33 ways to speak better English without taking classes

by Dilano

If you’re reading this, I imagine you want to speak better English and communicate in a more confident and competent way.

When we communicate effectively we are able to express our ideas and opinions, share experiences, and build relationships with others. When we struggle to express ourselves, we feel unvalued and insecure. As human beings, we want to participate in group discussions and have an impact on the society around us.

In the modern world, we communicate across borders. English is the closest thing we have to an international language.

By speaking better English, people all over the world can hear our voice. But, to speak better English, you need a teacher, don’t you? You need to take English classes, right?


Well, English teachers and English classes definitely help. But, studying English for a few hours a week may not improve your spoken English very much.

What you need is to become a self-directed learner, somebody who takes responsibility for their own learning and creates their own learning programme to develop their English.

Now, it’s certainly true that speaking is a social activity and is best done with other people. However, you could say the same about many activities.  Leo Messi became a wonderful football player because he spent hours every day for many years practising by himself.

You can do the same with your English. Here are 33 ways to speak better English, without going to classes.

1. Record yourself speaking English. Listening to yourself can be strange at first but you get used to it. Listen to a recording of a fluent English speaker (a short audio file) and then record yourself repeating what they said. Compare the difference and try again. Humans are natural mimics so you will find yourself getting better and better. Soundcloud is an excellent tool for voice recording as you or your teacher can make notes about your errors.

2. Read aloud, especially dialogue. Reading aloud is not the same as speaking naturally. However, it is very useful for exercising the vocal muscles. Practise for 5 or 10 minutes a day and you will begin to notice which sounds are difficult for you to produce. Find transcripts of natural dialogues, such as these here, and practise acting them with a friend, you will also learn common phrases which we use when speaking.

3. Sing along to English songs while you’re driving or in the shower. The lyrics to pop songs are often conversational so you can learn lots of common expressions by listening to them. Humans are also able to remember words when used together with music which is why it is difficult to remember poems but easy to remember the words to songs. Here are some songs to get started with.

4. Watch short video clips and pause and repeat what you hear. YouTube is an amazing resource for language learners and you probably already have your favourite clips. My advice is to watch short clips and really study them. With longer videos, you may find your attention wanders. The key to improving by watching videos is to really listen carefully and use the pause button to focus on sounds and words. Many YouTube videos now have captions.

5. Learn vowel and consonant sounds in English. The Phonemic chart is a list of the different vowel and consonant sounds in English. Learning how to make these sounds and then using them to pronounce words correctly will really help you speak English clearly. This is a great resource from the British Council.

6. Learn and identify schwa. What is schwa you might be asking? Well, it’s the most common sound in English. We use it all the time in words like ‘teacher’ and ‘around’.

7. Learn about weak and strong forms of common words. When you know about the ‘schwa’ sound, you will listen to native speakers in a different way. English is a stress-timed language which means that we use a combination of strong and weak forms of some words. For example, which words do we stress in the following sentence?

I want to go for a drink tonight.

How do native speakers pronounce to / for / a in the sentence? We use the schwa sound so it sounds like:

I wanna go ferra drink tenigh.

Learn how and when to use weak forms and your speaking will improve overnight. You will also learn to focus on stressed words when listening to fast, native-speaker English and you will finally be able to understand us!

8. Learn about word stress. When words have more than one syllable, we stress one or more of them. For example, the word intelligent has four syllables but which syllable do we stress?  Remember that the small vertical mark above the word identifies the stressed syllable: /ɪnˈtel.ɪ.dʒənt/

9. Learn about sentence stress. Sentence stress refers to the word or words we stress in a phrase of a sentence. When we stress a word, we help the listener understand what is important. If we stress the wrong word or don’t stress the key word, the listener may get confused or not realise what is important in the sentence. A few years ago, I enrolled in a gym. I was asked to attend an introductory class at ‘five to six‘. The Hungarian receptionist stressed the word ‘six‘ so I arrived at 5.55. She looked at me and told me that I was late and the class had nearly finished. She should have stressed ‘five‘ and ‘six‘ so would have understood that the class lasted for one hour and began at 5pm!

10. Identify fixed and semi-fixed phrases and practise them. Fixed phrases usually contain between 3 and 7 words and include items like:

to be honest

in a moment

on the other hand

A conversation is made of grammatical structures, vocabulary and fixed or semi-fixed phrases. In fact, to tell the truth , on the whole, most of the time, my friends and I , communicate with each other in a series of fixed and semi-fixed expressions.

Learn the communicative function of these phrases and practise how to pronounce them (remember weak forms, which words are stressed) and use them in your everyday conversation. Click here for a list of 1000 common phrases.

11. Learn about collocations. Words don’t like being alone. They prefer to hang out with their friends and, just like people, some words form close friendships and other never speak to each other.

Yellow doesn’t get on well with hair. Maybe yellow is jealous of blond because blond and hair are frequently seen out together having a great time. Yellow doesn’t understand why hair prefers blond because yellow and blond are so similar.

Listen carefully for common combinations of words. Short and small have similar meanings but people have short hair not small hair. High and tall are often not so different but people have high hopes but not tall hopes. Foxes are sly not devious. Hours can be happy but are never cheerful. Idiots are stupid but rarely silly.

12. Replace regular verbs with phrasal verbs. Many learners of English don’t understand why native speakers use so many phrasal verbs where there are normal verbs (usually with Latin roots) which have the same meaning. English was originally a Germanic language which imported lots of Latin vocabulary after the Norman conquest in the 11th century. Regardless of the historical factors, the fact is that native English speakers use lots and lots of phrasal verbs. If you want to understand us, then try to include them in your conversation. If you make a mistake, you’ll probably make us laugh but you are unlikely to confuse us as we can usually guess what you want to say from the context. Phrasal verbs are spatial and originally referred to movement so when you learn a new one, make physical movements while saying them to help you remember.

13. Learn short automatic responses. Many of our responses are automatic (Right, OK, no problem, alright, fine thanks, just a minute, you’re welcome, fine by me, let’s do it!, yup, no way! you’re joking, right?, Do I have to? etc.) Collect these short automatic responses and start using them.

14. Practise telling stories and using narrative tenses. Humans are designed to tell stories. We use the past simple, past continuous and past perfect for telling stories but when the listener is hooked (very interested), they feel like they are actually experiencing the story right now. So, we often use present tenses to make our stories more dramatic!

15. Learn when to pause for effect. Speaking quickly in English does not make you an effective English speaker. Knowing when to pause to give the listener time to think about what you have said, respond appropriately, and predict what you are going to say does. Imagine you’re an actor on a stage, pausing keeps people interested. Great strategy if you need to speak English in public.

