Lingua East

People should hear your ideas, not your accent.

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What Do You Mean (To Do)?

Mean is a versatile word.

As an adjective, it can be used to describe a person who is unkind and unpleasant toward others, or a dog that barks viciously and chases people. It is the opposite of nice.

In its verb form, mean is used to describe, explain, or define something. It is related to the noun meaning. Therefore, when you ask someone, “What do you mean?” You get a response that describes the intended meaning of something they said.

But there is another use of the word mean. This use occurs far more often than we would like. The word mean is used in its verb form with another verb, in its infinitive form, added to it.

-He has been meaning to read more.

-I was meaning to call you.

-They meant to fix the car.

When mean is used with another verb, as in the examples above, the verb tense is usually present perfect progressive (has been meaning), past progressive (was meaning), or past tense (meant). While this use of mean can appear in the present tense, due to the nature of what mean to communicates, it is most frequently used in one of the three verb tenses listed above.

Here, mean implies an intention. The phrase that follows mean indicates something the subject – he, I, and they in the examples above – intends to happen (to read more, to call you, to fix the car). You might be able to substitute the word want for mean in sentences like these.

But not necessarily.

When you say you mean to do something, you might truly want to do that thing, intend to do that thing, and eventually you will do that thing. That is the strongest interpretation of a mean to sentence. But we as humans can be fickle. We often say we will do things but never do them, either because we are lazy, we forget, or we want to put our listener at ease.

Most of the time when we say we have been meaning to do something, we never do that thing. But that is no reason not to try the things that we have been wanting to do. When I found myself telling others that I have been meaning to run more, I made a mental note. Then, I laced up my sneakers and hit the pavement. So far, I have no regrets.

What is on the list of things you have been meaning to do? If speech training is on your list, then you’ll need a plan. Send us a message and we’ll be happy to help.

Glossary

versatile: having many uses || Mean is a versatile word.

viciously: in a violent, dangerous, or cruel manner || a dog that barks viciously

intend: to plan or want to do something, to have in mind as a purpose or goal || a response that describes the intended meaning of something they said

imply: to suggest or express in an indirect way || mean implies an intention

fickle: changing often, especially of opinion || humans can be fickle

at ease: comfortable or relaxed || we want to put our listener at ease

mental note: to pay attention so you can remember a piece of information later || I made a mental note

hit the pavement: to walk or run on the streets; to go out in search of something || I laced up my sneakers and hit the pavement

Don’t Lose Your Second Language

Listen to the audio as you follow along.

Here in Charlotte, I meet a lot of people who live their lives in their first language, using English as a second language only rarely. It can be a struggle to keep a second language in your brain when you don’t use it every day. However, you don’t have to use a language every day to remember it. There are many ways to keep your language skills fresh and to keep learning, so that when you do need to use your second language, it will be at the tip of your tongue.

Explore the Community

One of the most common pieces of advice I give to clients is to get out in the English-speaking community. Step out of your comfort zone on a regular basis and put yourself in situations where English is the only choice. Maybe that means shopping at a different store, trying out a new restaurant, or making conversation with a stranger on the street. These are all great ways to work on your speaking and listening skills in English, and you might even encounter something new that you never knew you liked.

Read a Book

I’ve written before about the benefits of reading. Reading a book in a second language is a great way to keep the grammar and vocabulary in your mind. Different authors have different ways of communicating, so reading can be an excellent way to grow your verbal skills while you learn new words. Plus, during ten-minute moments of boredom, you can accomplish much more by reading a book than by perusing social media.

Listen to Music

There is a special connection between music and language. You can take advantage of this connection by listening to English language musicians. Listen to the lyrics of different tunes and choose artists who sing in a way that you can hear most of the words clearly. Some words may be too fast to decipher by ear; in this case, look up the lyrics online. The more you hear the song knowing what the lyrics are, the more words of the song you will remember. Sing along – I like to do this while driving – and practice your pronunciation.

Watch Some TV

English-language television, especially sitcoms, are one of the best ways to keep your comprehension abilities sharp. Sitcoms are an excellent source of English grammar and vocabulary, and they are absolutely brimming with cultural information. In fact, many sitcoms, such as The Office, Friends, and Seinfeld became so popular, they are often referred to in conversation among native speakers. By watching sitcoms, you can learn new idioms, slang, and cultural rules for interactions. Try to keep the captions turned off if you can. If you must use captions, then be sure they are in English, rather than your first language.

