Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Accountability: Counting Wins

How are you? I’m doing great! I’m excited because I’m thinking you’ve read ‘Speak English Once and for All’ by now and that you’re on your way to establishing some great learning habits.

Today I wanted to talk about accountability. You are accountable to the most important person on earth ... you!

There are many factors that act on our ability to learn a language and your neighbour may have more resources than you, but one thing that we all have is a 24 hour day. Use those 24 hours wisely! The best way to do that is to create a schedule.

The Zen Master says: you must repeat an action a hundred times to make it a habit and a thousand times to become a master. Make it a habit to do the activities I outlined in the book and you will be a master in no time!

Embrace mornings, nights and weekends. Those are moments during the week that your colleagues are busy with their own personal stuff and are not bothering you. Get up a little earlier in the morning to watch a video and read the news in English. Sunday evening is a great moment to settle in with a good book. Practice thinking in English while you’re brushing your teeth, sing out loud in the shower. Think how you can squeeze in little bites of English practice throughout the day.

And don’t just do it on the fly (whenever you think of it), put it into your calendar … the same calendar you use for your business purposes. Stick to it. Create a spreadsheet to keep track of your efforts. Need a template? Click here to get one:

If you get a score of 75% or over at the end of the week, give yourself a little gift: a night at the movies, supper with a friend or a little chocolate. You deserve it!

You can do it!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Getting in the Act

I just love collocations! Don’t know what they are? Not to worry, most people don’t. They are hiding in plain sight everywhere you meet a native English speaker, but not even the native speaker knows they’re using them!

A collocation is a group of words that always goes together. For example, ‘happy,’ ‘glad’ and ‘merry’ are all synonyms but when someone is celebrating the day they were born, we always say ‘happy birthday,’ never ’glad birthday’ or ‘merry birthday.’ ‘Happy birthday’ is a collocation.

Today I wanted to share a few collocations with you. The theme for this group is that they all have the word ‘act.’ Let’s take a peek at how the same word can have different meanings depending on what collocation it finds itself in.

Act out
  1. To physically demonstrate, charades; We act out our favorite movies at family gatherings.
  2. To behave badly in rebellion; The child was acting out of anger at being punished.
Act your age
  1. Stop behaving like a child; Oh, come on! Act your age, not your shoe size!
Balancing act
  1. Trying to do more than one thing at the same time; Holding down a job and taking care of the family is a real balancing act.
Caught in the act
  1. Interrupted while doing something wrong; My husband tried to hide eating the cookies from me but I caught him in the act.
Clean up your act
  1. Improve yourself; I told my son that if he didn’t clean up his act and get a job I would be very disappointed.
Get your act together
  1. Get organized and move forward; I finally got my act together and started a blog!
Tough act to follow
  1. An excellent performance; Wow, her presentation was really good! That’s going to be a tough act to follow!

You can see how ‘act’ can be a noun (balancing act) or a verb (act out) and can also be positive (tough act to follow) or negative (caught in the act). But regardless of it’s function or meaning, these particular groups of words each paint a picture. In other words, they are metaphors.

I do believe that this is one of the things that make English such an interesting language to communicate in. I also know that it’s English’s abstract nature that makes fluency such a challenge for many EFL/ESL (English as a Foreign/Second Language) learners. Do not be discouraged!

To get some practice with them you could browse through forums like Wordreference or join my Daily Training Program and receive a short list of collocations to practice with every day. If you’re interested in knowing more about that, just click this button:

All the world's a stage ... act on it!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Go with the Flow

Welcome to this space! You’ve come here because you want to take your English fluency to the next level. But what exactly is this elusive ‘fluency?’

From the Latin word fluentia meaning flow, the Oxford Dictionary defines it as the ability to speak or write a foreign language easily, accurately and articulately. These are great adverbs, but I suspect they make you think of a massive vocabulary, grammar rules or a conversation with a pundit.

In reality, a native speaker uses the same 1000 words 80% of the time, throws grammar out the window and our conversations are with family, friends and coworkers. I prefer this profile:

You are creative in your speech, you have the ability to think of many diverse ideas quickly, there is flexibility and originality in your speech and you are readily capable of elaborating on any topic.

Let’s get back to flow. The English language is like a river. It takes the easiest, surest path to the sea, the listener. That’s why we contract (eg. that is = that’s), ignore grammar (“coffee?”) and link (“wanna coffee?”).

What we do care about quite a bit are the sounds, especially the tonic. The tonic (aka stressed, but I don’t like that word) is the most important syllable in the word. ‘Avilable’ (/a-vi-la-bul/) means nothing, but ‘vailable’ (/vAy-la-bul/), even though we’re missing a syllable here, tells the listener that you are indeed available for that meeting next week.

English is riddled with unexpected pronunciations, odd rules and a myriad of exceptions. The rules are crap. Ignore them. They will only serve to confuse you and undermine your confidence. What I aim to illustrate are the patterns. These are infallible and we can use them to draw direct lines from your first language, connecting the dots that will give you the big picture.

I started this post talking about your fluency level. I would like to invite you to test your level with this simple Fluency Questionnaire. The results are generated and sent to you within seconds of completion, tell you your current level and, using my modal for language acquisition, how long it will take you to reach the fluency level you so desire. It’s absolutely free, so go ahead and click here:

May your fluency take flight,