16. Learn about chunking. Chunking means joining words together to make meaningful units. You don’t need to analyse every word to use a phrase. Look at the phrase: Nice to meet you. It’s a short phrase (4 words) which can be remembered as a single item. It is also an example of ellipsis (leaving words out) because the words ‘It’  and ‘is’ are missing at the beginning of the phrase. However, we don’t need to include them.  Learn more here.

17. Learn about typical pronunciation problems in your first language. Japanese learners find it difficult to identify and produce ‘r‘ and ‘l‘ sounds; Spanish don’t distinguish between ‘b‘ and ‘v‘; Germans often use a ‘v‘ sound when they should use a ‘w‘. Find out about the problems people who speak your first language have when speaking English and you will know what you need to focus on.

18. Choose an accent you like and imitate it. We often have an emotional connection with certain nationalities. Do you have more of an interest in British culture or American culture? Do you support Manchester United or Arsenal?  Deciding what variety of English you want to learn is your first step.

19. Find an actor/actress you like and identify what makes them powerful speakers. Do you want to sound like Barack Obama, Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Homes) Beyonce or Steve Jobs? If you want to sound like David Beckham, I advise you to reconsider, unless you want to sound like a young girl!

20. Use a mirror and / or a sheet of paper for identifying aspirated and non-aspirated sounds. Aspirated sounds are those with a short burst of here, such as ‘p‘ in ‘pen, and unaspirated sounds have no or little air, such as the ‘b‘ in ‘Ben‘. Watch this video to learn more.

21. Practise tongue twisters. Tongue twisters are phrases designed to improve your pronunciation of particular sounds. Here is a list for kids but it’s great fun.  Have a go now.Try saying this phrase quickly:

What a terrible tongue twister. What a terrible tongue twister. What a terrible tongue twister.

22. Practise spelling names, numbers and dates aloud. This may seem very basic to some of you but if you don’t practise, you forget how to say them.Have a go here at numbers here and at place names here.

23. Learn about common intonation patterns. Intonation (when the pitch of the voice goes up and down) is complex in English but it is very important as it expresses the feeling or emotion of the speaker. Here is an amusing introduction to intonation.

24. Learn about places of articulation. The articulators are the parts of the mouth we use to turn sound into speech. They can be fixed parts (the teeth, behind the teeth and the roof of the mouth) and mobile parts (the tongue, the lips, the soft palate, and the jaw). Click here for more information.

25. After looking at places of articulation, practise making the movements that native speakers use when they speak. Here’s a video and remember to open the jaws, move the lips and get your tongue moving!

26. Learn why English is a stress-timed language. The rhythm of the language is based on stressed syllables so we shorten the unstressed syllables to fit the rhythm. Syllable-timed languages (such as Spanish) take the same time to pronounce each syllable. Here’s an explanation which might explain why you speak English like a robot or watch this funny clip here.

27. Learn how to interrupt and interject politely and successfully. Click here for a list of interrupting phrases.

28. Learn about ellipsis, assimilation and linking sounds.

29. Speak lower not higher. Studies show that you command attention and demonstrate authority with a deeper vocal tone, especially men. This is particularly important if you have to speak in public. Here is a quick guide.

30. Listen and read along to poetry (or rap songs) to practise the rhythm of English. Limericks (short, funny, rhyming poems) are really useful and demonstrate how English is stress-timed and how we use weak forms.

31. Learn exclamation words and fillers. Watch this video or study this list of 100 common exclamations here.

32. Learn how to paraphrase. Paraphrasing is when we repeat what we have just said to make it clear to the listener or when we repeat what the other person has said by using different words. Here are a few to get started.

33. Use contractions more. Contractions make your speech more efficient because they save time and energy. Say ‘should not’ and then say ‘shouldn’t’: which is easier to say? Very common in fluent speech.





Reference: Smart Learning Strategies


5 Reasons Why You Are Not Speaking English Fluently

1. You Don’t Want It Enough

Most people don’t REALLY WANT to learn English, they only KIND OF WANT to learn. Really think about it for a second, on a scale of 1 to 10 (ten being the most excited about learning) how much do you really want to learn English?

Many people come to me asking for English classes saying that they really, really, really want to learn and that they would do anything for me to start teaching them.

Sure, for the first week, sometimes even the first month, they attend every class, do the activities I ask them to do in their spare time, and sometimes they even come to the RealLife English party which we host every month to give English learners a social atmosphere where they can practice their English. Find one near you.

But soon enough that excitement to learn, all of their desire to master the language just suddenly disappears and they decide that the money they invest on English classes would be better off spent on candy crush credits and other useless stuff like that.

English or any other language cannot be learned in just one class; it actually takes some time and focus. If you feel like learning a language isn’t something that you want to invest at least 3 or 4 hours a week on, then maybe you should stick to the candy crush.

2. It’s a Resentful Work Obligation

Ok, so maybe I was a little harsh on the first point, I understand that for some people learning English is more of a work necessity than a cool hobby.

If you are being obliged to learn English because it is necessary for your job, then I wish you the best of luck. I know that the corporate world is very cutthroat [relentless] and if you don’t speak English as well as the other person in the interview then you’re probably not going to get the job.

These types of students are generally pretty honest with me, sometimes they even tell me how much they hate learning English and resent the fact that they have to spend their money on English class when they would rather be drinking beer and playing Candy Crush.

Seeing language acquisition as nothing more than a work obligation is not going to make you enjoy the process and you are not going to be motivated to learn. You must find a way to see the benefits English can have in other aspects of your life and use that as a focus point of your classes.

You spend all day at work talking about business, why don’t you make your English classes something totally different, something fun and entertaining.  I’m sure your teacher would definitely be happy to help you find a way to connect your English learning to something more pleasurable to talk about.

3. You Haven’t Made a Habit Out Of It

If you want to be good at something, you have to do it on a regular basis. Think of something you are good at, how did you become so good?

Unless you have a natural gift, you probably spent a lot of time practicing or dedicating at least 10 to 20 minutes a day to that skill. This is also a necessity when learning a language and without making a habit out of practicing, you are not going to achieve English proficiency.

A common exercise I give my students to practice in their spare time is the tour of the tenses. The objective of this is to go through the table of verb conjugations with 3 verbs a day and then present me with all the verbs they did in out next class.

This is a simple exercise and it would probably take you 5 to 10 minutes a day, if you made a habit out of it. A lot of people get lazy and decide to do all of the verbs an hour before our class and get very frustrated with it and want to give up.

What they fail to understand is that the purpose of this exercise isn’t just to practice the verb conjugations, but to start developing good habits. Leaving everything to the last minute and getting stressed is not a healthy way to learn anything, you need to pace yourself and develop convenient and stress-free habits to be able to maximize your learning ability.

Ten to twenty minutes here and there is much better for you learning than 2 hours rushed before your class.