Google In English

Almost every internet search you perform during the day is part of an inner monologue, the conversation you have with yourself in your mind. In order to ensure that you are still thinking in English part of the time, make a point to perform some of your internet searches in English. Just by asking that question in English and considering the possible answers in English, that entire train of thought can occur in English, rather than your first language.

If you are motivated to become more self-sufficient with your English, then sign up for a free consultation to find out if speech training is for you. Our valuable services can provide you with the key information that no one tells you about speaking English as a second language. Our services are available in person at our office in Charlotte or via the web wherever you are.

Glossary

at the tip of your tongue: in your mind, ready for you to say :: when you do need to use your second language, it will be at the tip of your tongue

encounter: find :: you might even encounter something new

perusing: looking at, looking through :: you can accomplish much more reading a book than by perusing social media

tunes: songs :: Listen to the lyrics of different tunes

lyrics: the words in a song :: Listen to the lyrics of different tunes

decipher: decode, interpret, understand:: Some words may be too fast to decipher by ear…

sitcoms: situation comedies :: English-language television, especially sitcoms, can be a great way to keep your comprehension abilities sharp

brimming with: full of, overflowing with :: they are absolutely brimming with cultural information

monologue: a speech or conversation where only one person is talking :: Almost every internet search you perform during the day is part of an inner monologue

train of thought: a line of reasoning, how someone thinks through something to reach a conclusion :: …that entire train of thought can occur in English…

Facebook Won’t Improve Your English

You can listen to the audio of this article while you read. Words in bold are defined in the glossary below.

People log in to Facebook all over the world to see what their friends are up to, to see what strangers are doing, to skim articles on topics such as thirty ways to use rubber bands or heroic hedghogs, and to participate in various pages and groups. There are countless pages on the site devoted to learning English. But simply visiting those pages will not improve your English.

Sure, you might learn a new word or two, but scrolling through post after post of brief content is no way to learn. Learning takes concentration and work, and social media sites are designed to thwart both those activities. When you are exposed to new information while you are distracted, that information will go in one ear and out the other. And it is impossible not to be distracted while on a social media site. The sites were designed to keep you distracted, with variable rewards (notifications that have the same affect on humans as the levers that dispense food in the classic rat experiments from psychology) and multiple things in your line of vision that serve to pull your attention in multiple directions at once.

The phrase fear of missing out is frequently used to describe the thing that keeps people glued to social media. People often describe their urge to spend vast stretches of time on Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and whatever else folks are using these days with, “I’m afraid I might miss something.” In reality, those people are missing out on real life while they are staring at their screens.

Learning English or any other language is a process that requires you to focus your attention on one thing at a time. If you are focusing for 20 seconds, then click over to quickly wish your cousin’s best friend a happy birthday, then you are not really focusing. For real learning to take place, you have to cut out the distractions.

Everyone has their own learning styles. You may find it worth it to take some time to think about how you learn best. Personally, I prefer pen and paper, but maybe you learn better with a keyboard, or repeating the new information out loud. Usually, the more methods of reproducing the information you are trying to learn, the better, because it gives your brain multiple representations of the same piece of information. If you are working on your pronunciation, then getting a native speaker to give you feedback can be helpful. Facebook can’t do that.

If you are serious about improving in a second language, then don’t make social media a part of your learning plan. It will only bombard you with information and muddle your attention. If you truly want to work on your English, then make a plan, find a speech trainer, and concentrate on learning the skills you need to improve.

After that, feel free to log in to your favorite social media site and let them hear your ideas.

Glossary

up to: doing, engaged in :: People log in to Facebook all over the world to see what their friends are up to

skim: to read quickly:: … to skim articles…

thwart: to prevent, to cause to fail :: …social media sites are designed to thwart both those activities

in one ear and out the other: to be heard but not attended to, when someone does not pay attention :: …that information will go in one ear and out the other

vast: very large or very wide :: …to spend vast stretches of time…

cut out: eliminate::…you have to cut out the distractions

worth it: worth doing, worth the time/effort::You may find it worth it to take some time to think…

the more [X] the better [Y]: when there is more of X, the result Y will be better :: …the more methods of reproducing the information you are trying to learn, the better

bombard: to attack something or someone by directing a stream of objects at them :: It will only bombard you with information…

muddle: to mix up, to confuse :: …muddle your attention

Improve Your Second Language in 15 Minutes Every Day

If you’re like most people who speak a second language, then the thought of working to improve your skills in that language can feel like standing at the bottom of an enormous mountain, wanting to get to the summit. Unfortunately, we can’t fly, so if we want to get to the top of that mountain, we have to start walking, putting one foot in front of the other, until we arrive. If we want to improve our communication in a second language, then we have to start. After a while, just few minutes of study each day adds up. Consistency is key.

