Home > Language Focus, Recommended For Students, Recommended For Teachers > LEARNING SPOKEN ENGLISH IN THE HALF OF THE TIME


The article below was summarized and was adjusted (especially for non-English speaking readers) from LEARNING SPOKEN ENGLISH book by Lynn Lundquist that can be downloaded / ordered from www.FreeEnglishNow.com. The PDF version of this book where I make this summarize from, was downloaded from www.filecrop.com. But please note that I give you no warranty if the that PDF version is the legal one since there was another mark showing that the PDF version was re-compiled.



Introduction: speak first, then grammar

We may often ask to the other people or even ask to ourselves, “why have we studied English in school so long time without learning to speak fluently?”

The answer of the question is because our teacher have tried to train our mind with written exercises without retraining our tongue at the same time. And this big problem is occurred almost everywhere, in the non-English speaking countries with non-English native speaker as the teacher. Written exercises and grammar-based instruction are everything, while in fact, this type of learning has hindered English learning by segregating individual areas of study. Grammar-based English training has not only isolated proprioceptive training areas so that it prevents simultaneous skill development, it has replaced it with visual memory training by using written assignments. The result for the student is that, gaining English fluency requires far more study time, pronunciation is often faulty, and grammar becomes more difficult to learn.

Grammar-based English instruction teaches as though spoken English is primarily a function of memory. Consequently, grammar-based English lesson emphasize non-verbal studies of grammar, writing, reading, and listening. All of these activities may increase recall memory for written examination, but they have little benefit in teaching us to speak fluent English.

The only way we can effectively learn spoken English is by using spoken English as the method of instruction. All of our study (including English grammar) should be done by speaking English at full voice volume for the entire study period. What does it mean?

It is important that we speak loudly and clearly when we are studying spoken English. We are retraining our mind to respond to a new pattern of proprioceptive and auditory stimuli. This can only be done when we are speaking aloud at full volume. One of he reasons that our English study in school required so much time while producing such poor results is that none of the silent study did anything to train our tongue to speak English.

When we are learning English as a new language, all of its unique sounds and syntax must be learned. This is much more than a memory function involving our mind. Each of these new sounds and syntax patterns requires retraining our entire mind, the nerve feedback in our tongue, mouth, breathing, and the auditory feedback. And English syntax is dependent on our proprioceptive sense. If you doubt that the proprioceptive sense is an important part of speech, try this experiment. Read to or three sentences written in your own language. Read it entirely in your mind without moving your lips. You may even speed read it. Now read the sentences “silently” by moving your lips without making any sound. Your mind will respond to the first way of reading as simple information which is primarily a memory function, but will respond to the second way as speech because of the proprioceptive feedback from your mouth.

So, two skills must be emphasized if we want to speak English fluently. The first is memory (which is involved in both vocabulary and syntax) and the second is proprioceptive responses (which are involved in both pronunciation and syntax).

We may be able to learn simple vocabulary-related memory skills with equal effectiveness by using either verbal or visual training methods. That is, we may be able to learn pure memory skills equally well with either spoken drills or written exercises.

Now we know that speech is controlled in our mind by feedback from our hearing and mouth position as much as it is from our memory. If we want to speak fluent English, it is just as important to retrain our tongue as it is train our memory. To be effective, however, we must retrain our mind, tongue, and hearing at exactly the same time because they must work together when we speak. So that is why it is impossible for us to retrain our proprioceptive sense without hearing our own voice at full speaking volume. Thus, it is a waste of our time to do written assignments for the purpose of learning spoken English.

Surprisingly, it will take far less time for us to learn both fluent spoken English and excellent English grammar by studying only spoken English first, than it will for us to study written English grammar lessons before we can speak English. This does not mean, however, that grammar is not a necessary part of spoken English instruction. Any language is unintelligible without grammar because grammar consists of the rules used to put words together in ways which convey meaning. So, it is impossible to speak without correct use of grammar. But the issue is not whether or not we need to know English grammar. The question is, “How do we learn English grammar best?” And the answer is, “The best way to learn English grammar is through spoken English exercises.”

