocations, phrasal verbs and sayings all fall under the broad category of these idiomatic expressions, and to put it simply – you can’t come up with these sort of sayings just by sticking the words together; you have to learn the EXACT phrase or word combination to be able to use it :!: There are also typical full English idioms among them, but I have to admit I have some reservations towards learning certain idioms like “It’s raining cats and dogs” or “pot calling the kettle black.” They are typical English idioms that you’ll find on any decent English idiom list online, yet they’re rarely heard in real life, if at all. My take on the whole English idiom thing (like it’s on spoken English in general) is the following – you don’t need to hammer loads of English idioms in your brain that you’re not going to use. You’d much better off using your potential as a foreign English speaker by learning idiomatic expressions because there’s a much bigger chance you’re going to use them in real life! How about the following ones: “for the argument’s sake”, “to jump to a conclusion”, “fit for the purpose”? These are typical idiomatic expressions that have some characteristics of full idioms, but at the same time it would be possible to derive their meaning from the words alone. Also, they don’t even need to be long phrases to fall under the category of idiomatic expressions. “On target”, “straight away”, “I’m all ears”, “big time” and similar short expressions are the ones that can make a difference between you being perceived a so-so English speaker or quite an advanced one! Not that you should care what others think of you, but still it’s nice to be capable of communicating with native English speakers like an equal, isn’t it? ;-) So to help you with learning these idiomatic expressions, I’ve been highlighting them in my blog posts in red color so that you can immediately see which bits are useful to memorize! (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!
You’ve Gotta Be Ignorant to Be a Fluent English Speaker!
Why is It Difficult to Speak with Certain People in English?
Your English isn’t the same at all times. It changes. At times you may notice you can speak very fluently, with ease. Yet sometimes you may start struggling with speaking in English with someone for no apparent reason! You have to bear in mind that ups and downs are natural in any human related performance, and spoken English is no different. Unless, of course, you’re experiencing frequent occasions when your mind goes blank and you’re unable to speak in English at all – then we can start speaking about the typical English fluency issue which haunts so many foreign English speakers. Anyway, fluctuating English fluency is normal, and there are many factors playing an important role in your English fluency – your stress levels at the time of speaking, your overall mental performance, familiarity with the topic you’re discussing and also frequency of your spoken English practice. The more often you speak English, the better you should be able to perform – it’s actually common sense, isn’t it? Yet one of the most influential factors holding sway over your spoken English performance is PEOPLE you speak with :!: Haven’t you noticed that it’s very easy to communicate in English with certain people while others make you nervous and your start mispronouncing even the simplest words? I bet you can remember situations when you’ve discussed quite complicated matters in English and it didn’t present any difficulties to you at all; yet on other occasions you’ve felt uncomfortable speaking about simple, everyday topics! As I said – much of it depends on who you speak with, so let’s delve deeper into the issue so that I can finish off this article with a few pieces of useful advice on how to manage your English conversations regardless of who is your chat partner! (more…)
Funny English Phrases #2 – Visiting a Doctor
Lost in Translation OR Why I Couldn’t Translate Gulliver’s Travels
I was watching TV the other day with my wife, kids and my sister-in-law. It was Gulliver’s Travels – a very nice family comedy, and as we settled down in the front of TV I was ready to translate it for my sister-in-law because her English isn’t as advanced as to understand every subtlety of English language. You’d think I was very comfortable with the task, right? So would I – until I realized it’s not easy at all given the fact I haven’t built my English vocabulary as direct translation from my native language. I’ve acquired the bulk of English that I use and understand by learning from context, mimicking native speakers and reading loads of English fiction. If you’re still wandering what it’s got to do with my inability to translate Gulliver’s Travels into Latvian for my sister-in-law, here’s a very detailed explanation. (more…)
English Improvement Trend & Inevitable Fluency Fluctuations – Why Is It Happening to Me?
Importance of Letting It Go!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-MYxJDnVZQ Today I’ll tell you about a phrase I heard the other day on the radio and which got me thinking about how foreign English speakers are sometimes perceived among the native English speaking public. So I was listening to my favourite morning radio show and as usual listeners were sending in text messages and the DJ was reading them out. Among the other messages there was one that wouldn’t make a 100% sense to a native English speaker yet it was obvious what the listener had meant by it. I don’t really remember what exactly it was, to be honest with you. I just know that it was an awkward word combination not used in real life. It is, of course, quite natural for any native speaker to spot such an odd word combination. And indeed, any of us foreign English speakers having spent long enough time among other English speakers would also notice something that doesn’t sound right. Little that the radio DJ knew about how foreigners speak, he jumped to a conclusion that the person who had texted in that particular message hadn’t got a good command of English. You think it’s not a big deal? It is, and let me tell you why. (more…)
English Harmony System’s Review
Taking a Break from Speaking English May Have a Positive Effect on Your Fluency!