Step by step, it all adds up. Consistency is key.

Make working on your second language skills a part of your daily routine. Think about what time during the day your brain is most active, and schedule your language work accordingly. Many people prefer to work on their language skills either in the morning or at night. It doesn’t matter when you get your practice in. The only thing that matters is that you do it every day.

Our lives are busy. Maybe it is out of the question to try to fit in an entire hour of language study every day, but it is entirely possible to fit fifteen minutes of study into each day. Fifteen minutes may not sound like much, but in a week, it adds up to over an hour. In a month: seven hours. And in a year: three entire days. The added bonus of working just a few minutes every day on your second language is that this slow and steady method helps your brain take in, practice, and learn new information more efficiently.

When learning things like languages, it is better to work with smaller chunks of information over a period of time. A lot of information all at once can overwhelm us and distract us from the main concepts that our brains use to organize information. Therefore, if you spend the first three days of the year working on all the language skills you want to learn that year and then you don’t study until December, all that information you tried to learn back in January probably won’t still be in your brain. However, breaking the same amount of information into 365 15-minute chunks (one for every day of the year) will make it easier for your brain to learn and retain that information.

Before you know it, you’re at the top of the mountain. Looking across the valley, you see the next mountain. Now you know: the only way to get there is to start walking, putting one foot in front of the other. .

Resolutions

Every year, at the beginning of January, people make New Year’s resolutions. These are promises that we make to ourselves to be better. To eat better, to exercise more often, to have better relationships with the people around us, and to get better at skills that interest us. To successfully commit to a resolution, you must be motivated to improve and have the patience to stick with your plan, even when it feels difficult.

At Lingua East, our resolution is to provide every person who comes to us for in-person or web-based speech training with the best possible service. We resolve to help you get better at speaking and understanding English.

What is your New Year’s resolution?

Let’s have a great 2019. Make Lingua East a part of your plan for the new year.

Is speech training right for you? Click here to schedule a free consultation.

16 Common Acronyms in English

Ever read an email and come across a series of capital letters that made absolutely no sense? In English we like to make phrases shorter by creating these abbreviations from the first letter of each word. As typed language grew increasingly commonplace over the last twenty years, this list has grown.

Many of these acronyms are used in spoken language. While some of the items on this list (marked with *) are generally used and understood in spoken language, some of the acronyms – especially the ones created since the technological revolution – are only used in a stylized form of English by a subset of the population.

As you already know, internet language parallels spoken language in the real world, so there are levels of politeness on the internet. Therefore, some of the newer acronyms have versions with more profanity. (Stronger versions are noted in parentheses.) However, use of some acronyms containing swear words is considered more polite than actually saying the swear words, and use of these acronyms (especially those marked with ꙳) is allowed in moderately polite speech.

There are many more acronyms in English, and there are several other types of acronyms, including the following:

  • The acronym is pronounced as a single word (GIF, FOMO)
  • The acronym contains numbers, either
    • In its pronunciation only (NCAACP = N-C-double A-C-P) or
    • In the written acronym and its pronunciation (3M)
  • Letters or numbers used in the written acronym sound like words (BBQ = barbecue, IOU = I owe you, B2B = business to business)

Are any of these acronyms new to you? You can learn how to use them by listening for them, doing an internet search for examples, and asking native English speakers.

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BTW (by the way)… did you know that Lingua East offers web-based speech training? Improve your pronunciation of American English from anywhere with a stable internet connection. Visit our Services Page to learn more about our methods and to sign up for a free web-based consultation to talk to a speech trainer about getting started.

Web-Based Speech Training Available Now!

Now you can experience the Lingua East method from ANYWHERE with web-based speech training services!

These services work just like in-person speech training. We use a videoconferencing platform for weekly sessions, and clients can access valuable notes from their sessions, along with practice materials and other resources from their personal speech training website.

With web-based services, you don’t have to worry about getting through traffic to make it to your appointment on time. All you need is an internet connection and the desire to take your English skills to the next level.

