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  1. #1
    pizza is offline Member
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    Default How can I improve my spoken English?

    I have been seriously trying to improve my English for the last 6 months or so after realizing that my English isn't 'native perfect' as I mistakenly had assumed for the past ~5 years perhaps. (Please assume I had good reason to believe so and to certain extent I wasn't all together wrong.)

    Reading and spoken English are my priorities at the moment. My reading level is good, most likely higher than your average college undergraduate, I can read Shakespeare (I couldn't before) and understand his sometimes arcane use of the language as well as other literary sources, like the Bible. However, even the most uneducated English-natives have 'something' that I still can't seem to grasp, idioms? phrasal verbs? slang?. Sure, they are more used to the language than I am since they've been using it for a longer time but arguably, if I put the time and work hard I should be able to equate with such uneducated natives at the spoken level.

    One of the things I have been doing is reading children's books but I haven't read so many as to assert that was the solution. Sure, there is not an ultimate solution, but clearly there should be things I can do that are more useful than others.

    What are your suggestions and ideas? Any comments will be appreciated.
    Last edited by pizza; 05-Nov-2011 at 07:44.

  2. #2
    emsr2d2's Avatar
    emsr2d2 is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: How can I improve my spoken English?

    Well done on your achievements so far - your English is among the highest level I've seen on here or anywhere else for quite some time.

    However, my personal opinion is that if you're not brought up in a country or if you haven't lived there for a considerable time, becoming a genuine native speaker is nigh on impossible. My reasons for saying that are the same as yours - idioms, slang, phrasal verbs etc. I think a lot of people assume that we use slang in a considered way - we start speaking and wonder which bit of slang or which idiom we can throw into the next couple of sentences. We don't. It's unconscious. Some people don't do it at all. Others do it far too much. I consider myself a natural user of all parts of the language and I wouldn't think twice about saying something like:

    "Ooooh, make us a brew, love. My tootsies are killing me. That boss of mine is a slave driver. Then we can have a butchers at the crossword if you fancy. I haven't got a scooby doo what's on TV tonight. Tripe, I expect."

    OK, I may have exaggerated a little in that I probably wouldn't use quite so much "non-standard" English in one short paragraph but you see my point. Given that your English is at such a high level, I imagine that you can make sense of that paragraph even if you haven't seen a couple of the phrases before. But the question is, could you have formulated that paragraph?

    I don't think reading children's books will help much, to be honest. If you want "real" English that contains all parts of speech, I would suggest something like watching "Trainspotting" or "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels". Perhaps "Reservoir Dogs". For me, Tarantino's genius isn't in the words he uses, it's how he puts them together and how they're delivered. His observations on human interaction are incredible. I'm sure you will easily understand what is said, but it's getting to grips with how it's said, the rhythm and the patterns that give you more clues to how native speakers converse.

    It's impressive that you can understand Shakespeare and the arcane use of the language in the Bible, but if you're talking about replicating real-life everyday speech of the average person (in the UK, at least) those don't matter. You need to be able to understand EastEnders, Miss Marple, the banal tripe they trot out on X Factor. I'm not being sarcastic but neither am I suggesting that you should aim for the lowest common denominator. What I'm saying is that your grammar and English vocabulary generally seem to me to be perfect for speaking to the kind of people you might meet at a business meeting or a conference and you would absolutely be able to hold your own. If your accent isn't strong, then they may well think you're a native speaker. However, if you popped down to a street market in East London and tried to strike up a conversation with one of the market stall holders, how do you think you would do? Do you think they'd think you were one of them? Probably not. Mind you, they wouldn't think that of me either.

    I have to take issue with one thing in your post. You said "Sure, they are more used to the language than I am since they've been using it for a longer time but arguably, if I put the time and work hard I should be able to equate with such uneducated natives at the spoken level."

    Be careful - do not assume that people who use slang, idioms and phrasal verbs in their day-to-day speech are uneducated. That is a complete fallacy and will not win you any friends.

  3. #3
    pizza is offline Member
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    Default Re: How can I improve my spoken English?

    Thanks for the movie suggestions, I will get around watching those in the very near future.

    You are right, I understand the paragraph but I couldn't have formulated it myself, at least not from the top of my head or without using the Internet to look up a lot of stuff. I believe my passive English is probably as good as your average native speaker or the same (or better) depending of the source. My active English though is sometimes bumpy whenever a conversation gets really intense and demands a lot from my part.

    There is so much to do but here is something that I think I need to improve on: phrasal verbs. Maybe I just don't know enough. On the other hand, adding material 'off context' to my deck in Anki (SRS software) may not be optimal either (this isn't a big deal). Although, this wouldn't be a drawback at all if I could find a novel or something specially designed with phrasal verbs in mind, for learners perhaps.

    Lastly, I most definitely wouldn't assume people that use slang, idioms or phrasal verbs are uneducated, that would be so uneducated from my part rather.

    Thanks again for the movie recommendations, if you have other options, as well as for books, please do post them here.
    Last edited by pizza; 05-Nov-2011 at 10:42.

  4. #4
    SoothingDave is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: How can I improve my spoken English?

    Just a note, as an American native speaker, I use the subtitles on movies like "Trainspotting" in order to follow the conversation, because of the accents used.

  5. #5
    TheParser is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: How can I improve my spoken English?

    Any comments will be appreciated.[/QUOTE]


    NOT A TEACHER


    (1) I am reading an article about the pianist Helene Grimaud. The article is in the November 7, 2011, issue of The New Yorker magazine. The writer is D.T. Max.

    (2) Since I have given complete credit, I guess that I can legally quote a few words:

    "[Ms. Grimaud] wanted to come back [to the United States] at once, and realized

    that it would be easier if she spoke English, so back in Paris she set out to

    learn it. Within three months, she says, she had mastered the language

    entirely by watching TV shows, movies, and videos."

  6. #6
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: How can I improve my spoken English?

    Pizza.

    I started learning English some forty years ago. By twenty years ago, I had acquired a proficiency level allowing me to understand virtually anything I read, which I understand is also your case. I had the same problem as you. Learning English from books is fine but it won't teach you how to sound like an average native speaker. I'm not a young person anymore which hampers my learning but I can say that I have learned nearly as much English in the last ten years as I did before. This is thanks to the ready availability of English-language films and shows (and more free time).

    PS: I enjoy watching banality. I don't know if this is your thing but I've learned a lot from watching talk shows, game shows, reality shows and what have you. This is what you want I think -- regular Anglophones speaking English without script. It's given me a much better view of what's used, where and by whom.
    Last edited by birdeen's call; 05-Nov-2011 at 22:34.

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