Improve Your Spoken English by Using Spaced Repetition
Spaced repetition is a term normally associated with language learning flashcards and spaced repetition systems (SRS). I have to tell you right off the bat though that I’m not a big fan of flashcards because I’d been using the same technique when building my English vocabulary a number of years ago. In the end I realized that memorizing something that’s translated into your native language is actually going to impede your spoken English fluency :shock: No matter how controversial it may sound, language learners all over the world are becoming aware of the downsides of traditional English learning methods. Heated debates have sparked on language learning blogs about efficiency of using flashcards, for example and many language learning enthusiasts realize that a major shift in terms of language learning is happening right now. Still many language learners are oblivious to the simple fact – repeating and memorizing a phrase or a word in your target language with the corresponding translation in your native language will make it much harder to actually speak the target language :!: So that’s probably the most valuable piece of advice I can give you regarding spaced repetition and learning and improving your English – don’t create flashcards and don’t use any English learning SRS that are based on translating between two languages! But let’s stop whining about things that are wrong. Once we know that the best way to acquire new English vocabulary is to repeat and memorize words and phrases and associate them with explanations in the English language, we can move on to discussing the very nature of spaced repetition. (more…)
Don’t Be Conscious Of Your Own English Conversations!
Probably the most important piece of advice for foreign English speakers who wish to improve their English fluency is to shift their focus from technical details of their speech to the actual conversation and the person they’re speaking with. You know, we foreigners often tend to over-analyze when we speak English and it can lead to making all sorts of stupid mistakes. Being a perfectionist isn't going to make you into a fluent English speaker, so I’d say it’s very, very important to learn how to let it go and speak without being conscious of the way you speak, the way you pronounce words, and finally – the actual words you choose when speaking! It’s even possible to speak fluent English with a limited active vocabulary, and as far as you don’t think about what you can’t say but just say what you can, you’ll be more conversationally fluent than some other person who might possess more formal knowledge yet they’re too conscious to put it to good use! In other words, it’s all about being fully involved when speaking with someone instead of adopting an observer’s role and scrutinizing your own speech :!: Well, I know, I know that it’s easier said than done, but you just have to keep trying. Every time you’re having a conversation with someone in English, you have to force yourself to forget about formal English knowledge and grammar rules, and just speak. (more…)
Funny English Phrases #1 – Buying a Pair of Jeans
The Best English Class for Improving Your English Fluency
The English Language is Multidimensional Indeed!
Retelling Stories Is a Perfect Way of Improving Your Spoken English!
St Patrick’s Day Greetings
Speaking in Short Sentences? It’s Normal!
Are you often frustrated by the fact that despite being quite a well-spoken foreign English speaker you can’t always speak in full sentences? Are you even getting stuck in a middle of conversation because you WANT to finish a sentence but for some reason you just CAN’T? Let me tell you – you’re not alone. It’s quite normal! By the way – hadn’t you noticed that even native English speakers sometimes hesitate when they speak? When we write, we have all the time in the world to think over the word placement in a sentence. We can scribble out what we wrote and re-write it so that it sounds much better. As we write, we can formulate our thoughts precisely as we intend because we can take extra time to pick the most fitting words. And most importantly, we can compose nice, complete sentences to create an easy-to-understand message! When we speak, it’s a bit different story. Unless you’re a very eloquent foreign English speaker, your speech will be quite different from a written piece of text. Well, I've always held the opinion that the best way to write is to actually speak about the subject aloud and put it all down on paper. Still, when we speak, quite often our mind drifts away and we can’t articulate our thoughts exactly as we want. Especially – when we have to talk about something we’re not really familiar with! If it’s becoming a real issue, it has to be dealt with. But no matter what situation you find yourself in, it always helps to be aware of the fact that in real life English communication people often speak in short, often unfinished and broken sentences :!: (more…)
Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced English Grammar? Nonsense!
