About LLS:

Throughout my career, I have received thousands of questions regarding languages and I have finally decided to answer them objectively with no strings attached. If you have any questions or feedback, please leave your comments below.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Is music a good tool to help you learn English?

Back in the days, words and literature established the music industry, but nowadays it seems that the industry invents words as it slowly descends into madness. I don't claim that modern music is bad, but there is visible decline in what musicians had to do to stay on top of the charts in comparison to today’s listen and forget one hit wonders. Despite of our current times being as they are, I can still come across some decent music which clearly had some talent behind it.

Let's compare two famous artists from different eras; Richard Marx and Justin Beiber. Mr.Marx is an avid composer and multi-talented pianist, singer and song writer while his counterpart Mr.Bieber needs the assistance of an entire team to aid him in his career.

I wouldn't be surpised if his mother sang the chorus.

Now let's look at the lyrical value to see whose song would be more educating and might improve our vocabulary.

Richard Marx - Right here waiting for you:

Oceans apart day after day
And I slowly go insane
I hear your voice on the line
But it doesn't stop the pain

If I see you next to never

How can we say forever

Wherever you go

Whatever you do
I will be right here waiting for you
Whatever it takes
Or how my heart breaks
I will be right here waiting for you

Justin Bieber - Baby Baby:

You know you love me, I know you care
Just shout whenever, and I'll be there
You are my love, you are my heart
And we will never, ever, ever be apart

Are we an item? Girl, quit playin'
"We're just friends," what are you sayin'?
Said "there's another," and looked right in my eyes
My first love broke my heart for the first time

And I was like baby, baby, baby, oh
Like baby, baby, baby, no
Like baby, baby, baby, oh
I thought you'd always be mine, mine

Before you say anything, keep in mind that I am only giving my opinion. I am pretty sure that some of you enjoy contemporary music and perhaps my taste requires a bit more tuning. Who knows? The fact remains, if you compare those timeless hits which were released before the 90's, there are some obvious reasons why modern music is no match for the genius that took place once upon a time. Hip hop was clean without cursing and most rappers actually talked about meaningful things rather than chauvinistic and simple minded rhymes. Sadly, other musical genres suffer the same fate as we progress further into the 21st century.

Can I still listen to modern music to learn English words?
Believe me when I say that I still have problems understanding certain songs after hearing them on the air regularly. Firstly, most songs lost their deeper meaning; it’s almost impossible to find a second layer behind the initial message of the song. The artists are so focused on boasting about their ability to attract women and make money that anything apart from that; simply isn’t worthwhile. Now, don't get me wrong, i still enjoy some modern bands even if they are hard to find. My advice is to listen to gold classics from Micheal Jackson to The Rolling Stones; As long as it doesn't involve heavy slang and curse words. I have also noticed that bands from the 60s, 70's, 80's and 90's are easier to understand because the singers actually cared about proper pronunciation.

Whats wrong with the music?
The lyrics of most songs are predominantly composed of typical party keywords such as “tonight, forever, baby and love” which make all the songs sound the same. It isn’t strange to meet someone who listens to music for the melody rather than to analyze what the composer tried to share. I could literally listen to the radio for hours and barely see any differences in the lyrics between most songs, only to catch myself humming them later on without knowing why.
Another reason why it’s so hard to understand are techniques called word bending. The artist bends the spelling of words as to match more rhymes together. An example of word bending would be to take a word like “dance” and to match it to “science” by changing the tone of the ending. I don't know if its due to laziness, but quickly recorded songs without any additional content to offer, seem to be the way to make big bucks nowadays.

Money is making music when music should be making money.

If you take this famous song and compare how Mr.50 matched the rhymes you can actually see my point.

50 Cents - In da(the) club:

You can find me in the club, bottle full of bub
Look mami I got the X if you into taking drugs
I'm into having sex, I ain't into making love
So come give me a hug if you into to getting rubbed

Supposedly, "bub", "drugs", "love" and "rubbed" rhyme. Stay as far away from modern music if you wish to learn to speak English, unless you are into hardcore street slang and poor diction.
Yo! Karl! What can I rhyme biatches with?

