E-book Effortless English learn to speak English like a native. Chapter 9: The First Rule – Learn Phrases Not Words

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E-book Effortless English learn to speak English like a native. Chapter 9: The First Rule – Learn Phrases Not Words

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Chapter 9: The First Rule – Learn Phrases Not Words »

CHAPTER 9
The First Rule – Learn Phrases Not Words
If you've taken English classes, chances are you've had plenty of experience memorizing lists of
vocabulary words.
With Effortless English™ you are not going to do that anymore. Why? Because vocabulary lists are
a waste of time. Yes, you heard me right. Trying to memorize a bunch of random individual words is
not an effective way to learn. Instead, you're going to use the first rule of the Effortless English™
method and learn phrases not words.
What do I mean by “phrases?” Phrases are groups of words that are related, and focus on an idea.
Another way to describe phrases is as “natural chunks of language.” In any language, certain words
naturally go together in a certain way. For example, in English we say “I am on an island” We don't
say, “I am at an island.” Why? There is no logical reason. One is simply a common and acceptable
phrase and the other is not.
Here's another example. Let's say that hate is one of the new words you want to learn. In a
traditional class, you'd write down the word hate and then go look it up in the dictionary to find its
meaning. You'd see that it means to have a strong and intense dislike for something; to loathe or
detest. Then you'd memorize it – hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.
That's the old way – kind of the textbook way, right? In school, you probably used this strategy to
remember a lot of individual words. You had those big vocabulary lists, and you tried to memorize
all of them for the test For verbs, you also tried to memorize conjugation charts.
Even worse, you probably learned these words by memorizing translations in your own language.
Because of this, you often find yourself translating in your head when trying to speak English. First
you think of the word in your own language, then you try to remember the translation in English. This
extra step slows both your speaking and your listening ability.
Trust me. It's much better if you learn a phrase – a group of words. It's easy. You listen to someone
speaking real English, and when you hear a new word, you write it down. Or when you read a story
and you see a new word, you write it down Only you don't want to just write down that one word.
You want to write down the whole phrase or sentence that it's in.
In other words, you learn the language in chunks. So, instead of just writing down the word hate,
you would write down John hates ice cream. You would write down the whole phrase and its
meaning.
It's easy to look up words in an English language dictionary, which most students own. Phrases can present more of a challenge,
since they can't always be translated literally. That's why I recommend all my students get a good idiomatic dictionary, or dictionary of
English idioms. Idioms are common phrases or sayings in a language. If you just search online for “dictionary of English idioms” you'll
find a ready selection of these books to choose from
Why do we do this? What's the power of phrases? Well, for one thing, phrases give you a lot more
information. They give you much more information than you would get from a single word. As a
result, phrases are easier to remember, because they have deeper meaning. They present you with a
kind of picture or story, especially when you get them from something you are listening to or reading.
When you hear, John hates ice cream, you remember the whole little story. You remember who John
is. You remember that he had ice cream, and then you remember he hated it. He didn't like it, right?
So you have all these extra pieces of information. This extra information puts the word in context. It
helps you remember the meaning of the phrase as well as the meaning of that word! This might not
seem like much, but in fact this is a huge improvement for memory By learning phrases, you will
learn more vocabulary, you'll learn it faster and you'll remember it longer.
There's also another bonus. When you learn phrases, you are not just learning the individual word,
you're learning grammar, too. You 're learning how to use that word correctly with other words. You
don't need to think about the grammar. You don 't need to know the rules or worry about word order
or verb tenses. It's automatic. You'll use the word correctly in a phrase because that's how you
remembered it.
In the Effortless English™ system, this is one way that you learn grammar intuitively and
unconsciously, without thinking about grammar rules. Phrases teach you natural spoken English
grammar By learning phrases, you are automatically learning both grammar and vocabulary at the
same time. Two for one!
Learning the Natural Way
This is actually how native speakers first learn English grammar. It's how you learned your own
language. When we're children, we learn in phrases. We learn in groups of words. Give it to me.
Walk across the street. He fell down. (Note: in some cases the phrases I'll refer to could be full
sentences, since they contain both a subject and a verb like the previous example: He fell down. In
other cases, a phrase could be just a few words within a sentence In this book I am using the word
phrase to describe any natural word group).
The point is: we learn groups of words, not just one word. Word by word is slow and it doesn't
help with grammar. But when you learn a whole phrase, you are getting extra information. Maybe you
don't know it, but you are.
Let's return to our example: John hates ice cream. Remember, our initial word was hate. But now
you see there's an “s” at the end – hates, right? John hates. You know from grammar study that you're
making the subject and verb agree, but you don't need to think about that. You learn the grammar from
just that word in the phrase, that “s” on the end, hates And in the future, whenever you say John hates
ice cream or he hates ice cream, you will automatically add the “s” because that's how you learned it.
You won't have to spend time trying to remember the conjugations of the verb “hate” because you
learned it correctly from a phrase and now it's automatic.
Of course, you don't actually have to think about all of this consciously. Just by learning the phrase,
you will automatically learn the correct verb conjugation. You eliminate the extra step of labeling and
analyzing grammar terms. That's why learning phrases leads to faster speech and faster
understanding.
On the other hand, if you learn all of this from a textbook, you'll often just learn the root of the
word “to hate” and you'll focus on this form: hate, hate, hate. So you study it and you memorize it.