How will we learn English grammar best?

Let’s see traditional English study method again. Traditional methods of teaching English attempt to engage the students in free speech as quickly as possible. Though the goal is commendable, in practice it has a serious drawback. A beginning student doesn’t have enough language background to be able to construct sentences properly. More to the point, the instruction program seldom has enough teachers to correct every student’s errors. Consequently, beginning students regularly use incomplete sentences having incorrect syntax and verb construction. The instructor often praises them for their valiant effort, in spite of the reality that they are learning to use English incorrectly. The student will now need to spend even more time relearning the correct syntax.

Traditional English instruction for non-English speaking students has also reversed the process with poor result. Most English classes teach grammar as a foundation for spoken English. In fact, the quickest way to teach students to read English is to teach them to speak it first. The fastest way to teach them sufficient grammar to pass college entrance exam is to build a foundation by teaching them to speak English fluently. Whenever the process is reversed, it takes a needlessly long time to succeed in teaching grammar and writing skills, much less fluent spoken English.

Do not misunderstand with the statement above. We actually cannot speak any language well without knowing its grammar because grammar consists of the rules used to put words together into meaningful sentences. In English, we can use a given number of words to make a statement or ask a question by the way in which we order the words and use inflection. Simply stated, placing the words in the correct order means applying grammar. And once again, the issue is not about need or do not need to know English grammar. English is unintelligible without grammar. The question is, “How will we learn English grammar best?” I think we will learn English grammar better and faster by learning it as a spoken language.

The best time to study grammar

At some point, everyone who expects to write English well must learn to spell. Yet, it will probably be faster for us to learn good spelling after learning good pronunciation than it will be for us to learn good spelling without being able to speak (it because there is a relationship between good pronunciation and good spelling).

Here, I am not saying that grammar or spelling are unnecessary. Rather, I am saying that grammar can be taught more effectively and in less time by using audio language drills. Teaching grammar by means of spoken language has the great advantage of reinforcing the cognitive learning of grammar while using two additional functions found in normal speech—motor skill feedback and auditory feedback. Teaching grammar as a written exercise does develop cognitive learning, but it reinforces it with visual feedback.

Though visual feedback has some merit, it is outside the context of spoken English. The single reinforcement of visual feedback outside of the spoken English context is far less effective than motor skill feedback and auditory feedback which are both inside the spoken language context. The trade-off is costly and retards progress. Far more is gained when you learn to identify correct grammar by the way a sentence sounds, rather than by the way it looks. Though it would not typically be explained this way, it is also important on a subconscious level that you learn how correct grammar feels. As a function of the proprioceptive sense, a statement produces a certain sequence of sensory feedback from the mouth, tongue, and air passages that feels different than a question.

It would take considerably longer to teach a language student how to write English grammar exercises, and then speak English correctly, than it would to teach the same student to first speak English correctly, and then introduce rules of grammar.

If we study spoken English for a year, we will gain a great deal of fluency. With that spoken English fluency, we will have a good understanding of English grammar. If we spend the same amount of time in English grammar study, we will have limited English fluency and will have little practical understanding of English grammar.

There will be a great difference in the fluency between beginning and advanced students. But there is no difference in the level of English sentences they must study. They must use the same English sentences both to initiate, and then to master, the process which will develop the necessary cognitive, motor, and auditory skills used to speak fluent English.

Beginning and advanced English

English has many specialized vocabularies. Any student who has taken courses in anatomy, law, physics, automotive technology, psychology, engineering, geology, or anthropology has spent a great deal of time learning specialized terminology. But the essential English syntax which holds these words together in a sentence is still the language of the street—or the language of the daily newspaper.

So, aside from specialized vocabularies, English has no divisions representing varying levels of language complexity. Almost any individual with at least a secondary school education would make essentially the same evaluation of another speaker’s ability to use good or bad English.