Now that geography isn’t an obstacle to speech training with Lingua East, are you ready to take your English to the next level?

 

Click here to learn more about our speech-training services.

 

Sign up for a web-based consultation below. During this conversation, we can determine if speech training is right for you while you learn more about the Lingua East method.

 

Everyone Should Be Heard

Think about how you felt the last time you were told not to say something. It feels like a punch in the gut:

Don’t say that word.

You shouldn’t say that.

Many of us have been there, in conversation with one person or maybe in a group. Perhaps you know the person well, perhaps not. But either way, hearing those words has a way of sitting bitterly in the mind. It is the sort of thing you remember.

When we tell others that they shouldn’t communicate, it is a way of telling them that their ideas have no worth. And that simply is not true. Every individual on this planet has ideas, thoughts, and experiences that are worth sharing, however eloquently or crudely they may communicate them.

Stripping the power of language from another human being is an act of abuse. It has a way of demeaning a person and making them feel less than human, while revealing – to those paying attention – just how small the person doing the silencing really is.

It’s like the old advice about bullies: they are mean to others because they are broken inside. The policing of language is a way of projecting one’s own emotional shortcomings onto another human being. If you ever have the urge to tell somebody not to use a particular word or phrase, don’t do it. Instead, reflect on that broken piece within yourself that would make you want to be a bully.

Then work to change it.

If somebody tries to silence your words, don’t let them. Say it again, but louder. Speak up. Speak out. And let them hear your ideas.

 

Everyone should be heard.


Note: I do not condone language that is intended to cause harm to others. To use language in this way is an abuse, not only to the target of the harmful words, but of language itself. Sometimes people use harmful language ignorantly, with no intent to cause harm. In these cases, education about how their words hurt others can put a salve on their linguistic blunder.

How come I don’t hear a difference between sounds in English?

This is a question I am asked a lot. It seems strange that native English-speakers would be able to hear a difference between two sounds that seem exactly the same to someone speaking English as a second language. The answer goes back to early childhood, when we were learning our native language.

When babies are born, they can identify all the sounds of all the languages of the world. This is pretty remarkable, when you consider the wide range of languages there are, each with its own distinct pattern of sounds. But this ability does not last long.

As the baby grows and is exposed to just one or two languages in their home environment, their ability to hear and distinguish sounds is honed, so that instead of recognizing a wide array of sounds, they become experts at identifying the sounds of their native language(s).

In this process, similar sounds from foreign languages can become one individual sound, in what is often called category collapse. Therefore, a baby growing up in a Spanish-speaking household in Mexico may be able to identify the difference between the English words hot – hut – haute, but that distinction is not so clear for an adult monolingual Spanish speaker.

Do you hear the difference?

Words that are identical except for one sound are called minimal pairs. Can you hear the difference between these minimal pairs?

Share what you hear in the comments!

Persist (v), Persistence (n), Persistent (adj)

Yesterday I rode my bicycle past a vehicle with a sticker on its bumper emblazoned with one word, followed by a period:

PERSIST.

As I pedaled, I ruminated on the word’s meaning. To persist is to continue to do something, or try to do something, even though it may be difficult or challenging. To persist is to keep going when you’re tired, when a terrible thing has happened, and when you’ve been thrown off course.

We are all persistent, in some area of our lives. If you have developed a special skill, you have persisted in getting over the hurdles of learning that skill. If you have children, you are persistent in caring for them and providing them with the best life you can. If you have ever faced an obstacle and you overcame that obstacle, it took some persistence on your part to get through it.

Learning a language takes persistence. It is not as simple as reading a book and listening to a recording. There are many challenges in learning to communicate in a second language that can get in your way:

  • Languages are complex systems of communication, with different patterns of grammar, speech sounds, intonation, and rules for interacting with other people
  • With a new language comes an entirely new set of vocabulary to learn. Sure, there will be some cognates, but the most common words will be unique to that language.
  • Fear of making mistakes.
  • It takes time out of our busy schedules.

These challenges are all things that you can get through. Millions of people all over the world learn to communicate in a second language, and you can, too. You just need to be persistent.

Learning to communicate in a second language takes persistent patience and practice. A LOT of practice. At Lingua East, we’re here to help guide you through that practice if you’re ready to take your English skills to the next level. You’ve already persisted in many areas of your life, and all that persistence has made you the person you are today. What will you persist in today?

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