That's when you start making mistakes, because you memorized it mostly in this way, without other
words. Later, you try to remember all of the conjugations of the verb But because you didn't learn
this with other words, sometimes you might say “he hate ice cream.” You'll forget the “s” because
you never learned it correctly in a sentence, in a phrase. And in a real conversation there is no time to
think about verb conjugations.
Learning phrases will also help your pronunciation. One of the biggest problems I see with English
learners is they speak with strange rhythm and intonation. Rhythm and intonation are the “music” of
English. While many students worry about the pronunciation of individual sounds such as v, b, r, and
l, their biggest problem is unnatural rhythm.
The rhythm of English is created by the natural pattern of pauses. Native speakers naturally pause
between phrases. They speak the language in phrases, in short chunks of English Because they
learned English mostly from phrases, their pronunciation is clear and easy to understand. On the other
hand, many students learn English by memorizing individual words, and when they speak, they speak
word by word, one at a time. As a result, they often pause in strange places. They create unnatural
word groupings. This creates a very strange and unnatural rhythm that many native speakers struggle
to understand. This is very frustrating for the speaker and for the listener.
One of the easiest ways to improve speaking, therefore, is to learn phrases and to speak in phrases
rather than word by word. This simple change will make your English speaking much clearer and
much easier to understand. You'll sound more natural. The words will flow out more easily You'll
improve both pronunciation and fluency. You'll even learn grammar.
Where to Find Phrases
So where does a student get these phrases? How do you know which ones to learn? The good news is
that you can find them everywhere. Any natural English content contains a wealth of phrases. In a
future chapter, I will tell you specifically where to get useful English phrases. But for now, focus on
getting phrases from whatever English you are listening to or reading.
To do this you need to start keeping a “phrase” notebook. Every time you see or hear a new word
or phrase, write that phrase in your notebook. When you find new English vocabulary in a lesson, in
something you are listening to, in a book, or in an article, write down the phrase. Not just one word,
write down the entire phrase, and then review that phrase again and again each day By doing this,
you will create a notebook full of phrases and sentences you can use, not just individual words.
You'll be programming yourself to speak in phrases instead of word by word.
If you're watching a movie about a bank robbery, for example, you might hear a character say,
“They're getting away!” You know get means “to obtain” something, and you're pretty sure away
refers to “being at a distance” – like far away. But it's confusing. So you write it down, “They are
getting away.” Then when you look it up in an idiomatic dictionary, you learn that one meaning of “to
get away” is to escape. You might also discover that sometimes when people are going on vacation,
they say they are “getting away.” Even if you had previously memorized the words get and away on
some vocabulary list, you still might not understand what the character in the movie is saying. But
since you wrote down the phrase, you now know a new expression you can use in many different
situations.
Here's another example Let's say someone describes their former pet by saying, “He was a bad
dog.” It's a fairly simple phrase, but you write it down in your notebook. Every time you review, you
study that complete phrase. By doing that, you are getting free grammar – he was. You know this is
something that was true in the past, not he is, which would mean the dog still was around. You're also
getting some free tips about word usage. We don't usually say he was a horrendous dog, for example,
even though the meaning is correct. In normal spoken English, we don't usually use that word to
describe a dog. This is not what you would learn from studying the definition of horrendous. You
learn it by studying a phrase
When you write down a phrase, write where it came from. If you saw this in a newspaper article
about the economy, put that down because that is going to trigger your memory. It will remind you of
how the word was used and in what context. You'll start to learn when certain phrases and words are
used and when they are not. This way, you'll begin to get a feeling about what is correct and how to
put sentences together.
IMPROVING YOUR PRONUNCIATION
Pronunciation is a big worry for many English learners. Learning phrases will help, but there is another exercise you can do to
improve even more. One of the greatest challenges with pronunciation is the problem of feeling strange when trying to use a native
accent.
For example, many learners feel unnatural when trying to use an American accent. They feel they are not being normal, or not being
themselves Their voice sounds strange to them. This is normal because speaking a different language naturally forces you to create
different sounds.
So how can you develop more natural English pronunciation? One strategy I suggest is to play a little game with movies. In this game
you try to become your favorite English speaking actor or actress. This is a variation of the movie technique, which I will describe in
more detail in a later chapter. When you speak, pretend you are that actor. Instead of worrying about your English, concentrate on
speaking exactly the way the actor would.
In fact, it's important to think of this as a game and to even exaggerate the actor's pronunciation, movements and facial expressions.
Sometimes in my own classes I imitate the famous actor John Wayne, who played the hero in many old Westerns and was seen as
the typical American. I'll walk around my classes like I'm wearing cowboy boots and ready to go after some bad guys Maybe you'll
feel more comfortable playing Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts or another movie star . . . the idea is to exaggerate their pronunciation and push
yourself to speak just like them. Have fun, and you'll be surprised how much this will help your pronunciation.
The first rule of the Effortless English™ method is very simple. Yet this very small change to the
way you learn vocabulary affects your grammar, your pronunciation and your memory of new words.
Rule one is a piece of profound knowledge that works synergistically with the other rules.
In the next chapter you'll learn, perhaps, the most surprising rule of the Effortless English™
system. Rule Two frees you from the grammar translation method used in school and removes much of
the boredom and pain of English learning

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