Spoken English Topics and Technical Aspects of Spoken English Exercising
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TULSesfUYJs Find It Hard to Do Spoken English Practice? Write It Down First! This video is a follow-up to the last video episode which was about the importance of practising spoken English with yourself in case you’ve got no-one to talk to! After the last episode I received quite a few e-mails asking what topics you can discuss with yourselves. I’ve come to realize that it’s not that easy for everyone to think of something to talk about so I decided to dedicate today’s video episode to various topics you can use as source of inspiration to kick-start your English practicing routine. But before you even attempt practicing English with yourself, you should remember the following. Don’t try to talk about something that is detached from reality. Don’t try to convince yourself that you should speak about something that you don’t actually take any interest in :!: A typical example of this would be taking some English learning material and reading a certain topic and then trying to create a monologue around that topic. Well, you may succeed and have a nice chat with yourself about, say, concepts of time and distance, and similar. On most occasions however, if you try to create a monologue around something that isn’t relevant for you personally, the chances are that you’ll find the very idea of such speech practicing very boring and you’ll give up after a while! :-( So the most important piece of advice to anyone who decides to engage in regular English monologues is the following – talk about something that reflects your interests, your personal and professional affairs, generally speaking – your life! And now let’s look at particular spoken English topics you can always count on not be become boring! (more…)
Does Integration of Foreigners into English Speaking Society Work?
Mimicking – The Best Way to Learn English Collocations!
If you read my previous blog post about English collocations, you’ll remember that a collocation is a group of two or more words that are naturally used together in written and spoken English – such as “a tough decision”, “renewable energy”, “foreseeable future” or “to draw a comparison between.” Many collocations are strong, which means that you if you replace one of the words with a synonym, native English speakers would notice that it doesn’t sound right. For instance, if you say “replenishable energy”, it would sound a bit odd because “renewable energy” has been accepted worldwide as a standard way to describe energy sources like wind, water and solar energy. Many collocations aren’t that strong. For instance if you say “a hard decision”, it sounds absolutely fine despite “a tough decision” being a standard collocation you’d find in English Grammar books. But why is it important for us, foreign English speakers? Why should we care about English collocations? The reason is simple enough. Bonds that keep words together in collocations also determine word PATTERNS in spoken and written English in general :!: We may be under impression that collocations were invented by English teachers in order to annoy students and make their studies harder. (Frankly speaking, I can partially agree with this if collocations are looked at as a separate section of English language studies instead of being used as an integral part of speaking and writing English.) In reality if we, foreigners, want to achieve English fluency we need to incorporate learning collocations in our daily English improving routine as part of acquiring new vocabulary and phraseology. You just can't ignore natural English word patterns otherwise your English will sound weird, simple as that! But don’t cram long collocation lists into your brain. Be selective! (more…)
No-one to Talk to? Practice English With Yourself!
Read This if You’re Dreading Making Phone Calls in English!
Can Present Continuous Substitute Present Simple Tense?
I’ve discussed usage of the Present Continuous Tense in a number of grammar video lessons and the conclusion so far is that this English Grammar Tense is very, very widely used. You can use Present Continuous to describe past events, talk about future arrangements and of course, use it to describe actions going on at this very moment. The latter one is the typical use of Present Continuous and there was a time I thought it’s the only one. However, you should never assume that something is set in stone when it comes to English grammar, and especially – the Present Continuous Tense! It appears that it can also replace Present Simple on certain occasions, were you aware of that? Well, it might come as a surprise, but nonetheless it’s true and if you hear someone say “She’s always doing three things at once” or “I’m constantly arguing with her, I just can’t stand her!” it doesn’t mean it’s bad English grammar. You see, following the formal English Grammar rules, you’d use Present Simple with reoccurring activities, because that’s what it says when you open any English Grammar book. Present Simple Tense is to be used with known facts, routines, habits and permanent things. Personally I have a good visual memory (although sometimes it can be a bad thing) and I still remember a sample sentence in one of my first English Grammar books explaining Present Simple – “Sun rises in the east”. It’s a known truth, a permanent, regular activity, so we use Present Simple and the same goes with other things that are of a permanent nature. Where we live, what we usually do, our daily routines – it’s all the Present Simple Tense. “I live in a three bedroom house. On most days I get up at 6:00 AM and have oat porridge for breakfast. I drive to work because it’s not accessible by public transport.” The Present Continuous Tense, however, describes actions that