3. You Have No Accountability

What’s that you say? You’re really busy and didn’t have any time to practice? That’s strange because your Facebook status on the weekend said “bored as hell on a Saturday with nothing to do.”

Most people don’t hold themselves accountable for their own learning. When I ask my students if they got a chance to listen to any podcasts, read an English article, or practice in any way, the typical answer is – I was too busy, and I didn’t have any time.

Maybe that’s true but I really doubt it. If you really want to learn something you are going to find time. There is no use lying to your English teacher because you are just lying to yourself. He or she doesn’t really care if you studied or not, they are not the ones that need to learn English, you are.

To help my students from lying to themselves I get them to say “I didn’t make it a priority,” instead of saying,  “I didn’t have time.” This helps the student to realize that the reason that they didn’t practice anything was because of their own problems, not because of exterior reasons.

4. You Think Your Teacher Is Some Sort of a Magician

Imagine if you could go to a magic man or a witch doctor of some kind and ask them to make a special potion that when you drink it you can suddenly speak English.

Unfortunately some people think that when you have class with a private teacher that is what happens.

Sorry but I don’t have any magic tricks or special potions. You have to realize that a private teacher is more of a tour guide. We are teaching you the way to learn English and showing the right paths to take. Holding your hand along the process and answering your questions.

If you think that 1 or 2 classes a week is enough to learn everything about English I’m sorry but you are wrong. You need to do use some initiative and be more of an independent learner.

5. You Think You Are Stupid

And lastly, I have to tell you that learning to speak English is not rocket science. Don’t over complicate things.

A lot of learners have the idea that they’re not the type of person who can learn languages, and with that kind of thinking of course you never will. To learn English you have to give yourself time, you can’t get too frustrated, and you can’t be afraid of making mistakes.

If some of your colleagues are learning faster than you that doesn’t mean that they are smarter than you. You shouldn’t feel like a dumb ass. Everyone has their own type of intelligence and their own way of learning.






(Reference: reallifeglobal.com; http:/www.fluentland.com)

What Every Teacher Should Know About Reaching Advanced Learners

by Joyce B

Every teacher should have exposure to all different levels, but just like beginners, advanced students require a distinct kind of effort. We’ve devised some tips that every teacher should know about reaching (and keeping) advanced learners.

Reaching Advanced Learners

  1. 1

    Tap into What They Know

    Because students are approaching fluency in English, they have several years under their belts of studying the language. This is a great resource for the teacher because you can tap into what they already know and expand upon it. For example, higher level learners generally have a good grasp of difficult tenses and grammar points. You can tap into this by challenging their expertise. Offer them opportunities to show off their knowledge by involving them in activities that offer a well-rounded, all four skills approach. One way is to require them do interviews of people outside of the class on a particular topic and then present that to the class. Another idea is having each of them be the teacher for a day, and allowing them to choose what and how they would like to introduce or review. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your class for ideas on how they would like to learn. Get their input and then run with your creativity. Think of ways that you can draw out skills they already have and then focus on strengthening the skill.

  2. 2

    Challenge Them in New Ways

    Advanced learners know their grammar and often are hungry for a deeper understanding of the nuances of the language. There are lots of ways that you can challenge your advanced classes. One area where advanced learners need to be challenged is in developing their vocabulary and more natural ways of speaking. This is where learning a lot of phrasal verbs and expressions comes into play, and can be quite advantageous. You’ll want to find new ways of incorporating new vocabulary and seeing language in action. Notable ways to do this are by reading or watching movies. You can find lots of great resources, and may even want to consider giving them some good young adult fiction to read and decipher or have them watch animated kids’ movies. Debates and in-depth guided classroom discussions can also be wonderfully adventurous and challenging.

  3. 3

    Approach High-Level Grammar

    You can dive into more in-depth grammar and tense practice, and induce a truly interested and heartened response. As the teacher, you need to have an extremely firm grasp of anything that you review or introduce, because the students will have very complex questions. Reviewing or introducing topics like passive voice, reported speech, or higher level tenses can sometimes be intimidating to native speakers. Be sure that you are secure in your grammar knowledge when you go into an advanced level class. They will come up with amazing questions, and though it may not sound like fun, you may find yourself in some fascinating discussions about language usage and origin. Engaging advanced learners on that kind of level is really important to keep up their interest level and motivation. It is also a perfect time to dissect the language they have been so intimately involved with for so long. Take them on those grammatical rides, and dig in deep.

  4. 4

    Teach to Their Interests and Needs

    This philosophy applies to each and every class that you teach. You have to teach to the students’ interests as well as to their needs. Advanced level learners have very distinct priorities and many of them may have sizable goals they are working toward with their language skills. This takes getting to know your students by creating ways for them to share their interests and goals through classroom activities and interactions. Advanced students may be studying for any number of tests like the TOEFL or Citizenship tests. They may also have aims like getting into a college program or getting a better job. These are abundant topics that you can incorporate into your lessons. Their personal interests will vary, but it is a must to keep those at the center of your mind when creating activities and generating ideas. It will garner greater involvement and motivation from the students.

  5. 5

    Avoid the Plateau

    The language learning plateau can happen at different stages and levels for students, but it is very common among advanced learners. It is a stretch of time where they feel their language acquisition has come to a standstill and that there is little progression being made. By challenging learners, maintaining an open dialogue and constantly engaging them with fresh practice you will aid learners in avoiding the plateau. Some ways to do this are encouraging them to take risks, creating ways for them to get out of their safety zone and showing them that there is always more they can learn and improve.

Teaching advanced learners is an adventurous learning experience for all teachers.

Every teacher can employ these tactics to hook advanced learners and keep them coming back for more! Taking part in influencing advanced learners’ fluency is definitely an amazing and enriching experience.




(Reference: http:/busyteacher.org)


41 unique ways to practice listening to English


Our PhraseMix Premium service gives you a super-easy way to improve your English by listening to key example sentences. But there are lots of other ways to practice listening to English, if you’re willing to put in the time and effort. We’ve pulled together a big list of 41 interesting ways that you can improve your listening skill.


1. Get hooked on an English TV show.

Find an English-language drama or comedy that seems interesting, and start watching it from the beginning. Follow the storylines and get to know all the characters. Not sure what to watch? Here’s a list of some of the best TV series of all time.

How this can help:

To learn English, you have to practice consistently for a long time. When you find a TV show you like a lot, it’s easy to spend hours and hours watching it.

2. Listen in the background.

Find an English podcast (You can browse thousands of free ones on iTunes). Play it on your headphones while you work, ride the bus, exercise, or cook dinner.

How this can help:

This is another way to spend more time listening to English. It’s easier to find time to listen to English if you do it while also doing other things.