What should I listen to?

Here is a list of bands which have very clear English, a limited use of slang and seem to have something more to offer than what makes the charts nowadays. Not to appear bias, i have decided to mix from different genres.

- The Doors
- Depeche Mode
- Simply Red
- Eric Clapton
- Nas
- Notorious B.I.G
- R.Kelly
- Bob Marley
- Seal
- Sade
- Micheal Jackson

and the list goes on. Just take a look at the past!


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LanguageLearningShortcuts! by Peter Masalski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://languagelearningshortcuts.blogspot.com/.
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Monday, January 14, 2013

How to really pick a good language text book?

If you have been a student as much as I have in your many years of pre-university studies, you have perhaps accumulated a pile of useless textbooks scribbled with notes and drawings showing just how much disinterest you had for foreign languages back then. Although you will never use them again, you can still picture the stack of foreign language books hidden away in an old cardboard box between clothes you don't wear and objects you don't need but keep anyway. Every time you sign up for a new semester to learn that language you could never speak fluently, whether you need a new textbook or not, you still feel stupid about at all the money and space wasted. You never had the courage to throw them away. You tried to give them away to family members and friends, but everyone seemed to have a textbook already. As years passed, that old box kept gathering dust. Every time its memory seems to cross your mind, you deeply hope that you would open it up and take full advantage of its wisdom.

Throw them away! 

Don't bother opening that box unless, you want to try to sell it online for a few bucks. The problem with most textbooks nowadays is that none is truly complete. What aggravates the situation is that I can't seem to understand why they keep producing new series of student books every year when in essence it’s all one and the same. If you take a closer look at your average students textbook, it’s always divided into the following units. You can't imagine how many textbooks I have seen which actually follow this exact pattern.

- Unit 1 - Communication
- Unit 2 - Travel
- Unit 3 - Transport
- Unit 4 - Sport
- Unit 5 - People
- etc.....

Publishing houses make lots of money from poor naive students. Private schools often have to select a book based on certain agreements. You can prepare yourself to add more books to your cardboard collection, since every semester is another useless book purchased. The worst is that they can't switch them halfway or make copies. Technically, making photocopies and using additional copied material is subjected to legal procedures. Hence, they have to stay with those crappy books until there is a major policy change. Nevertheless, it’s impossible for them to control everyone, so people still do as they please. Ultimately, it’s but another way for good business.

These books are begging to be put in a cardboard box.

What a good language text book should look like:

A proper and decent textbook should contain the following:
  • Plenty of diverse topics covering everyday things
If your book starts getting into specialized topics ranging from modern art to politics, it might be unwise to purchase such book. It could be useful, but then again, there are specialized books to cover those topics in depth. Unless you are an advanced student who wishes to cover bonus content, I wouldn't recommend it. Those topics would include: Nightlife, Dating, The Gym, The Office and things we tend to do during the week.
  • A concise list of vocabulary words that actively participate in the exercises
What irritates me the most is how neglected the vocabulary is. How can you give 15 words at the beginning of the unit and not see them again for the remainder of the book. It doesn't make sense! How is a student supposed to remember after a single exposure? At least have the decency to base the speaking, writing, reading and exercise parts on properly introduced vocabulary, and make sure that you repeat it often.
  • A grammar review
Students often have gaps between the many learning periods of their lives. A good book should have a proper review of the grammar before attempting to jump into the unknown. Such review should have an overlook of what was done before. Students often cover up their lacks of knowledge with grimes and smiles as to not appear worse than assessed. A good textbook should have extra pages for ample review time.
  • Grammar must be practiced orally
I hate books which just toss random topics across the book. If you can't stick to one idea, why bother wasting space? Most books make the mistake of placing questions about random topics without using the vocabulary and most importantly without grammar practice. If you introduce conditionals, put a speaking part so students can practice them.

