A new English student wrote to me on chat yesterday. The conversation we had was worthy of sharing with others. So, here it is, unedited….
STUDENT: Is this Mark? The English teacher from U.F.E. and S.F.E?
(NOTE: Those are my courses, “Understand Fluent English” and “Speak Fluent English.”)
ME: Yes, it is. How can I help you?
STUDENT: Please help me….I want to speak English fluently!
I didn’t answer immediately. You know, that’s the #1 request I get from my students all around the world. Everyone wants to speak English fluently, and I understand why: If you are fluent in English, you can get the best jobs, you can travel easily throughout the world, and you can start exciting, new relationships with English speakers.
But it’s easy to say “I want to be fluent.”
It’s harder to actually commit to it, to put in all the time and effort. So I asked…
ME: How serious are you?
STUDENT: I am very serious in my studies. I am studying already two hours every day.
ME: Two hours? That’s great! And how are you studying? What courses are you using?
STUDENT: I take in English school in my city. We have lessons in the small group.
ME: Can you tell me approximately how many flashcards you’ve made? 500? 1000?
Hmm. This student wants to be fluent and she doesn’t even know what a flashcard is. That’s not good. Then I asked…
ME: Ok. Well….Which recordings do use use at home? I mean, so you can listen to and repeat after native speakers.
STUDENT: At home I don’t have such recordings. Only in the school. We have our teacher, who is Russian (but she speaks English very well!) And we have some recordings in our language lab.
No recordings to listen to at home. Plus, a teacher who is not a native speaker. That’s also not good. Unfortunately, this is also a very common problem. Most students I work with had been in similar situations: No flashcards, no native speaking teacher, no recordings to work with. Of course, that’s why they came looking for help. So, I asked her…
ME: You want to speak fluently. So, can you tell me the last few reductions you’ve learned? And what constructions you use them in?
STUDENT: We haven’t learned about “reductions” or “constructions.” I should ask my teacher?
ME: Well, your teacher probably won’t know many reductions, because she isn’t a native speaker. But she should be showing you constructions.
STUDENT: Ok. I will ask.
ME: Honestly, I think you need another course, Yulia. If you truly want to speak English fluently, you need to be doing all these things. You need to be making flashcards (to keep track of what you learn, and to master it). You need to be listening to recordings of many different native speakers (this is vital for listening comprehension and pronunciation). You need to be learning reductions (which is how native speakers actually talk), and using them in constructions (which will make you fluent very quickly.) Find a course that does all that for you, (and U.F.E. and S.F.E. would be a good choice for you), and you will soon you’ll have great, fluent spoken English.
STUDENT: Thank you, Mark!!!