3. Listen on low volume.

Visit YouTube and find an interesting English video. Turn the volume down low so that it’s a little hard to hear. Try to figure out what’s being said.

How this can help:

In the real world, you can’t control how loudly the people around you speak. It’s good to practice trying to figure out what people are saying, even when the volume is low.

4. Listen while you read.

Visit websites and listen to one of the conversations while reading the transcript that’s included on the page.

How this can help:

English speakers often pronounce words very differently than you might expect. If you’ve learned English mostly through reading or in a classroom, you might be surprised to learn what words really sound like in the “real world”. Listening while you read along helps you to match your expectations with reality.

5. Listen to yourself.

Record yourself speaking English using your computer or phone. Play it back and listen to your own pronunciation and accent. Fix any problems that you notice and try again.

How this can help:

By listening to yourself, you can quickly find problems in how you speak. If you continue to listen to yourself over time, you can also track how much you’re improving.

6. Listen to the same sentence 30 times in a row.

Find a recording of a single sentence. You can use the lessons on PhraseMix if you’re a member. If not, use the sample audio player. Listen to the sentence on “repeat” 30 or more times in a row. Try to notice new things each time you hear it.

How this can help:

Listening to something again and again makes it “stick” in your memory. It’s a great way to remember phrases. It also allows you to notice important sounds that you might miss if you just listen once or twice.

7. Listen to an audio book.

An audio book is a recording of someone reading a book. Buy one or download a free one, and listen to the whole book.

How this can help:

Books use a wider range of vocabulary than everyday speech, so they can teach you new words. The readers for audio books also speak in a very clear and entertaining way, so they’re easy to listen to for many hours.

8. Listen to two things at once.

Get two recordings of people speaking English, like a TV show and a podcast, and try listening to both of them at the same time. Try to keep up with what’s being said in at least one of them.

How this can help:

If you’re speaking to someone in a public place like at a restaurant or a busy office, there will be a lot of people speaking at once. You will need to “tune out” all the noise and focus on the person you’re speaking to. Playing two recordings at once is a good way to practice this skill.

9. Listen to an English speaker with an accent.

Find a scene in an English movie where a character speaks with a strong accent. Try to figure out what they character is saying and repeat it in your own words.

How this can help:

Not all English speakers speak “textbook” English. You will need to communicate with people with a wide range of accents. This is one way to practice understanding people who speak differently.

10. Compare a reality TV show to a scripted show.

Watch a “reality” TV show that follows people around with a camera. Then watch a regular scripted drama or comedy and try to notice how they are different.

How this can help:

The way that people speak in scripted TV shows and movies isn’t quite realistic. It’s important to know how people speak when they’re choosing their own words.

11. Listen to a song and write out the lyrics.

Listen to a song. Try to write out the lyrics. When you think you’ve got it, look up the real lyrics online. Then try singing the song yourself.

How this can help:

Hearing the lyrics to a song can be really hard, even for native English speakers. But once you figure out what a singer is saying, it get stuck in your mind and you can remember it for a long time.

12. Listen at slow speed.

Find a way to listen to something at slow speed. Some phones have a function that allows you to do this. Audio editing software also allows you to do this. Notice how each word sounds, and whether it’s what you expected or surprising.

How this can help:

When you listen at full speed, it’s hard to catch everything. When you listen to normal speech at a slow speed, it’s easier to notice words and sounds that you would usually miss.

13. Watch a lesson by an English teacher.

Visit YouTube and search for “English lessons”. Watch a video by one of the English teachers there. Notice how the teacher simplifies the way that they’re speaking to be easier for learners to understand.

How this can help:

English teachers usually speak slowly and clearly, so they’re easy to understand. If you have trouble with understanding other people, you can try listening to English teachers for a while.

14. Listen only for intonation.

Listen to a conversation. Instead of listening to the words or meaning, pay attention only to the intonation or pitch. When do the speakers’ voices become higher or lower?

How this can help:

Intonation is a part of speech which is very important, but we usually don’t focus on it. If you want to make your English intonation more natural, you should focus on it specifically sometimes.

15. Listen only for stress.

Similar to the last point, try listening only to the stress: which words or parts of words do the speakers pronounce more loudly?

How this can help:

English uses stress heavily. When you use the wrong stress, it’s hard for English speakers to understand you. It can even change the meaning. You should definitely spend some time focusing on it.

16. Listen to a really short clip.

Using an audio or video player, try pushing “play” and then stopping it again really quickly, so that you only hear parts of words instead of the whole word. Try to repeat the specific sound that you heard.

How this can help:

When you listen to full words and sentences, your brain changes the sounds to match what you expect to hear. By playing just part of a word, you can hear the actual sounds more clearly.

17. Listen to a speech.

Listen to a speech by a politician or other leader. Notice ways that they speak which are different from everyday conversation.

How this can help:

People speak more formally in speeches than they do in everyday conversation. So listening to speeches is a good way to practice formal English.

18. Try to do an impression.

Pick an English speaker with an interesting way of talking. Try to do an “impression” of that person – try to copy their voice and way of speaking exactly.

How this can help:

Why is it hard to improve your English accent? One big reason is that it feels “strange” to speak with an accent that’s different from your own. But when you do an impression of someone, you feel free to act silly and speak differently than you usually do. This makes your speaking practice more effective.

19. Listen to one side of a conversation.

Listen to someone’s telephone conversation. Try to imagine what the person on the other side of the telephone is saying.

How this can help:

“Active” listening is a lot more effective than “passive” listening. When you try to imagine part of the conversation, your mind is more active.

20. Listen on the street.

If you’re in a place where there are English speakers around, try listening in on public conversations in shops, restaurants, on the bus, in the airport, etc.

How this can help:

This is real English. Understanding real conversations is the goal of learning English, isn’t it? It’s very difficult to understand a conversation that you’re not part of because you don’t know all of the background information. That makes this activity a great challenge!

21. Listen to the same thing every day for a week.

Pick something like a short TV show or podcast. Listen to it once a day for a week or more. The first time, pay close attention. After that, just listen again and try to remember what people are going to say before they say it.

How this can help:

When you listen to something in English for the first time, your goal is just to understand the main ideas. If you listen to the same thing again, you can pay attention to other details: what words the speakers used, their pronunciation, what mistakes they made. Listening to the same thing again and again allows you to listen more deeply.

22. Listen with a friend.

Sit with a friend and listen to a short audio clip. When it’s done, talk with each other about what you heard. Then listen again to see whose memory was more correct.

How this can help:

If you’re listening with someone else, you will pay closer attention. You can also correct each others’ mistakes.

23. Listen only for articles.

Listen to a podcast or watch a video. Instead of listening to the meaning, just try to hear the articles “a”, “an”, and “the”. Count each time you hear one of these words. Then try again and see if you count the same number.

