5 Ways of Passive English Immersion
Recently I wrote an article about 4 Ways of Active English Immersion which included thinking, counting and also speaking with yourself in English – mad stuff altogether! But in order to achieve complete English fluency you should be prepared to resort to unconventional methods, and I really suggest you put my advice to good use if you want to see your spoken English come along. Let’s face the truth, however – you can’t possibly speak English ALL THE TIME. There will be times when you just lie down on a couch to relax after a hard day’s work when all you want to do is enjoy a movie or your favorite TV show, or have a read… As you might have already guessed, today’s blog post is about passive English immersion. It’s when you don’t get actively involved in the process through speaking but you soak up the information by listening, watching and reading. Before we look at the ways you can achieve passive English immersion, here’s another nugget of information for you. It’s been widely claimed that the first stage of any language acquisition is mostly listening and only then comes the speaking phase. Parallels are drawn between studying English and how small children learn their first language. Apparently the child doesn’t know how to speak and he only listens to adults and then starts to replicate sounds, words, and sentences. The proponents of this theory conclude that adult language learners should replicate this language acquisition model because it’s obviously the most natural one, isn’t it? This notion has become so common that many English teachers will even tell you to focus predominantly on listening and reading in order to prepare yourself for the next stage which is speaking… My dear foreign English speakers! It’s the biggest load of crap you’ll ever come across when it comes to learning and improving the English language! The simple truth is – and you can read my life story here - that you just won’t become a fluent English speaker no matter how much time you spend on reading and listening. Passive English immersion is great combined with active immersion and the priority ALWAYS goes to the latter one :!: It’s your MOUTH that you speak with, not your eyes or your ears, and I don’t understand why it’s so difficult to get it? If you spend most of your time listening and reading, you’ll develop huge passive vocabulary (words you RECOGNIZE but struggle using in real life conversations). If you spend most of your time speaking, on the other hand, you’ll develop your ability to speak, and it should be the top priority to any foreign English speaker. So – use the following passive English immersion methods in between your active immersion activities, and you will see your English improve in no time! (more…)
4 Ways of Active English Immersion for Foreign English Speakers
Speaking English in Unfamiliar Settings: Why You’re Ashamed of Speaking With Your Friends in English
Shortcut to Complete English Fluency – Learn How to Produce Instant English Speech
Whether you’re a Chinese exchange student heading off to do some studying in Massachusetts, a Russian construction worker getting on a plane having secured a contract in Australia or just another Latvian like myself coming to Ireland to try out luck in finding a job to save up some money – we all have one thing in common. Namely – we haven’t had much experience with speaking English in everyday situations. We may have been academically tutored at quite high standards yet our capability to start and maintain a simple conversation may be limited simply because it’s not normally taught in schools. By far the biggest problem is that you don’t have much time to consider what you’re going to say. When you’re having a conversation, you’re quite naturally expected to answer questions or make your point within a short period of time – and it will prove difficult for many foreign English speakers. Many of us will be more comfortable writing than speaking and it’s quite understandable – when you write you have all the time in the world to plan exactly what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. You can construct grammatically perfect sentences, edit them if need be, and take your time finding the best fitting words to convey the message. It’s a different story altogether when you speak – you have to say what’s on your mind and for some it may present a serious challenge because their mind just goes blank. It’s the so-called information overload when your mind is attempting to process way too much information because all you keep thinking is what grammar tense to use, what are the best fitting words for the given situation, how to say it correctly so that you don’t make a mistake… The key aspects of fluent English speech is the ability to think in English and speak using plenty of collocations and idiomatic expressions; it enables you to speak automatically because nearly every word you say will trigger the next one. It’s the best place to be because you don’t even have to think about what you say – you can just speak as if you’re speaking in your native language. Anyway – this article is about how to use a certain shortcut in situations when your fluency is hindered and you’re desperate to get the message across successfully. So here we go! (more…)
What’s The Worst That Could Happen If You Make a Mistake When Speaking in English
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lH_E5ZE9mTE Hi my fellow foreigners – tonight is the Halloween night and I think it would be only fair if I gave you a fright! I’m going to use the biggest fear of all foreign English speakers, and I’ll do my best to scare the hell out of you! So what is this fear I’m so certain will have such an effect on you? Well… We all fear making mistakes when speaking English, don’t we? We fear it so much that we become very conscious of our speech thus making even more stupid mistakes. It’s a self-perpetuating mental state and personally I’ve gone through these issues countless times in the past and I know how depressing, annoying and scary it is. Are you ready? So here it goes – a list of 20 things that might possibly happen if you make a mistake when speaking English! You’d better brace yourself because as you’ll see it’s safer not to open your mouth at all than trying to say something in English and face the dire consequences… (more…)
How to Sell Your English Skills and Put On a Show Every Time You Speak
Shocking: Native English Speakers Don’t Always Spot Your Mistakes!
