English conversation technical rules are important. However, does knowledge of these technical rules guarantee a student of English conversation will be able to speak English? Hi, Mark Smith here and I am the teacher at Smith’s School of English Fukushima. Today I would like to talk a little about English technical rules and becoming a fluent speaker of English.
The passport I carry states that I am British, however, I have lived in many countries throughout my life and I am quite sure that living in these countries is the origin of my love for language. I have lived in Japan since 1989 and I have been teaching English conversation in Japan since 1996. I have observed many students of English conversation succeed and I promise you it is not because they are good at using the set of English language technical rules.
A fellow English conversation coach once gave me a book by Richard Carlson, titled, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”. This book explains how not focusing on small problems in life supports a happier life. And I agree with this man when we think about becoming fluent quickly in the spoken English language we must not focus on small stuff like the English conversation technical rules. We must focus on just speaking out, even if what we say is a bit messy.
Steve Kaufman who speaks 20 languages and is one of the best-known language Youtubers in the world agrees that in order to become conversational in a foreign language we need to focus on the big picture and not become stressed or focused on rules. The big picture is, of course, to be able to communicate, to another person, what you want to say.
In my classroom I have watched many students beam with happiness as they realize they are speaking English comfortably and with meaning for the first time in their life. When I say beam I mean huge smiles of genuine happiness. How does this happen? It is simple, from their first lesson with me I ask them to forget all the rules they have learned at school and just try to speak in English.
The start is always nervous and stilted, I can even say, messy English. My job at this time is to listen and only interrupt when I can’t understand what the student is saying. So, as long as I can understand what my student is saying I do not care at all if my students break some of the English conversation rules. I simply wait and listen. When my student stops speaking and say, “I understand everything you just said!” And I am telling the truth. I do understand and that is the main purpose of communication.
Within a very short period of time, my students begin speaking to me in English for more than 70% of their lesson time. Those same students, who only a couple of months ago could not speak English, now enter my classroom, sit down, say hello and begin speaking English for 20 or 30 minutes. Is their English messy? well maybe yes, do I understand it 100%? yes, I do.
Will this messy English start eventually become clear fluent and grammatically correct English? yes, it will. As confidence to communicate in English grows within my students they always begin to refine their own grammatical rule errors. So just as Richard Dawson, Steve Kaufman and Mark Smith say, please don’t sweat the small stuff and when it comes to English conversation the small stuff is the English rule book. Just start speaking. Try and you will be amazed.
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