How this can help:

Articles are very hard for English learners to get right. One reason is that we don’t usually emphasize them when we speak. If you pay close attention to articles, you might find that English speakers use them a lot more than you thought.

24. Listen to someone whose native language is not English.

Listen to someone who grew up speaking a different language, but who now speaks English fluently.

How this can help:

This exercise is great for motivating yourself. It’s inspiring to listen to someone who didn’t learn English until later in life, but was still able to become very fluent. The same is possible for you!

25. Listen to someone speaking very quickly.

Try to listen to someone who’s speaking more quickly than normal. If it’s too hard to understand, try listening to just on sentence at a time. Pause in between each sentence to allow your brain to “catch up”.

How this can help:

This is simply a good way to challenge yourself. It’s hard to understand fast speech, but if you can do it, slower speech seems so much easier!

28. Watch ‘on the street’ interviews.

News shows on TV sometimes show short interviews with people on the street. Try watching some ‘on the street’ interviews.

How this can help:

When people are interviewed this way, they usually speak in a very natural way. Watching these interviews also allows you to listen to lots of different people with different speaking styles and accents.

27. Listen to computer-generated speech.

Search for an English ‘text-to-speech’ program and paste some English sentences into it. Listen to the computer try to pronounce it.

How this can help:

The biggest advantage of listening to computer-generated English is that you can hear anything that you want, even if no one has recorded it. If you’re reading something interesting, you can paste it into a text-to-speech program and hear what it sounds like.

28. Read a sentence out loud, then listen to it.

Find a website that has audio with matching transcriptions. If you’re a PhraseMix Premium member, you can do it here. If not, you can click to read the transcript. Read a sentence out loud. Then listen to how it’s pronounced by the speaker on the recording.

How this can help:

By reading a sentence first, you’re preparing yourself to listen for differences. It’s a good way to notice if you’re pronouncing a word wrong, or if your intonation is strange.

29. Practice ‘shadowing’.

Listen to a short clip of someone speaking. Play it again and again. After listening a few times, try to repeat what the speaker is saying immediately after they say it. Keep practicing until you’re saying the same thing at the same time.

How this can help:

Shadowing is a great way to practice not only your pronunciation, but also your rhythm and speed.

30. Listen to a child.

Find examples of child between 2-5 year old speaking. Try to figure out what the child is saying and how their speech differs from adults.

How this can help:

Children speak their own special kind of English. It’s useful to be able to understand them. It’s also interesting because you can hear what sounds are easy or hard for kids to make.

31. Listen for numbers.

Listen to something and just focus on the numbers. Write down any numbers that you hear. You can try it if you listen without watching the graphics.

How this can help:

Sometimes it’s important to be able to pick specific information from what someone is saying. Numbers especially can be really important. This is a way to practice that skill.

32. Listen to a university lecture.

Pick a topic that you’ve studied or have an interest in, and find a recording of a university lecture. Several big-name universities have classes posted for free on sites.

How this can help:

University lectures use a lot of specific vocabulary which you will need if you want to talk about specialized topics. But they’re also easier to understand than you might expect because they just focus on one specific topic.

33. Listen to every episode of a podcast.

Find a free podcast that interests you and that has 20 or more episodes. Download every episode and listen to one a day until you’ve heard them all. (If you have no idea what you should listen to but you want something challenging).

How this can help:

When you listen to the same people’s voices for a really long time, you start to pick up some of their speaking habits. You also develop a kind of relationship with the podcast that makes you look forward to hearing them again.

34. Transcribe something.

Listen to 2-3 minutes audio recording and write down every word that you hear. Keep going back and playing each sentence again and again until you’ve transcribed the whole thing.

How this can help:

This is a challenging and time-consuming way to listen. But you can learn a lot by trying to hear and write down every single word. You might learn new vocabulary or find out that certain words are pronounced very differently than you thought they were.

35. Listen to a sales pitch.

Listen to an experienced salesperson trying to sell something in English. Notice how the salesperson speaks in order to sound trustworthy and convincing.

How this can help:

Good salespeople are masters of language. You can learn a lot from them about not only about how to speak, but also about what to say in order to persuade people.

36. Listen to an argument.

Watch a movie or TV scene where two characters argue with each other. Write down any phrases you hear which seem like they might be useful to you in the future if you ever argue with someone.

How this can help:

If you speak English for long enough, you will eventually get into an argument. You’ll need some practice in order to argue effectively.

37. Start listening in the middle of a conversation.

Find a long video or audio recording of two people talking to each other. Instead of starting at the beginning of the conversation, skip to somewhere in the middle. Try to figure out the topic of conversation as quickly as you can. Once you’ve figured it out, skip to another point in the recording and do the same thing. Keep doing that until you think you’ve discovered all of the topics in the conversation.

How this can help:

You won’t always join a conversation at the very beginning. You need to be able to figure out what people are talking about, even when you’re joining in the middle. This is a good way to practice that skill.

38. Listen to someone who has trouble explaining themselves.

People don’t always speak perfectly. Sometimes we have trouble explaining what we’re trying to say. There are techniques that English speakers use when they’re trying to figure out how to express themselves. Listen to someone who’s not speaking very clearly and confidently.

How this can help:

English speakers have certain phrases and sounds that they use when they’re unsure or when they hesitate. It’s important to learn those.

39. Watch a lesson on the sounds of English.

It can be helpful to listen to a teacher carefully pronounce and explain the sounds of English.

How this can help:

It’s good to know what the basic English vowel and consonant sounds are, so that you know what to pay attention to when you listen to people speak.

40. Listen to someone talk about your profession.

Listen to a conference speech, a training video, a lecture, or a conversation about your profession (your job).

How this can help:

You already know a lot about your profession. That background knowledge will help you to understand what’s being said, even if the vocabulary and grammar are complex.

41. Practice intensive listening.

Find a recording of something that you really want to understand and listen to it intensively. Stop the recording when you hear a word that you don’t know. Try to look up its meaning. Think carefully about why the speaker chose the words that they chose. Take notes on any phrases that could be useful to you in the future.

How this can help:

When you listen using your whole mind and all of your attention, you understand more and remember more. It’s hard to do this all of the time, but it’s a great way to stretch your English listening skills.

So… what do you think? Are there any new techniques here which you’ve never tried before? Do you have an interesting technique of your own that you’d like to share with other English learners? Let me know in the comments!



(Reference: http:/www.phrasemix.com)

7 Things NOT to Do When Speaking English

by Alba

1. Don’t Be too Ashamed to Speak

There is only one way to learn how to speak English, and that is to open your mouth and speak English! The only way you will ever get better at speaking is by speaking, and speaking a lot!