I’m actually tired of repeating the same thing in nearly every blog post but it’s so important that I just can’t help pointing it out once more – you shouldn’t be so conscious of your mistakes made when speaking English! Today I’m going to provide another good reason as to why you shouldn’t be so stressed out when the inevitable happens and you catch yourself having said something weird – be it a wrong word, a wrong grammar Tense or a wrong word combination. So, the reason is the following – when you converse with a native English speaker, they will actually miss many of your mistakes, so your English speech won’t actually sound anywhere near as bad as you think :!: So if you have a tendency to hesitate and struggle for the rightwords to say and eventually get some of them wrong, don’t be overly concerned about what your conversation partner thinks of your level of English – many of those small mistakes will pass unnoticed. But in case if you’re wandering how I can be so sure about making such a claim – after all I’m a foreign English speaker and not a native one – here’s the reason. It’s because I’ve actually asked many of my native English speaking work colleagues what they think of my spoken English level on my bad English days and on many occasions they didn’t have a clue what bad English I was talking about! You see, sometimes when I’m having a down period in terms of English fluency, I struggle a little bit to put my thoughts into words. Over time my fluency has gone up big time because it inevitably happens with anyone living in an English speaking environment, but still I have days when I just can’t perform at a 100% of my ability. So whenever I drop the question to any of my native English speaking colleagues – “By the way, have you noticed that today I keep struggling to find the right words to say and I hesitate all the time?” – their response is pretty much the same – “Well… Not really!” (more…)
3 Grammar Mistakes Which Are OK in Spoken English
Do You Really Suck At Speaking English?
I’ve received countless e-mails saying basically the same thing – “Robby, I’m a useless English speaker, when I try to speak with other English speakers – especially native ones – I get very nervous. I’m struggling to say the right words and I hesitate a lot when speaking…” Well… Maybe you’re right… to a point. You’re useless as far as you believe you are, and the more you convince yourself of it, the deeper the conviction gets ingrained into your mind. It’s the so called self-fulfilling prophecy when something happens just because you believe it will happen :!: Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you should turn a blind eye to the problem and just ignore it. While ignorance may be bliss on some occasions – such as ignoring strangers’ opinion of your level of English simply because they can’t possibly know how well you speak just because you’ve made a mistake when speaking with them – you still have to deal with your emotional and mental issues preventing you from fully enjoying English conversations. So what I’m saying is – even though the issue is there, you have to change the way you view it. You have to analyze the nature of the issue, make conclusions and see if you really are as useless as you think. Subsequently, you should come to realize that the issue isn’t as bad as you believe it is, and that conclusion in turn should make you into a more confident English speaker. Essentially it’s the same self-fulfilling prophecy – only now you have to get it to work to your favor! Now, are you ready to turn your assumption that you suck at speaking English on its head? (more…)
