Lingua East

People should hear your ideas, not your accent.

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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?

There is always room to try.

What activities do you wish you did more?

Reading?

Running?

Painting?

Juggling?

And how often do you actually do those activities?

Once a week?

Once a month?

Once a year?

Never?

Chances are, there are a lot of things that you wish you did more of. If not for an end result, then only to improve your skills. Our lives get busy and we become convinced we have no time, no room in our day to practice the things that we really want to do.

But I am here to tell you, there is always room to try.

Think: what were you doing before you read this? Maybe you were on this site, reading about the mechanics of speech. Or perhaps you were on a social media site, poring over the version of your friends’ lives that they share with the world. There is value in both those activities, but how much closer will they bring you to finishing that book you’re reading, or to working your way through that list of irregular verbs?

Often, we don’t even try to practice the things we want because of the thought that we won’t have enough time to do it completely. But here’s the thing: not everything we do has to be complete or finished.

In language, there are two types of actions. The first is the sort of action that has a set endpoint. When this action is produced – either by speaking or writing – it means that something has been completed. For example, “I ate the sandwich” doesn’t mean that I still have half the sandwich left. It means I ate the whole sandwich.

Once you have eaten the sandwich, you’ll never get it back.

The second type of action is the more common of the two. It does not have a set endpoint, it simply communicates that the action was performed for some period of time, without necessarily finishing anything. “We swim in the lake” is an example of this. If you have ever enjoyed swimming in a lake, then you know that there is no end. You can always come back and swim more.

But once you’ve eaten that sandwich, you’ll never get it back.

The reason why I took the time to describe the two types of actions is because the things we practice fall into the second category. They are activities we can repeat, or do partially. In fact, just about any activity can be broken down into smaller components that can be practiced individually. This is one of the features of focused practice.

So the next time you’re staring at a screen, thinking about how much you would like to do something more, go ahead and do it. Do a part of it. Do five minutes of it. You don’t have to complete a finished painting to become a better painter, but practice of related skills, over time, can add up to something so much bigger.

What are you waiting for?

What are you waiting for?

Learning to communicate well in a second language is a skill that opens you up to amazing opportunities, giving your life more quality, richness, and excitement. But getting to that point in a second language is not easy. I often tell clients, “If it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing.”

But more often than not, when we have the opportunity to learn, our fear gets the best of us. Maybe we know what we want to say, but we are unsure of how to say it. Our fear of saying it wrong pushes us into silence.

You have the marvelous opportunity to raise your voice in a second language, one that can reach more people in the world. Don’t you want to take advantage of that? Everyone has a multitude of stories to tell, and the world is a much better place when you communicate your story, however imperfect it may be when it comes out in words.

The most important part of communication is listening, and no one can listen to you if you don’t say anything.

You can improve your communication in a second language. To do that, you have to practice your second language. Take advantage of speaking opportunities when they arise. Find a speech trainer who can give you the help you need with the language. Read books and websites in that language to learn new vocabulary words. And try not to let the fear of what your listeners think keep you from raising your voice.

The most important part of communication is listening, and no one can listen to you if you don’t say anything. Good listeners will pay more attention to the message you are trying to communicate than to the way you say it. But they’ll never hear it if you don’t try. Open your mouth, raise your voice, and tell your story.

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