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear. – Mark Twain

You can make excuses for why you don’t want to speak, like saying that you’re too embarrassed to speak, but these won’t get you any closer to your goal of achieving English fluency. It doesn’t matter if you have no vocabulary, or if your pronunciation isn’t perfect, you need to open your mouth and speak if you want to improve.

Whatever you do, don’t say that you can’t speak English because this will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. By believing that you can’t speak English you close your mind to trying, and never give yourself the opportunity to improve. The only way to improve your English is to practice it, no matter how bad you may or may not be at it.

2. Don’t Be Afraid of Making Mistakes

Another thing you shouldn’t do when speaking English is to be afraid of making mistakes. Part of being human is making mistakes and sooner or later you’re going to have to accept the fact that you’re not perfect and that you will always make mistakes. The only way you can avoid making mistakes is by not trying at all. If you follow this approach you’ll avoid making mistakes, but you’ll never improve either.

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. – Michael Jordan

This may seem counter-intuitive, but you should try making as many mistakes as possible. If you are making mistakes that means you are actually speaking English and improving. If you aren’t making mistakes every day then you aren’t speaking enough. Of course, you shouldn’t intentionally make mistakes, and you should try to be aware of your mistakes so you can learn from them and improve your skills.

Grammar is the last thing you should be worried about when speaking English. You don’t need to have perfect grammar in order to communicate with someone in English. Native speakers aren’t going to judge you for having bad grammar, they are going to be more focused on understanding your meaning and continuing the conversation.

As long as you speak clearly and confidently, it doesn’t matter if you use the wrong article, adjective ending or sentence order.

Many language programs put too much emphasis on grammar and not enough emphasis on speaking. They spread the idea that you have to know all the grammar rules before you can start speaking, which can have the effect of reducing your confidence when you finally start speaking. This is backwards. You should learn to speak first to build your confidence, and then work on correcting your grammar after you’ve reached a basic level of fluency.

Everybody makes mistakes, even native speakers of English. Nobody is born speaking perfect English; fluency is something that takes time and hard work to achieve. There are many Americans who go through 13 years of schooling and still don’t learn how to speak English properly.

So don’t be discouraged by your mistakes. Learn to embrace them and value them for the role they play in your learning.

3. Don’t Apologize For Your Level

Something that really annoys me when I’m talking to someone in English is when they apologize for how much English they speak. I’ve never been offended by someone’s level of English, and I don’t get upset when someone makes mistakes. If you talk to someone and they do get offended or upset because of your level of English they are an evil person who probably tortures kittens in their spare time.

Most of the people who apologize for their level of English feel like they should speak better than they do. Its fine to think this, but don’t get upset at yourself for not knowing more than you do. Achieving fluency in any language is a process that takes time, and you can’t expect to become fluent overnight. Whether you’ve been studying English for years or only for a few months, you’ve put in a lot of work to get where you are, so don’t underestimate yourself.

4. Don’t get frustrated with yourself

Learning English will come with a certain amount of frustration. At some point you will come to a stage where you won’t be able to fully express yourself like you would be able to in your native language, and there will be times when you won’t be able to find the right word to say.

Nearly everyone who learns English goes through this phase; it’s just a natural part of the language learning process. This stage may last only a few weeks if you are completely immersed in English, but it could last years if you only use English twice a week at your language school. The only way to overcome this frustration is by practice, practice, practice.

Keep in mind that this frustration isn’t because you’re not smart enough, or because the language is too difficult, it is something that many people have to go through. By embracing this frustration and feeling it more intensely through increased exposure you can pass through this stage more rapidly.

5. Don’t take it personally when people don’t understand you

At some point in your English speaking career you are going to speak to someone who, no matter how hard you try just cant seem to understand you. Due to the large number of English speakers in the world, there are a wide range of accents, some of which are hard to understand. I for one have a hard time understanding some Australian accents and most Irish accents.

You’ll have this problem a lot when talking with people who aren’t used to dealing with foreigners. If they don’t have this experience they will be used to hearing English spoken in a very specific way, and they won’t have any frame of reference when talking to you. Realize that this isn’t a reflection of your language skills, but rather a reflection of this person’s lack of exposure to different people.

This can also happen when talking to English learners who have a lower level of English than you. They won’t be able to understand everything you say because of your more advanced vocabulary. Try to remember that you were once at their level and not everyone is at the same place on their language journey.

The same person who gets offended when you speak English also tortures kittens like these.

6. Don’t compare yourself to other English Speakers

No matter what level your English is at, you had to work hard to bring yourself to that level. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished and don’t be too concerned with what other people think about it. They don’t know how many hours you’ve had to work to get to where you are, they don’t know all the struggles you’ve been through to get there.

This also means you shouldn’t go around comparing yourself to other people. Everybody is different; some people learn languages more easily than others and some people have spent more time working to improve their English. Just because your friend who lived in London for 3 years can speak really well doesn’t mean that you’re not on the right path.

Some people like to see others fail, and by paying any attention to these people you are just feeding their negativity. Any time you spend worrying about what they think of you is time wasted that could be better spent by working to improve your English.

7. If you are fluent, or just think you are, DON’T GET COCKY (ARROGANT)

English is not a chip in your brain. It’s a learning process. Maybe this is gonna seem harsh, and definitely a bit paradoxical, but for the rare English Jedi breed, they realize that there’s never really perfect fluency, only the impassioned and ever-approaching journey toward it.

This means that when you finally become fluent, (whatever that really means to you or to the world), you shouldn’t adopt the attitude of somebody who thinks “I already learned English” because there are some fundamental problems and limitations that come from this assumption. Here are just a few:

You’re living a lie because you never stop learning a language. It is like calling yourself a fully-realized human being.  There’s always the next level up, and the current level always needs practice.

The learner tends to get lazy, and it’s a universal fact about any learning process, that if you aren’t growing, you are probably getting worse.

The inflated ego prevents you from recognizing the final 5 or 10% that separates you from the master jedi breed of English speakers.

There is a tendency to treat other English learners (or people who are learning their language) in a condescending, totally idiotic way, forgetting what it is like to learn because they themselves are no longer connected to their own learning process.

Cultural Understanding: You can know everything about grammar, but that doesn’t mean you are fluent. You need to be constantly connected to the source of the language (culture) so that it flows from who you really are.

So there you have it, 7 things not to do when speaking English. Now that you know what not to do, go out there and speak English!



(Reference: http:/www.fluentland.com)

Characteristics of Bad Teachers

by Derrick Meador, Teaching expert.
Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images News/Getty Images

One would hope that all teachers would strive to be excellent, effective teachers. However, education is just like any other profession. There are those who work extremely hard at their craft getting better on a daily basis and there are those that are just simply there never striving to improve. Even though this type of teacher is in the minority, these bad teachers contribute significantly to making all teachers look ineffective. It is a frustrating reality in education, but there are bad teachers.