  • Essential and well-balanced
There are thousands of expressions, slangs, grammar elements to be learned. As you progress towards proficiency, learning them all won't hurt, but many books make the mistake of presenting non-essential materials. If you take a language, there are probably 30 indispensable expressions without which one wouldn't be able to function properly. Stop playing roulette with the content and start putting the top 30 most used phrases, words, slangs, expressions and whatever else one should know.

Probably the most complete book i have ever seen.

What I do recommend:

I have found "Exam Books" to be the most complete of all. I can't vouch for all of them, but the ones I was the most satisfied with was the "Ready for FCE, CAE and CPE collection" (English text books). If you have the pleasure of learning English, I personally recommend taking a good look at how these books are designed. Another good reason why exam books are so great is that you can attempt to get a certificate at any stage of your life, either for work or for your own personal pleasure. Using a normal book will give you knowledge, but won't prepare you for what many institutions and workplaces consider a prerequisite. Keep in mind, that after completing such book, you can go to take the exam at any time in the future.

No matter how badly you speak, pieces of paper still run the world of today.


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LanguageLearningShortcuts! by Peter Masalski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://languagelearningshortcuts.blogspot.com/.
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Afraid of speaking a foreign language?

There are plenty of reasons why someone is afraid of speaking a foreign language. If you are one of these people, and wonder what brought this curse upon yourself, don't falter because at a certain point you will have to realize that nobody truly cares about your abilities to communicate but yourself. Sadly, words and advice don't fix the problem and many confuse intellectual capability with psychological blockades.

Often students who have been learning and practicing a foreign language for many years blame it on their weak memory and opt for a more aggressive approach as to correct the problem, but what if your problem wasn't knowledge related? The reality is that you have to speak hours and hours in order to improve, as much as musician has to spend countless hours honing his craft. The truth is that in the end, there is no way to escape that fact. If you can't find the self-esteem to do it, your efforts will be all in vain, no matter how many classes you attend per week.

Why am I afraid to speak? There are various reasons why, but let’s cover the most popular ones according to my work experience as a teacher. Read the descriptions below and identify your type.

Fear of being judged by others:

Some individuals get nervous when speaking in front of large crowds or to strangers. If you are able to speak a foreign language unproblematically with close friends but are unable to do so with strangers, you are perhaps this type of individual. The comfort of having someone that you know, makes you more open to the idea that he or she likes and tolerates you no matter how well you speak. If you have ever approached a beautiful person on the street with the hopes of scoring a date, then you understand that the anxiety is proportional to how deep the weakness lies. You must not underestimate the amount of people who have that exact same problem. If I had to make an estimate, I would say that at least 50% of the population suffers from this type of fear to a greater or lesser degree. If everybody were courageous, we would all be dating polyglots.

Fear of imperfection:

This is actually very rare, but some students prefer to be very good at something at first before trying it out which is kind of self-contradictory. Usually it’s the other way around and this is why it makes it so difficult. Firstly, they build a sentence which they correct over and over again until they lose the confidence to continue the conversation often interrupting themselves with "no" and "eh".

Low Self-Esteem:

Logic dictates that if you are a social recluse, the chance of speaking a foreign language is also very dim. When I say "social recluse" I mean that the amount of social interactions are limited to work, school and grocery shopping. If you find that your life is but a routine accompanied by loneliness, don't expect a few hours of English at your local language school to be of any help. Modern psychology has been trying to solve this problem since the beginning of mankind and there simply aren’t any obvious answers to why this happens.

Ultimately, no matter how hard I try separating those definitions, they are all but one of the many forms of social anxiety.

Believe in yourself, because others won't.

How about a drink?

As silly as this might sound, ask yourself a question, is your ability to communicate better when drunk? It’s a known myth that alcohol temporarily converts the monoglot into a hyperglot able to speak fluently from broken drunk English to perfect Arabic. How can that be when alcohol should decrease your abilities? Surely, if alcohol was a performance enhancer, it wouldn't be illegal to drive under the influence.