Using Past Participles As Adjectives vs Passive Voice
3 Things ANY Foreigner Can Implement To Boost Their English Communication Skills!
Useful Tips on Improving Your English Using Google
In the previous article about using Google as an English improving tool I looked at the basics of Google Search suggestions. I brought up a good number of examples on how Google immediately displays the most relevant contextual suggestions for your search term if you want to figure out in what context the particular English word is used. Unfortunately, we also concluded that on many occasions Google won’t show you the most relevant collocations when you type in a certain word. The reason behind that is simple enough – Google isn’t used only by linguists, of course; billions of searches are performed every day based on popular trends and news, and it all affects the search suggestions. Not all is that bad, however, if you know certain ways and techniques to get the best out of what Google offers! Here’s my take on the whole Google search thing (find more phrases with the word ‘thing’ here) – if you have to find out meaning of a new English word and see how it’s used in context, use the best English dictionary websites to look them up. Sites like Dictionary.com and TheFreeDictionary.com will display sample sentences along with a very detailed explanation for the word you’re looking up, and you’ll be also given a bunch of synonyms and antonyms to help you understand all connotations of your search term. On the other hand, on occasions when you DO have an idea of what a particular word might mean and how it might be used, but you’re not 100% sure of what collocations and idioms are there containing that word, or if you’re unsure of correctness of a particular phrase – Google is the quickest and handiest tool for the purpose! OK, I won’t keep you waiting for any longer, my friends, so I’ll cut the rant short and let’s get down to business! (more…)
2 Dictionary Websites You’ll Ever Need To Improve Your English
I’ve been using the Internet to improve my English for a good number of years, especially when it comes to finding out meaning of new words and figuring out how to use them in context, what other words they collocate with, and what idioms there are containing those words. Sure, you can use Google and other search engines successfully to find relevant information; however, there are two websites that just can’t be beaten in terms of the sheer amount of information they provide when it comes to English vocabulary. Also, they are brilliant when explaining how that vocabulary is used in context, and you have to bear in mind that it is crucial for all foreign English speakers. Learning new English vocabulary out of context – just memorizing separate words – is going to do you little good simply because you won’t know that particular word is used by native English speakers. There’s so much more to speaking fluent English than just sticking separate words together, and these two websites will provide you with countless examples on how new words and expressions are used in the English language. Last but not least, those websites will explain you meaning of new English words through English language using dozens upon dozens of synonyms, and this is also of the utmost importance for us, dear fellow foreign English speakers! Why? It’s quite simple – you should build your English vocabulary ONLY through the English language to prevent you from translating from your native language in your mind which can have a terrible effect on your ability to produce fluent and coherent speech! Well, I guess I’ve piqued your interest with describing how good those websites are, so now let’s look at them so that you can start using them in your English improving routine! (more…)
How To Hesitate Like A Native English Speaker
Can You Speak Fluent English Without Learning Idioms?
Apparently you can’t get far in spoken English if you don’t know the traditional English idioms – so they say. For instance, the idiom “Till the cows come home” means “for a very long time” so you should be certain to use this idiom every now and then when you want to emphasize futility of the action you’re discussing – “You can try to please your boss’s every whim till cows come home, but you still won’t get that promotion.” Or this one – “The pot calling the kettle black”. This idiom is used to point out to a person accusing someone that he’s not all that innocent himself. Is it true though? Do you really have to go the extra mile (you see – I just used another idiom so they have to be useful, right?) learning such and similar English idioms to sound fluent and be able to communicate easily with other English speakers? Well, I can’t actually give you a definitive answer to this question without first discussing the nature of English idioms and how they’re used. So let me bring up an example so that you can start seeing the big picture (see – another idiom!). I remember an occasion when my daughters had their friend around and it started raining really heavily. As they say here in Ireland – it was lashing outside! I made a comment about the heavy rainfall and used the typical (so they say…) idiom – “It’s raining cats and dogs.” And you know what? None of the kids had the slightest idea of what I was talking about :!: Fair enough, my daughters moved to Ireland when they were four, so it’s understandable that they mightn’t have known the expression I used. Their friend, however, was a native English speaker so I kind of expected hear to know this popular (or so I was led to believe!) English idiom. Why, don’t all English speaking people exclaim “It’s raining cats and dogs!” when it’s raining outside? According to so many English learning related websites it’s true, and you’ll be given a list of such and similar archaic phrases as your typical idioms to learn in every second English grammar book! (more…)
Get the FREE eBook “How To Stop Struggling With English Writing”!