There are bad teachers that honestly believe they are good teachers. These teachers either lack a significant skill to become effective or simply do not have a grasp on what being an effective teacher requires. There are other bad teachers that know exactly what they are and what they are doing. These teachers can typically be grouped into two categories. They are the veteran teachers that are burned out or the newbie that realized they did not want to be a teacher until it was too late.

In any case, these teachers are not doing themselves, their students, or the profession any favors by hanging on just to draw a pay check.

There are many different ways a teacher can be bad. Even an overall effective teacher may be ineffective in certain areas. A major part of a principal’s job is to identify which teachers are effective, which teachers need to improve, and which ones are ineffective and need to be dismissed. This process begins with an accurate teacher evaluation.

What qualities can deem a teacher ineffective or bad? There are many different things that can derail a teacher’s career. Here we discuss some of the most important and prevalent qualities that a bad teacher may possess.

Lack of Classroom Management

A lack of classroom management is probably the single biggest downfall of a bad teacher. This issue can be the demise of any teacher no matter what their intentions are. If a teacher cannot control the students in their classroom they will not be able to teach them effectively. Being a good classroom manager starts on day one by incorporating simple procedures and expectations and then following through on predetermined consequences when those procedures and expectations are compromised. Any teacher trying to befriend students will be ineffective in the area of classroom management. Students will test teachers quickly, recognize a weakness, and take over a class before a teacher knows what happens.

Lack of Content Knowledge

Most states require teachers to pass a comprehensive series of assessments to obtain certification within a specific subject area. With this requirement, you would think that all teachers would be proficient enough to teach the subject area(s) they were hired to teach. Unfortunately there are some teachers that do not know the content knowledge well enough to teach it. This is an area that could be overcome through preparation. All teachers should thoroughly go through any lesson before they teach it to make sure they understand what they are going to be teaching. Teachers will lose credibility with their students extremely fast if they do not know what they are teaching, thus making them ineffective.

Lack of Motivation

There are some teachers that are not motivated to be effective teachers. They spend the minimum amount of time necessary to do their job never arriving early or staying late. These teachers are just there. They do not challenge their students, rarely give homework, are often behind on grading, show videos often, and give “free” days on a regular basis. There is no creativity in their teaching, they rarely smile or seem excited to be there, and they typically make no connections with other faculty or staff members.

Lack of Organizational Skills

Effective teachers must be organized. A teacher has to keep up with so many things on a daily basis that they must be organized to do their jobs effectively. There is not a cookie cutter approach to being organized. A system that works for one teacher may not necessarily work for another. A teacher needs to develop some sort of organizational system that works for them. Teachers who lack organizational skills will be ineffective and overwhelmed. It will lead to unnecessary frustration and can take away from the good things that the teacher is trying to do. Teachers who recognize a weakness in organization should seek help in improving in that area. It is an area that can be improved very quickly with some good direction and advice.

Lack of Professionalism

Professionalism encompasses many different areas of teaching. A lack of professionalism can quickly result in a teacher’s dismissal. Teachers who are routinely absent or tardy are ineffective. They cannot do their job if they are not there to do it. Failing to follow the district dress code on a regular basis can also land a teacher in hot water. This is especially true for young female teachers who dress provocatively. Teachers who use inappropriate language in their classroom on a regular basis undermine the moral responsibility they have as an authority figure. Each of these situations involves a serious lack of professionalism which will undermine a teacher’s overall effectiveness.

Poor Judgment

Teachers like any other human being make decisions on a daily basis. However, many of the decisions that a teacher makes affects their students which they are charged with leading, educating, and protecting. Opportunities can present themselves at various times. Teachers have to keep their wits and make good smart decisions in every situation they encounter. Too many good teachers have lost their careers because they had a moment of poor judgment instead of thinking things all the way through. Common sense goes a long ways in protecting yourself. If there is a chance that it will harm someone, then you probably should lean the other way.

Poor People Skills

Having excellent people skills can mask a lot of inefficiencies. On the flip side, having poor people skills can undermine your effectiveness in other areas. A teacher has to be effective at dealing with people including their students, parents, other teachers, staff members, and administrators. Good communication is essential. Parents especially want to know what is going on in their child’s classroom. Having good people skills is essential and the lack of such skills could destroy and at the very least limit a teacher’s overall effectiveness.



(Reference: http:/teaching.about.com/)

Why Learning French isn’t hard

by Zack

Today’s guest post is from Zack,  who is a long-term reader of the blog and has sent me this guest post idea for a concept that you all know I like to write about for as many languages as I can!

Considering French is considered by some to be among the world’s “hardest languages” (yes, seriously, Parisians will insist on this; luckily, you’ll get a lot more encouragement in the rest of France, Belgium, Switzerland and definitely in Quebec), I think a change in attitude is in order, so that those of you learning this language can get a bit of encouragement!

While those of us who are very experienced in the language will have a lot to say about it (I used to translate French professionally for instance), we can forget what it’s like for those who are starting off, and it’s why I think Zack did a great job summarizing how it isn’t that bad, despite having learnt the language for such a short time. As such this is a nice guide for those of you just starting to learn French, especially if you dabbled in Spanish in school first.

Take it away Zack!


The most common response I receive upon telling someone that I’m learning French—from English and French speakers alike—is something along the lines of, “French is so hard! I can’t believe you can speak like this after only three months!”

This exclamation is typically followed by exasperated hand wringing over the difficulty of the pronunciation, the seemingly endless list of exceptions to every grammar rule, the conjugations, and so on. Now that I’ve officially eclipsed the three-month milestone in my French language studies, I’d like to dispel, once-and-for-all, the (surprisingly) pervasive notion that French is somehow impossibly difficult to learn. Spoiler alert: it’s not.

As a language nerd, I’m a big fan of Benny Lewis, whose “Speak from Day One” approach should be, I think, language-learning gospel. He’s written several posts about why learning Czech, Turkish, German, Mandarin Chinese, Hungarian, and other languages is not as hard as you think. His point is that with the right attitude and approach, learning a new language—despite what detractors might claim—is never as difficult a task as it’s often made out to be.



Any discussion of why French is not difficult for English speakers ought to begin with the date September 28, 1066, which is the date the Norman conquest of England began.

During the four hundred years that followed, a dialect of French known as Anglo-Norman became the language of the crown, the educated elite, the ruling administration and the justice. Even today, the Queen’s assent, which must be given to legislation passed by parliament in order to become law, is still issued in French. How cool is that!

Nerdy historical tangents aside, what does any of this have to do with learning French nowadays? Linguists estimate that about a third of English words are derived from French, meaning that, as an English speaker, even before you crack open a phrasebook for the very first time, you have a ready-made vocabulary that you can start using from day one. Do you have six hours to spare? Great—have a crack at this Wikipedia list of shared vocabulary. Second spoiler alert: it’s long.