Without getting into Freudian explanations, the reason is quite obvious. People's language skills decrease when they feel judged and evaluated by others even if the average citizen couldn't care less. Knowledge has nothing to do with it and please stop using it as an excuse to explain your inability.

Below is an interesting article on the topic.

Are you fluent in drunken gibberish after a couple of shots?

Generally, we can consider extroverts to be more adept at learning and retaining foreign languages not because they are more talented, but because their time spent practicing exceeds those of introverts. They are probably used to making fools out of themselves, therefore, maximizing their results.

The cure:
There are 4 steps you must follow in order to get rid of your anxiety while speaking a foreign language. It won't be easy, but you can take small steps.

1- Visualize:

Take a couple of minutes every day picturing yourself using a foreign language in front of a crowd of people which tend to make you the most anxious. Picture them laughing and judging you behind your back until your brain concludes that it isn't all that scary. Do this every day, before and concurrently while speaking. You will be surprised to see how your brain tires of judgmental behaviors after prolonged exposure. Take a look at prostitutes, politicians and strippers. They aren't afraid of being judged anymore.

Haha, who cares, really?

2- Make a fool out of yourself:

Start by approaching people on the street with casual "small talk" in your own language. Start shifting your personality towards a more extrovert one. Try flirting with more people, and get rid of your shyness. You must push your comfort zone limits!

Which is harder? To flirt or to speak a foreign language? Try both at the same time!

I recommend reading the article below:


3- Mistakes aren't natural, they are obligatory:

There are certain things in life which are inevitable such as making mistakes. Nobody learns without them. I don't care how talented someone is, there are no ways to escape the shame of making mistakes. All the greatest were once bad, perhaps, some had a better start then other. When you speak a foreign language, make as many mistakes as you can and calibrate as you go. 

Don't think about what you want to say, just say it! A good example would be to compare a prize fighter to a student. A boxer doesn't think about technique, he just does it because he learned different reflex patterns. If he had to ponder on every movement, he would get knocked out pretty quickly. A spoken language is all reflex, grammar just supports the understanding.

Reflex is the reason why we speak our native language so quickly.

4- Practice! Practice! Practice!

Join language tandems, social clubs or start travelling abroad. No matter where you find contact with the language you have chosen to learn, as long as you’re practicing it at least 5-10 hours weekly, you should be fine.

There are language exchange tandems everywhere!

Peter. M

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LanguageLearningShortcuts! by Peter Masalski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://languagelearningshortcuts.blogspot.com/.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available athttp://www.pmls.pl/Disclaimereng.htm.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

How many languages can a human being really speak?

This is probably one of the few topics which really reveal how ignorant some people can be. Before I start explaining why, I would like to begin this article with a simple proverb:

- "If you don't use it, you lose it"

If you have ever heard this saying in the past, you are aware that it applies not only to languages but to anything else as a matter of fact. Let me ask you a question? Do you remember 3rd grade high school mathematics? If I were to give you a trigonometry exam right now, would you pass it with flying colors? What if I gave you a week to review the basics before the exam, would you pass it then? People don't realize that rumors, gossip and jealousy often sidetrack logic and reason.

Speaking thousands of different languages; fact of fiction?

The truth:

A person cannot know 50 languages or even 15 and keep them active and fluent at all times unless that person is a miracle of nature. This isn't the only dilemma at hand, because the most important question remains; what does it mean to know a language? How well do I need to speak it in order to claim that I know it? 

Today, I will try to create a scale to establish realistic expectations for anyone who wishes to be a polyglot.

Firstly, let’s define "the level at which one can claim to know a language". According to the EU language assessment grid, languages are divided into the following categories. 

The EU Language Assessment Grid.

Since I don't wish to get into exact details I will sum up the levels and their descriptions as to support my article with ease.

A simple overview of the levels:

A1- The person knows introductory phrases, recognizes basic words and structures.