How to Give Weight to Your Opinion? Use Smart English Phrases!
I’ve blogged extensively about the importance of being able to conduct English small-talk and get involved in simple, everyday chats with other English speakers as opposed to trying to sound smart using sophisticated expressions because there’s always a chance you’ll get tongue-tied. Also I’ve stressed how important it is not to lose your head when you can’t remember a certain word or a phrase in English but paraphrase instead. Let’s say for instance, you’re having a chat with your friend and you’re trying to explain that you weren’t aware of a particular fact, but then it slowly became obvious to you. The phrase you’re trying to remember is “it dawned on me” – which means that you started to realize the truth. But if you can’t remember the exact word ‘dawned’, there are still dozens of ways to convey the same message – “I suddenly realized”, “and then I got it”, “I started to understand” etc. While it’s important not to get too hung up on using the exact same phrase you can’t remember – or else you risk constantly getting stuck in the middle of conversations! – it’s also important not to ignore specific English phrases or so called idiomatic expressions that might just help you make your point more effectively and also would help you sound more like a native English speaker. Just imagine that you’re watching news and they’re showing the latest developments in the world which unfortunately way too often involve natural and man-made disasters, atrocious crimes and other bad news that normally make the headlines. You’re watching the news with a couple of your friends, and halfway through the news your own worries and problems that were so pressing a mere ten minutes ago, all of a sudden seem to have become ridiculously unimportant. Compared to what people are going through in North Africa and Middle East at the moment, your life is actually a walk in the park! Now, you can express your feelings to your other family members in a couple of sentences just like I did in the paragraph above, OR… you can use a single phrase – “Yes, it really puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?” That’s the beauty of such and similar English phrases – they allow you to express your feelings in a single phrase! Moreover – they can be used in many different situations so a handful of smart English phrases can indeed help you explain yourself like a native English speaker! But now I’m going to give you some more examples of smart English phrases so that you can clearly see the importance of learning them. (more…)
Embedded Questions – When Reversing Word Order Isn’t Necessary
How to Decide What New English Words to Learn?
3 Ways of Hard-wiring Unnatural English Collocations into Your Brain
When fluent English speakers speak, they don’t stick separate words together. Every word they pronounce automatically triggers the next one; the whole sentence is rather a chain of words linked together. Let’s say, for example, you’re asked a question “Would you like to come along to a party on Saturday night?” Most likely your response would begin with words “Thanks for…” and then you’d follow it by either “…asking” or “…inviting”, and come to think of it, when you pronounce the first words “thanks for…” the rest of the phrase kind of comes out of your mouth by itself, doesn’t it? That’s a typical example of collocating English words – they would normally go together in spoken and also written English, and foreign English speakers find it much easier to speak if their vocabulary has been built based on collocations as opposed to memorizing separate words. Well, the aforementioned phrase was a very simple response, and most likely you’d be able to respond using such a simple phrase even if you didn’t memorize it as a single unit of spoken language. Yet I’d say you picked it up by mimicking other English speakers because you surely must have heard someone say “Thanks for asking” or “Thanks for inviting” and that’s why the phrase got imprinted into your mind. Of course, by listening alone you won’t become fluent, you need to speak to add new phrases to your active English vocabulary, but I can’t deny that it does work to some extent. Anyway, when the wrong methods are used and wrong associations between English words are established, you may unwillingly create unnatural collocations. They manifest themselves in the following way – you start speaking by saying a word or two, but instead of continuing with a word that logically complements the phrase, you say something completely unrelated, something out of context, so to speak. OR, such out-of-place words may start pushing themselves into your mind even before you speak, and you may get a feeling as if someone else has taken control of your mind. Freaky? That’s how I used to feel and that’s how many other foreign English speakers feel if they use the wrong English learning methods. But now I’m going to list the worst of them so that you can avoid them like the plague! (more…)
4 Reasons Why Any Foreign English Speaker Should Read English Fiction
My blog and also the whole English Harmony project are all about spoken English fluency and how to overcome related confidence issues. Reading English fiction most of the time, as I’ve pointed out numerous times throughout my blog posts, won’t help you improve your spoken English fluency and you still need to spend a considerable amount of time speaking English with other people in order to do that. Nonetheless, reading English fiction will definitely help you as a foreign English speaker. After all - who else can judge the usefulness of this pastime other than me - Robby, who reads whenever there’s free time available? At launch breaks at work, in bed before sleep, while waiting on appointments … sitting at an open window on a sunny Sunday morning and drinking coffee – all those and many more occasions are perfect for forgetting yourself while being immersed in events depicted by some English writer. (more…)
5 Ways of Learning Natural English Collocations and Creating Useful Vocabulary Associations
Information Overload: How To Stop Thinking TOO MUCH When Speaking English!