From a practical standpoint, I’ve found that anytime I’m at a loss for the right French word, coating an English word in a heavy French accent is a surprisingly effective strategy. I remember during my first week in French class, I was trying to say that a certain French word exists in English but has a different meaning.

I didn’t know the word for “meaning” in French, so I said the English word “connotation” with a thick French accent. I paused and studied my teacher coyly, waiting for her to correct me. She looked at me expectantly as if to say, “Well, duh! Connotation! Everyone knows connotation!”

You’ll notice that many other “tion” words appear in French almost exactly as they do in English, especially British English, which never replaced the “s” in words like réalisation with a “z” as we’ve done in American English.

The circumflex you find in many words usually signifies that an “s” used to be present but has since fallen out of use. Thus, words like hôpital and forêt translate to “hospital” and “forest” in English. There are many more tricks like this, and though they can’t always be perfectly applied, these examples should give you a sense of just how much linguistic history the two languages have in common.


Okay, so perhaps you’re thinking that, yes, you realize that English and French have many words in common, but there’s no way you’re ever going to be able to master that perfect accent your fantasy French husband/girlfriend/whatever has. Ah, but not so fast!

Along with many of the French words that migrated into English came vestiges of their former pronunciations. Consider words and expressions like montage, jà vu, bourgeois, comprise, brochure, filet mignon, chauffeur, lingerie, and encore. Without knowing it, you actually use many of the sounds found in French regularly.

Still others can give you clues as to what you shouldn’t pronounce, including faux pas, buffet, coup, and laissez-faire. Even the dreaded liaison rears its ugly head in the words vis-à-vis (pronounced “vee-zah-vee”) and bon appétit (pronounced “baw na-pey-tee”).

Now I’ll admit that the French “r” and nasal sounds will probably take some practice and getting used to, but the best advice I received—from my Lonely Planet phrasebook, nonetheless—was just to go for the most stereotypical French accent I possibly could. Try it—it actually works!



One of the most common complaints among French learners is the seemingly incomprehensibility of verb conjugations. Consider the forms of the verb manger (meaning “to eat”) below:

First Person Singular: Je mange (“I eat”)

Second Person Singular: Tu manges (“You eat”)

Third Person Singular: Il/Elle/On mange (“He/She/One eats”)

First Person Plural: Nous mangeons (“We eat”)

Second Person Plural: Vous mangez (“You (pl.) eat”)

Third Person Plural: Ils/Elles mangent (“They eat”)

Did you survive that with your sanity intact? Great! It may look like a lot to wrap your head around, but it’s actually not, especially in spoken French. In fact, the difference between written and spoken French is so vast that the first person singular, second person singular, third person singular, and third person plural forms of the verb manger are pronounced exactly the same despite having written forms that appear to vary substantially.

Add to that the fact that the third person singular On form is usually used in place of the first person plural, and you don’t even have to think about changing the pronunciation for the majority of verb forms in the present indicative.

The group of verbs that manger belongs to, the –er verbs, is one of three, the other two being –ir and –re verbs. The –er verbs are completely regular, the –ir verbs are mostly regular, and the –re verbs are mostly irregular.

Don’t let the third “irregular” group scare you, though. Not only does it comprise the smallest of the three groups, it’s also considered to be a “closed-class,” meaning that all new verbs introduced into the French language are of the first two “regular” classes.

Thus, new words like googliser, textoter, and téléviser take the regular forms. Even among the irregular verbs, you’ll be able to pick up on patterns that make their conjugations fairly predictable. Also remember that, as was the case with the –er verbs, the verb forms of the irregular verbs are pronounced mostly the same, though there are some exceptions.


As for the other tenses, anyone who’s learned Spanish will be relieved to find out that there are fewer tenses in French than in Spanish. In modern French, for example, the most frequently used past-tense construction is the passé composé, a compound tense composed of the verb avoir (meaning “to have”) or être (meaning “to be”) followed by the past participle of the conjugated verb.

In the passé composé, the first person singular form of manger is J’ai mangé, which literally translates to “I have eaten,” but it is also used to say “I ate.” Unlike English or Spanish, French uses the same tense to express both concepts. There is a passé simple, but it’s an antiquated literary tense that is seldom used in contemporary spoken French.

French also uses an imperfect tense—the imparfait—which has only one set of endings (unlike Spanish), contains only one exception (être, meaning “to be”), and is used in exactly the same way as the Spanish imperfect. In order to form the imparfait, take the present indicative Nous form of a verb, slice off the conjugated ending, add the imparfait ending, and voilà! You’re in business.

There’s the futur proche, which will be extremely familiar to speakers of English and Spanish. It simply combines the conjugated form of the verb aller, meaning “to go,” with an infinitive. It’s equivalent to saying in English, “I am going to [BLANK].” There’s also a futur simple that, like the imparfait, uses only one set of endings that are added to the “future stem,” which is usually just the infinitive or, for the irregular verbs, the infinitive with the final “e” chopped off.

There are about two-dozen irregular future stems, but these irregular stems also double as the stems for the conditional, which is formed by adding the imparfait endings you already know to the future stem. This might all sound confusing, but the main point is that these verb forms and moods are constructed using things you already know. The more you learn, the more your knowledge builds on itself.

The Dreaded Subjunctive

Though the subjunctive mood that’s the scourge of Spanish students everywhere exists in French, it’s used in both fewer instances and in fewer tenses than it is in Spanish.

Its almost exclusively follows que or qui, which is less often the case in Spanish. Take, for instance, the following phrases in English, Spanish, and French:

English: If I were you, I would be happy.

Español: Si yo fuera tú, sería feliz

Français: Si j’étais toi, je serais heureux

Take a look at the two verbs in bold for a moment. Whereas the Spanish version uses the imperfect subjunctive, the French phrase uses the imperfect indicative (standard past tense use of the word, like English) to express the exact same idea. In French, the imperfect subjunctive is a stodgy literary tense that nobody even uses anymore!


ToutestpossibleThere are, of course, plenty of quirks and exceptions in the French language, as there are in any language, but the key, as always, is just to go out and SPEAK IT! Like Benny says, French is easy! Both speaking and understanding are within your grasp.

Native speakers won’t be shy about correcting you, and the more you speak and make adjustments, the more natural it will become. There are some great French online courses that will get you speaking quickly, and don’t worry if your pronunciation is a little off, or if you forget how to conjugate such and such verb, or if you forget which preposition to use. Just remember: everyone starts off speaking any language they learn like a baby.

If you have any other encouragement for French learners, share them with us!




(Source: http://www.fluentin3months.co)