A2- The person can say simples sentences and recognizes more familiar situations such a personal information and surrounding environment

B1- The person can speak more cleary on common and familiar matters and deal with most situations.

B2- The person can interact with a good degree of fluency.

C1- The person speaks fluently.

C2- The person speaks perfectly.

The "B1" level determines whether you can speak a language:

I believe that "B1" level should be the determining point whether someone can speak a language. For a person to reach proficiency it takes years and years, and I doubt that a gifted person could learn dozens of languages and maintain them fluent forever.

I am pretty sure that "B1" level can be reached in a matter of months as I have done it myself in the past. The only thing that seperates a total beginner from a "B1" level are 1000 vocabulary words and 200 hours of oral practice.

I once met a polyglot: 

A good way to support my theory would be to take Switzerland which is fortunate enough to have 4 official languages; German, French, Italian and Romanesh. I met a girl a few years ago who was from Switzerland and she could fluently speak German, Italian, Spanish, French and English. She had just begun learning Polish and it seemed to go very well for her. She was a literature student and spent most of her life traveling from one country to another. She had school in German and Italian at home (her parents were from Rome). During elementary and high school she had obligatory English and picked French as her second language. A few years later, she became fluent and started roaming around Europe as her diplomat parents were mingling with the high society.

More info about switzerland at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Switzerland

At the time, this was my evaluation of her language skills:

German C2 (I assume its perfect, since she attended school in German)

Italian C2 (Her mother language)
Spanish B2
English B2-C1
French B1-B2
Polish A2

Is it all hype?

My life experience forces me to conclude that a person could perhaps speak 5-10 languages fluently but not perfectly. A person could even perhaps speak 10-15 languages communicatively (B1) and know the basics of dozens if not hundreds. The good thing is that, once you have studied a language, it’s always easier to get back on track and relearn what have forgotten in a matter of weeks. There are also additional factors we must consider such as similar language roots (Latin, Slavic) which facilitate retaining languages of the same family and, of course, the environment which plays a major role especially if you are a traveller. The polyglot in question could be a linguistics professor brushing up his knowledge on a daily basis, who knows?

To conclude the article I would like to present some famous polyglots who claimed to know many languages and see for yourself if the rumors aren't all hype.

This guy knows 16 languages and i believe him.

Cardinal Giuseppe Gaspardo Mezzofanti claimed to speak hundreds of languages.

Harrold Williams from New Zealand claimed to speak 58 languages.

Ziad Fazah who is still alive claims to know 59 languages.

This guy thinks he knows 59 languages.

Learn a language in 3 months?

Interestingly enough, a guy called Benny who started learning foreign languages at the age of 21 claims to speak 10 languages which I find more believable than what I usual hear from people. Several factors lead me to believe that it's true. Apart from that, he has marketed a method which allows him to learn a language in 3 months which isn't all that if your only trying to reach "B1", without mentioning that he constantly travels and; that’s all he does! On his website, he even says that he doesn't have "a stable job" but works wherever he travels.

Don't bother buying his "Language Hacking techniques" because unless you are a drifter like he is, you won't have anywhere to practice all those foreign dialects. If you take a closer look, you can actually see that apart from English and Irish, he groups languages together in big families as to improve learning speed. Once you know Spanish; Italian is just a few months away.

Read about Benny at: http://www.fluentin3months.com/pro-language-hacker/


Don't be fooled! If you are a sedentary working man like me, there are certain truths we must face. 

If you had all the time in the world, If you were motivated and well prepared, If you could relocate to a different country every couple of years and If that were all you did? How many languages do you think you would know by now?

In my opinion, with the proper environment and predispositions, a person can speak dozens of languages but not fluently. I had some German, Russian and Swedish here and there, and I am pretty sure that I could say, read and understand everyday speech, but I wouldn't go as far as to call myself a hyperpolyglot.


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LanguageLearningShortcuts! by Peter Masalski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://languagelearningshortcuts.blogspot.com/.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available athttp://www.pmls.pl/Disclaimereng.htm.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Essential language learning tools!