Then, why have traditional language programs insisted that there must be beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels of English study? It is not because there are beginning and advanced levels of spoken English. It is because there are beginning, intermediate, and advanced explanations for English grammar. This means that some rules of English grammar are easy to explain. Some rules of grammar are more difficult to explain. And some are complex enough to require a highly technical explanation. But spoken English is one subject of study, whereas the formal rules of English grammar are quite another.

Sample of method: using newspaper for English development

A newspaper in English is usually excellent source for a study text. Most newspapers use good syntax, relatively simple sentences, and common expressions. In addition to general vocabulary, newspaper will give you many common political, scientific, economic, and technical words. Generally, newspapers are also a good source of colloquial expressions.

I will explain the use of a newspaper as an English text because it will help us to understand how the text would be used. So, by now, we realize that the purpose of using the newspaper is spoken language practice. We would always read the newspaper aloud, and would frequently read a sentence aloud and then look away from the text, repeating the sentence from recall memory.

OK, now read the article aloud, identifying new vocabulary as you read. Wherever you read a word you do not know, stop and find it in your dictionary. Keep a vocabulary notebook. If a word you do not know is used more than twice in an article, put a sign (x) by it for special study. However, do not check names of places or people. After you finish reading the article for the first time, review the meaning of all the new vocabulary words. Study these words enough so that you know what they mean when you read the article. Always pronounce vocabulary words.

After you are more familiar with the process, select other newspaper articles and continue reading aloud while you look for new vocabulary words. When you find a word in a second newspaper article which you have already checked (x) in your notebook, place a second check (xx) by it. Any word in your notebook with two checks should be memorized as an important word to know.

Wherever you are able to do so, write cognate forms of the same word. For example, to adhere, an adhesive, and adhesion are cognates. It will be helpful for you to learn multiple cognate forms of a word at the same time rather than learning each form as a new vocabulary word when you encounter it. Association of a single word in multiple forms with one rot meaning will result in more rapid vocabulary retention. It will also teach you how to develop cognate forms of words as you speak English in the future.

Verbs should be listed in your notebook by their infinitive form rather than by a conjugated forms. After mastering the verb’s conjugation, it will be far simpler to learn a single verb form thatn it will be to attempt to learn each form of a verb as an individual vocabulary word.

Now, read the article again for meaning. Always read aloud. If you do not understand a sentence, stop and figure out exactly what it means. If some of the definitions you have written in your notebook do not make sense in the context of the article, find the word again in your dictionary and see if it has other meanings. If a second meaning for the word make better sense, write that definition in your notebook. If you still cannot figure out the meaning of a sentence, it may because two or more words are used together as a single expression. Try to determine the meaning of expressions. Look for similar expressions in other articles. If you still cannot determine the meaning of an expression, ask your English teacher for assistance.

More benefits of using newspaper, #1 and #2: vocabulary and syntax development

We have talked about vocabulary development through reading aloud articles on the newspaper. Now, we will have a look at the other benefits of using newspaper. The benefit after using the newspaper or vocabulary development is using the newspaper for syntax development. Reading article aloud is an ideal way to reinforce our use of grammatically correct English syntax. Our goal is to retrain our mind, hearing, and mouth to understand and use English correctly. Reading aloud from a newspaper is one of the best way to accomplish that.

The great advantage is that we will be reading a large number of different sentences which will all be organized according to the same grammar rules. Thus, we would be learning the acceptable range of the syntax of that language. That is, there may appear to be many variations from sentence to sentence, yet all of the uses would still correct. For an example, we would learn that we can place the word “however” at the beginning, middle, or end of an English sentence. We would also learn that the position of “however” can make a slight difference in meaning, or it can enhance the style of the sentence. And in many respects, using the newspaper for syntax development is similar to using it for fluency enhancement and as an aid in conversation as mentioned below. The same exercises suggested below would be as profitable for syntax as thy would be for fluency and conversation.

More benefits of using newspaper, #3: learn expressions

Expressions add richness to all languages. We can try to identify expressions as we read the newspaper using a special mark. Many expressions may be divided so that component words of the expressions are separated by non-component words. We can try to substitute other words while using the same expressions. We can write as many sentences using the expression as possible.