are happening right now, not general things. So for example, “I drive to work every day” is a general statement about something I do on a regular basis, whereas “I’m driving to work” would imply that I’m sitting in the car right at this very moment and driving to work. Normally I would also add “at the moment” or a similar time indicator if I’m on phone, for instance. I would say “I can’t really talk now; I’m driving to work at the moment”. This is the way English Grammar books explain differences between the two tenses, and by and large it’s correct. In real life spoken English, however, things can’t be always strictly separated. I know that’s what English students want – to get rid of any ambiguity so that it would be easier to pass English tests. Every English Grammar Tense should serve only its own purpose and by learning the respective rules of usage we can construct nice and correct English sentences. Sounds like every English student’s dream, doesn’t it? Well, after you’ve spent some time with native English speakers in natural English speaking environment, you’ll realize that English tenses are sometimes used in a way you don’t expect! ;-) “I’m always driving to work along the highway, but occasionally I take back roads for a change.” Please note that I used Present Continuous where Present Simple would be normally used, and if we stick to formal English Grammar rules to the letter, you may want to re-write the above sentence and make it into “I always drive to work along the highway.” It’s a typical routine activity; it’s something that I always do – as indicated by the very word “always” – so it requires Present Simple, right? (more…)
Unleash Your English Fluency with the English Harmony System 2.0!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=/b6hVnUtL7DU Are you ready to get on the fast track to spoken English fluency? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!
What Any Foreign English Speaker Can Learn from Benicio Del Toro
Accept Your English Fluency Limitations!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbO98jB1iYo Read the following carefully – you have to be aware of your limitations in terms of English fluency yet you have to constantly improve your spoken English. Are we looking at an apparent contradiction here? Not at all! Let’s introduce some algebra to help us understand this concept. Look at this hyperbolic graph. It’s one of the best ways to help us grasp the concept of confined infinity. Essentially it’s the same way as saying that you can constantly keep improving your spoken English but at the same time you can expect there to be a cap, a limit to that growth. So what the graph above shows is the following. The hyperbolic graph keeps constantly approaching the axis but it never meets it. This line extends infinitely and in theory if you would be able to keep zooming in, you’d see that it never touches the x axis. But just think about this – the axis in itself is a limitation in space, so it marks a certain level. And it’s right here when we can draw parallels with constantly improving English fluency yet it’s limited by your personal circumstances. (more…)
Do You Really NEED to Improve Your Spoken English?
My Controversial Views On Correct English & British and American English
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBVlqRxP0PI Today’s video episode is dedicated to all those perfectionists out there who are always concerned about the wellbeing of the English language. All those who start whining about the demise of English whenever they hear the slightest deviation from standard English pronunciation or grammar. All those who’ll waste hours of their time on online English learning forums debating merits of using this or that particular adverb or preposition. All those who’ll perfectly spot the slightest difference between American and British English and argue in favor of one or the other referring to lists of differences between the two. All those who say things like – “Just listen to him; he can’t speak proper English despite being American/British/Irish!” My one and only question to you, my dear perfectionists, is the following: “What is this so-called proper English you all seem to be worshipping? How do you define correct speech and why are you so obsessed with making sure everyone speaks super correctly?” I know it’s a rhetorical question and no-one can give me an answer right now, so I’ll try to answer this question myself because I have a very strong opinion in this regard! ;-) (more…)
Get the FREE eBook “Power of English Phrasal Verbs”
If you’ve just moved to an English speaking country, you may find yourself in a situation when everyday English spoken around you is much different from the one you studied at school or university. And even if you’ve spent considerable time in the country, much of what native English speakers say might be lost on you so you blame your lack of English fluency. By the way, haven’t you heard some foreigners say things like: “You know, these Americans (British, Irish – depending on which English speaking country you reside in) don’t speak correct English themselves, that’s why it’s so hard for us to communicate with them!” Well… In fact what some might call “incorrect speech” boils down to a few main factors which aren’t incorrect or wrong by their nature. Native English speakers simply use a whole lot more informal and colloquial means of expression than academically tutored foreigners! Yes, informal speech sometimes doesn’t meet the very high literacy standards – but then I think we can actually argue who set them and why. Learning super-accurate and perfect English without means of expression like phrasal verbs, idioms and colloquialisms will make it much harder for you to communicate, and here’s a perfect example to illustrate exactly what I mean. (more…)