If you wish to learn English or any other language of your choice, there are some essential tools which I personally find more than helpful. Some of them save me time, whether I am running a busy schedule or waiting for my bus. Those tools come in handy so much that it makes me wonder why I would ever go back to the traditional text book methods.

1- Anki:

It’s free software which allows you to create your own flashcards without much effort. The cool part is that you can set it up to go over the things that you need to review rather than being subjected to downloadable content and pre-prepared sets. Anki can be used in multiple ways; from random shuffles to more ordered displays. Just prepare your sets of flashcards and whenever you feel like doing a review, click start the program and do it. Also available for Android.

Download Anki (for free) from their official website at: http://ankisrs.net/

2- The Rosetta Stone:

I had the chance to stumble upon a very expensive yet clever program which allows you to learn a foreign language without actually using a translator. According to the description on their official website, scientists have designed "Rosetta Stone" based on how newly born babies learn their mother language. After viewing a set of pictures, you are able to guess what every single word and sentence might mean. It’s not always accurate, but it saves you a lot of time you would easily spend glancing inside the dictionary. Don’t expect to find any grammatical explanations there, because apart from teaching vocabulary and useful expressions, there's nothing else.

The Rosetta Stone is very expensive, but can be downloaded (ilegally) from torrent websites at www.piratebay.org or simply bought from their official website: http://www.rosettastone.eu/

3- Pimsleur Audio Tapes:

Pimsleur doesn't offer much more than your typical audio tape recording beside the fact that it covers a lot of the basics step by step while repeating the essentials as you move on. What I like the most about Pimsleur is that they don't throw in random sentences out of the blue. Those audio tapes offer a gradual progression with ample review time in order to make sure that you don't get lost or forget what you have listened to in the first place. They usually start slowly with some useful words and build up on that as you go. By the time you are at your 30th recording, all you have done before will sound boring and repetitive. The downside is that is uses English as your reference language which might not suit non-English speaking individuals. Nevertheless, as far as I remember, some versions could be available in your native language.

From my point of view, Pimsleur is a must when learning languages which have a different alphabet such a Russian, Arabic or Chinese. It often helps to get started with speaking without forcing yourself to go through the long process of learning new symbols from scratch.

More info about the Pimsleur system available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pimsleur_method

The pimsleur system can either be downloaded from torrents at: www.piratebay.org or bought from their official website at: http://www.pimsleur.com/

Stuck in traffic? Use Pimsleur.

4- Your own notebook with essential grammar points:

Instead of buying big grammar books with tons of grammar, go over the main essentials first. Surprisingly, those elements are the same in every language. The only way to truly make a perfect grammar revision booklet is to make it yourself. Take the most essential grammar aspects with examples and compile them into a few pages in order to carry it around with you wherever you go.

I consider the following to be "the essential grammar key elements" for any language. After covering those basics, the sky is the limit. Why those basics? So you can start speaking as soon as possible. 

1- Active Tenses
2- Passive Tenses
3- Elements of Speech (Nouns, Adjectives, Verbs and Adverbs)

4- Modal Verbs
5- Conditionals
6- Articles
7- Nouns (Plural, Singular, Neuter)
8- Relative Clauses
9- Reported Speech
10- Comparatives and Superlatives
11- Word Formation and Word Order
12- Questions

Your own notes will always surpass anything you can buy.

5- A notebook with basic phrases, essential verbs, adverbs, nouns and adjectives:

If you think about it, we can break a language into the following elements. The best part is that there is a limited quantity of those elements unlike nouns and verbs which are endless.

Ask yourself these questions:
  • How many articles and determiners are there? Maybe 20? (The, a, an, many,some)
  • How many prepositions are there? Maybe 30? (in, on, at, under, between)
  • How many adjectives do you need to be able to speak? Maybe 50? (blue, big, quick, nice)
  • How many adverbs do you need to be able to speak? Maybe 50? (tomorrow, yesterday, now, yet)
  • How many personal pronouns are there? Maybe 15? (I, you, he, she, it)
  • How many introductory phrases should you know? Maybe 20? (Goodbye, Farewell, My name is)

How many words should you know in order to speak?