More benefits of using newspaper, #4 and #5: fluency enhancement and conversation practice

In this use of the newspaper, we would simply read rather than alternating between reading and repeating a sentence from recall memory. We would read the entire article aloud for fluency practice, so we should try to read the article as smoothly as possible without stopping. Read it aloud at least twice. For more fluency practice, continue reading the article aloud until we can read it at the same rate of speed that American speaker uses when talking.

Fluency itself is the ability to speak smoothly with proper intonation. Initially use single sentences for fluency drills, repeatedly reading a single sentence until we can read it smoothly. Eventually, we can do the same with multiple sentences or paragraphs. Even as beginning student, there is value in reading a longer passage or entire article without break in order to establish the rhythm of the spoken language. This is excellent proprioceptive training!

Using a newspaper article will also be a great aid in producing conversation which is essentially free of mistakes. A newspaper article can give us a great deal of structure for conversation practice. This structure would give both us and our English teacher a defined group of vocabulary words, defined sentences with an understood meaning, and a defined context in which the vocabulary and sentences can be communicated.

Success in spoken English study

To be succeed in spoken English study, we must stop wasting our time on English grammar and writing lessons and practice spoken English instead—even when others tell us in order to learn to speak English well, we must study English grammar and writing (BTW, has studying English grammar really helped us to speak English fluently?)

Well, actually, I know that it is impossible for me to change the way our schools, our universities, and our colleges teach English. I just want to show people that there are many more effective methods that can be used to teach spoken English, including the method above. And now, to be succeed in spoken English study, we must remember and follow the rules below:

  • To learn to speak English correctly, we must speak it aloud
  • To learn to speak English fluently, we must think in English
  • The more we speak English aloud, the more quickly we will learn to speak fluently
  • Our success will depend on the amount of time we devote to spoken English study.

Be persistent but don’t try too hard

Lack of persistence is the largest reason why we would fail to learn fluent spoken English. Though grammar-based study is ineffective, it is usually easier for a student to do written English grammar assignments than spoken drills. Written grammar assignments are also used because English classes are often too large for spoken language study, students do not have recorded audio lessons or audio equipment, written assignments make it look like more was accomplished, and because English teachers themselves often do not speak English fluently.

Many students fail because they assume that when they understand the meaning of all the sentences, and know the meaning of all the vocabulary words for a lesson, they have finished that lesson. We will not succeed, however, until we have repeated the spoken English exercises frequently enough so that we can pronounce each sentence exactly like an American.

Another reason that the students fail is because they feel they are too advanced for some lessons. They are making the same mistake. They are confusing their understanding of grammar with their ability to speak.

Well, we may only need to be persistent. But trying too hard to learn spoken English can also hinder our progress. When we studied for important English exams in school, we worked hard to memorize grammar rules, we lost sleep in order to study, we worried about our grade, and we were anxious during the exam. As a result, stress was often associated with English study.

On the other hand, when we and our friend were talking in our own language about soccer game, we were excited about our favorite team’s victory. But we were not anxious about the language itself when we were speaking. So, to use this new proprioceptive method to its full advantage, we must hear ourselves speaking English correctly. If stress accompanies the language learning process, our spoken English will not be normal. Be persistent in spending the time necessary to learn spoken English. But avoid becoming stressed. Forget that you are studying English and speak naturally just as if you were talking to a friend about a soccer game.

Conclusion: proprioceptive retraining is not instantaneous

Proprioceptive retraining is not instantaneous. It will require a great deal of repetition to build the new language patterns in our mind. As these new patterns develop, there will be progression from a laborious, conscious effort, to speech which is reproduced rapidly and unconsciously. The degree of perfection will require thousands of repetitions.

And, of course, we cannot blame the teacher for grammar-based type of learning at school, if so far, the education system including the curriculum demands, syllabus, and the lesson plan still emphasize on grammar-based method. If the method above cannot be applied in the classroom, then teacher should be able to apply it outside of the classroom, such as in English club or English extracurricular.

  1. November 21, 2016 at 6:43 pm

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  2. November 23, 2016 at 6:22 pm

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