I’m sure you’re familiar with the feeling when you think so much ABOUT HOW TO SAY something in English, that eventually you can’t say anything at all! Different English Tenses, verb forms and synonyms are swarming in your head and the information overload shuts your operational memory down, so to speak. You mightn’t have given it a conscious thought, but all these problems originate in the fact that you prepare your speech before actually speaking out loud instead of speaking instantaneously. Besides, the more you think about HOW to respond to a question or say something in English, the more choices you have to make and the bigger the information overload becomes. Consequently it may become nearly impossible for you to make a decision on what English Grammar Tense is to be used, what words would describe the situation best, and so on; also fear of making mistakes prevents you from saying AT LEAST SOMETHING just to get the speech going. When you write, you can make well calculated decisions and decide what means of expression is the most appropriate for the given situation. When you have all but a split second to make that decision during an actual live conversation, your brain just cannot act that fast. When being forced to deliver an instant speech and make multiple choices at the same time, you may find it overwhelming, and you may develop a monkey-mind syndrome when you feel as if you’re paralyzed and completely unable to deliver a normal speech. Somewhere during your quest for perfection quality of what you’re saying in English has taken over performance - the speech itself - and your perfectionist nature requires you to analyze almost everything you’re saying. How to stop doing it? Why it’s happening? Find out answers to these and more questions by reading the rest of this blog post! (more…)
Is Google Any Good For Improving Your Spoken English?
The Single Biggest Culprit Causing Foreigners’ Speech Anxiety
I’ve published loads of articles in the past dealing with English speakers’ confidence issues, but I’m resolute to drive it home this time. I was browsing the Web last night and started reading different language learning articles and related comments, and after reading a particularly heated clash of opinions I suddenly realized WHY so many foreign English speakers and indeed – learners and improvers of ANY LANGUAGE - are intimidated and may potentially develop a phobia of speaking their target language. Not that I didn’t know it prior to that, it’s just that for some reason it became so clear to me last night... So here you go – it’s the academically minded foreign language speakers (and sometimes also native speakers) who feel superior to ANYONE who can’t speak at their level that make others feel that they’re useless as foreign language speakers :!: :mad: (more…)
Unnatural Collocations and Wrong Mental Associations
Moving to an English Speaking Country is Like Recovering Eyesight
Mad Stuff – Speaking With Hard Foreign Accent to Facilitate English Fluency
When I started EnglishHarmony.com back in 2007, the English Harmony System wasn't there yet. Instead I was offering an eBook to my website visitors explaining the English fluency issue and how to deal with it. Among such methods as elimination of translation and slowing down the speech, I was focusing on something more radical in the eBook. Namely, speaking with your native accent. I know it sounds really strange, and I can understand if you’re somewhat reserved when hearing that in order to get your English speech back on track, you need to do away with proper English pronunciation and start speaking using your native language pronunciation instead. Yet there’s great wisdom concealed within such a technique, and I suggest you keep reading this article if you also experience unexplainable drops in English fluency every now and then! (more…)
Why Thursdays are My BEST English Fluency Days