If you exclude nouns and and verbs, you can learn the infrastructure of a language with merely 200 words; add to this more or less 300 basic nouns and 30 basic verbs and you should be able to keep up a basic conversation.

My belief is that the intermediate level can be reached in a matter of months. There is no sense in chasing exotic nouns and verbs in the very beginning. Cover the basics, the infrastructure and gather words left and right as years pass.

Make a list of the following essentials, write them down in your notebook and repeat them wherever you are. Make a habit of carrying it around. As for verbs and nouns, start with the everyday ones without getting too much in dept.


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LanguageLearningShortcuts! by Peter Masalski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://languagelearningshortcuts.blogspot.com/.
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Learn American English, don't complicate your life with British English.

For people who want to reach proficiency in English, I personally recommend to stick to America English. Whether you love the "British Pronunciation" or not, has little impact on the learning rate because deep down inside its pretty much all the same. I doubt that anyone attempting to master the British, Scottish or Irish accent from the very beginning will be most likely to succeed. People don't realize that accents are something you learn at the very end of your education rather than in the beginning.

Why would you bother sounding exactly like a Native Speaker before you can even arrange your sentences? This is why I don't understand such people. Learn to communicate and then lean towards improving pronunciation, eloquence and style.

Learn the language before attemping to learn the accent. Enough said!

A bit of history:

American English has the advantage of being very neutral and this perhaps due to the many immigrants who came to America after the colonial era. Foreigners such as, Italians, Poles and slaves all participated in the making process of American English to sound more mixed and universal. British immigration only occurred many years later after the First World War around 1922. A Strong British society was already established whereas, on the other hand, Americans required the aid of foreigners to build their newly acquired one.

A Polish-American family.

An interesting article about British Immigration:

And on American Immigration:

Before I continue further with more explanations and guidelines, I would like to cover some of the main differences between American and British English.

A quick overview of the grammatical differences:

Generally, Brits tend to use more of "The Perfect" rather than "Simple". Americans often use doesn’t and didn't in the majority of their constructions;

An American would say: Didn't you hear?
A Brit would say: Haven't you heard?

Other minor differences regarding prepositions can also be found. I have noticed the most confusion revolving around "in", "on" and "at".

An American would say: He lives on this street.
A Brit would say: He lives in this street.

Americans usually don't use "Needn't and mustn’t" but instead they tend to go for "Must not" and "don't need to" which reflect a higher degree of simplicity.

The most obvious difference would be in the regular and irregular verbs. Since Brits cannot pronounce "ed" the way Americans do, they have adopted the letter "t" in some of their past simple and past participle forms. A good example would be "burnt" instead of "burned" and "spoilt" instead of "spoiled".

Since we both share the same literature, we can assume that the average American unconsciously knows all the variations of possible English words and structures whether they are British, American, Australian and vice versa

For a full comparison of the two, please visit:

Is Spoken British English harder to speak and to understand?

For anyone starting his adventure with English, the fact that Brits pronounce some of their words without actually covering all the lettering can be difficult to manage.

A word such as "whatever" would be pronounced "whaeva" in British English skipping all the consonants.

Another example: "dirty" would be pronounced "dir - y".

American pronunciation goes according to the way the word is written. Apart from some minor dilemmas whether to pronounce the "I" in "Iraq" as in a regular "I" (I am) or as in "I" in "Italian”, I would say that it’s much easier for beginners.

House M.D an American hit tv show actually played by British actor Hugh Laurie. 

As you can see, Brits can also quickly transition from one dialect to the other. More info about this actor at:



If you have a fetish for the British pronunciation, start by learning the American one. Once you have reached a sufficient level of proficiency in speaking and writing, begin to practice pronouncing the "British Way" or as a matter of fact any other way which suits your desires.


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