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  Fluentenglish.com > English > Self-study principles
"This course is specially designed for people who can write good English, but lack proficiency in spoken English"
The Hindustan Times.
  Self-study principles

The self-study course you'd be doing with Prof. Kev Nair's books is founded on facts – and not on speculations. And here are some of these facts:

Self-study alone can bring you true fluency
Here's the most important fact on which these self-study books are based: You're the only person who would be able to get you to speak English with a high degree of fluency. Nobody else would. Others would only be able to help you — by pointing the way.

And the self-study books we supply give you the ultimate fluency building help that you can expect to get from any part of the world. The ultimate help — the greatest, the most effective help. Remember this: These self-study books have been written by none other than Prof. Kev Nair, the very person who originated the idea of fluency development through intentional, deliberate training. He's a person who knows more about fluency building than anybody else in the world.

The web page "Self-study Facts" would tell you in detail how self-study helps you achieve a high degree of fluency in English.

Spoken English vs. Written English
True spoken English is quite different from the kind of English you learnt at school or college. What you learnt at school or college was mostly written English, and not spoken English.

Generally, at school or college, you don't even get to learn the real difference between the two kinds of English. Result? When you speak, you try to copy the style of written English. You start thinking in terms of written English grammar, written English usage and written English vocabulary. In terms of translating. And you get lost. You try hard to complete whatever you say into 'perfectly-formed sentences'– because you're under the (wrong) impression that they're the true units of speech! And you end up gasping in the middle. And you find it impossible to speak on – without faltering.

Of course, some written-English-minded people might manage to complete their spoken 'sentences'– after straining hard. But mind you, they wouldn't sound natural. Instead, they'd sound phoney and highbrow. When they speak, many of them wouldn't even sound as if they were speaking. They'd sound as if they were reading! And what many of them say would often sound like a composition read aloud.

Classroom speech practice can't help you become fluent
Suppose that a few people who can only speak broken English sit around a table and try to do speech practice in English. You see, they'll only be able to do the speech practice in broken English. And not in fluent English — because you see, they can't speak fluent English. And if they keep on doing this kind of speech practice for a few months, broken English becomes their habit. And not fluent English. This is so, no matter how good their knowledge of English is.

Even the presence of a teacher can't improve the situation — because fluent English is not 'corrected' or 'improved' broken English. Broken English, however improved and made smooth, still has the characteristics of broken English as its underlying features. Only, it's a kind of 'improved' broken English. That's all. But not fluent English. Fluent English is a wholly different stream. Something totally separate.

Learning by heart: Impossible
Mind you, you can't learn by heart all (or even a small proportion of) the 'speech-units' that are possible in a language, and then reproduce them as and when required. There are millions and millions of them. People don't, and can't, speak that way. And you can't anticipate all the contexts and situations you'll have to speak in. And you can't tell beforehand what kinds of questions others might ask. Or what replies you might like to give. Or how a conversation might progress. This is one reason why books containing collections of theoretically-correct sentences or cassettes won't make you fluent.

So, if you want to become fluent, you must gain the skill of producing speech spontaneously — without planning it or preparing it first.

What you need is not the skill of reproducing perfectly-made sentences learnt by heart here and there. What you need is the skill of going on composing, on your feet, the things you want to say from moment to moment and of going on saying them at the same time — as you speak along. That is, the skill of letting a smooth flow of English happen when you speak about your ideas, thoughts and feelings. And of speaking about them — in a sensible and ordered way, with all the things you say fitting well together. By putting together pre-fabricated word groups as well as individual words. And the skill of filling time with talk, and of keeping the speech flow going while you're thinking of or deciding what to say next — or how to phrase it. And the skill of having something appropriate to say in a wide range of everyday situations, so that you're not at a loss for words or tongue-tied in those situations.

Translation: Impossible
You won't be able to speak English fluently by translating. Mind you, you can never achieve fluency in English through any other language.

You see, translator-speakers first think in their mother-tongue and then try to translate their thoughts into English. Their thoughts do not come out directly as English speech. And as long as their thoughts don't come out directly as English speech, they can't become fluent. Here are three of the chief reasons:

  • The 'structures' of most English speech-units are not similar to the 'structures' of the speech-units in other languages. For example, the order in which you should arrange the elements in an English speech-unit is different from the way you do that in other languages.
  • Most of the core words, collocations and conversational expressions in English don't have equivalents in other languages.
  • Several words, collocations and expressions in other languages don't have equivalents in English, either.

Mind you, the effort to translate stands between your thought and your speech as a block. This takes away your attention from the 'matter' of your speech, and forces you to concentrate on the 'manner'. And then you stop thinking about 'what' you want to say, and start paying attention to 'how' you say it. And then, you automatically falter, and your speech-flow automatically stops.

And translated spoken English sentences sound stilted. They don't sound natural – like the English spoken by native speakers of English.

Organs of speech: Not co-operative
You know, the muscles of your organs of speech are in the habit of moving and bending regularly in certain set patterns — to suit the demands of your mother-tongue. They fight shy of working in a different way — to suit the demands of the English language.

And mind you, as long as your organs of speech don't readily move, bend and work in the way the English language demands them to, you won't be able to speak fluent English.

Cassettes: Not helpful
Audio/Video cassettes containing theoretically-correct sentences won't make you fluent. No, they won't. Of course, if you listen to them for hours and hours, you may be able to learn a few isolated sentences by heart.

Remember this: Cassettes like these contain theoretically-correct sentences that have been edited and polished (and not naturally-occurring ones). And theoretically-correct stand-alone sentences like these may look ideal as examples of usage in classrooms. But they're precisely the things that won't help you in real-life situations. There, in real-life situations, the speech units you use must be those that are produced as part of an ongoing communicative process — in content as well as in form. The speech units you use will simply have to be those that you produce on the spot while you're actually engaged in the act of talking to people, those that you bend and twist and manipulate in order to suit the verbal and situational contexts.

You see, spontaneous speech is always produced under pressure of time. You speak in the 'here-and-now'. You have to connect what you're saying now to what you've finished saying. At the same time, you have to be thinking about, and preparing, what you're going to say next. And you have to orally organize everything you say, so that the various speech units and ideas they carry fit together well and in an ordered way — into a coherent whole. You'll be able to do all this, only if you know the techniques of 'on-the-spot speech composition'.

Cassettes containing theoretically-correct sentences won't teach you these techniques. In fact, these cassettes give you a false impression: They make you think that spoken English is made up of ideal strings of complete and perfectly-formed sentences. They make you think that you'd be able to speak English if you learn a few one-line sentences. They don't bring you face to face with such features of spontaneous speech as starting trouble, false starts, repetition of syllables and words, hesitations, pauses, pause fillers, gambits for creating planning-time, incomplete structures, unfinished word-groups, reformulations, refinements, backtracking, etc. They don't give you the skill of speaking 'exploratorily' and 'manipulatively'.

Conventional vocabulary development methods: Not helpful
Are you under the impression that conventional vocabulary-building methods can help you achieve true fluency. Mind you, they can't. No.

A chief reason is this: Conventional vocabulary building methods focus on individual words, and not on word clusters. And they create a wrong impression in your mind — a wrong impression that fluent speech is produced by stringing individual words together. Mind you, fluent speech cannot be produced by stringing individual words together. Fluent speech does not flow out word by word. Rather, fluent speech flows out in short bursts — each burst consisting of a cluster of 4 to 10 words (with most of the clusters having 5 words each).

So for fluency building, the focus of your vocabulary development effort should not be on individual words, but on word clusters — fluency-oriented word clusters.


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