We all get our good and bad days. There are some days when everything seems to be acting against us, but then on other days we’re flying and we get all tasks done easily. And you know what? It’s pretty normal! Same goes with English fluency. There are days when we can speak English with such ease it seems we were born English speakers. Sometimes it’s quite the opposite – we have to make effort to verbalize our thoughts and we also tend to make more mistakes when speaking than normally. And you know what? It’s normal, too! But today’s story isn’t about the fluctuating English fluency. Today I wanted to share with you something I noticed recently at work, and to be honest with you, it didn’t just happen overnight, it’s just that all the pieces came together just now. So to cut a long story short, I noticed that I’m best at speaking English with my work colleagues on Thursdays. If you’ve known me for a while, you’ll know that I feel comfortable enough when speaking English on any day of the week, yet for some odd reason my English fluency trend would peak on Thursdays in particular. On Thursdays I’d speak absolutely effortlessly with everyone working in the office, with manufacturing department managers and of course, those working with me in the dispatch. OK, but why Thursdays? What Thursdays have got to do with one’s English fluency levels? (more…)
Top 15 Invaluable Pieces of Advice for Foreigners Settling Down in an English Speaking Country
Learn English Irregular Verbs Through Collocations, Idioms and Phrasal Verbs
When I used to cram plenty of new English vocabulary words using the wrong techniques (memorizing meaning of the word in my native language, memorizing many meanings of the same word at once), I also memorized loads of irregular English verbs. I had a list of them written down in my notepad and every now and then I’d go back to them to review the irregular verbs and make sure I knew every single one of them. Many years have passed, but I haven’t had a real need to look at the English irregular verb forms since. Do you think it’s because I’m so good at it that I remember all of them? I’m sorry to disappoint you, but it’s not the reason (to be honest with you – I remember all of them as part of my passive vocabulary; active vocabulary is a different story altogether so keep reading to find out why you don’t necessarily need to know ALL irregular verb forms...) The real reasons are of a more practical nature – when I swapped English studies for speaking English in real life, I realized that a big part of those irregular verb forms aren’t used in day-to-day conversations at all! It’s a typical 80/20 rule in action, and to put things in perspective, just think back to when you used, say, Past Participle “sewn” of the verb “to sew” when speaking with someone. Personally I’ve heard it used just ONCE over the two and a half years spent in a knitwear manufacturing company where there’s thousands of garments parts being sewn together every day! And you know what the funniest thing is? The person who said it (by the way – it was a native English speaker), didn’t use the irregular Past Participle form “sewn”. He used “sewed” instead and I remember thinking to myself “Why on Earth did I ever clog up my brain with unnecessary irregular English verb forms like “sewn” if I don’t use them at all?” Also, I realized that there’s so much more to the irregular verb forms, especially Past Participle, than I originally thought. Years ago I learnt them to use when speaking in my translated-from-my-native-language English. I would therefore focus exclusively on the literal meaning of the Past Participle; so for instance, “broken” for me would only be a word that describes a finished action of the word “to break” as in a sentence “I have broken my promise.” But what about word combinations like “broken down”, “broken dreams”, “to sound like a broken record”? All these English collocations have the word “broken” in them yet they don’t represent Perfect Tenses that English students traditionally associate the Past Participle form with :!: If you learn such collocations by heart, you’ll instinctively know when to use the word “broken”, and that’s what fluent English is all about! Of course, you have to know how to use the irregular Past Participle when forming Perfect Tenses and also Passive Voice – “my car wasn't broken by me”, for example – there’s no question about it! All I’m saying is that if you learn to use irregular verb forms as part of useful phrases rather than purely as a string of words – shrink, shrank, shrunk - your chances of using them as part of fluent English are much, much bigger. (more…)