Tag: speaking

Feeling, Seeing, and Experiencing Progress

Feeling, Seeing, and Experiencing Progress

No one likes to be the “new guy”, whether it’s at work, a class, a club,  a game, or group of friends. It can be intimidating. It’s also super uncomfortable because you’re starting at an absolute zero.

You don’t have the rapport that everyone else has built. Your skills aren’t quite up to par. Your abilities are lacking. You feel like you suck.

And maybe you do suck.

But there’s also a huge advantage that comes with being a newb: clarity.

Let’s say that most of the time, no one can eat what you cook. So you work on perfecting your culinary arts. No bites at all become a few nibbles. A few nibbles become an entire plate. Eventually, people just might ask for a second serving!

The same goes for speaking prowess. First, you’re unable to muster a single word, but then you do. Next, you pick up phrases. Your vocabulary builds, and the quality of discussions to be had improves.

And that’s only if you stick with it. Johnny Nguyen from ExpertBoxing put it this way:

“Of everything you do, only [a percentage] of it’s going to be any good… And that’s only going to be when you make your best effort. If you give a half-assed effort the whole time, 0% of it will be good.”

This leads me to the key point I want to cover. No, no, none of that “it’s okay to make” BS. Let’s face it: as true as that statement may be, it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.

Instead, let’s talk about the difficulty in tracking progression when you’re not a newbie. Building from the ground up, it’s easier to see how far you’ve come. When you’re in the intermediate stages and try to reach the next level, that’s much more difficult to see.

To take it to the next level, you need to revamp how you see and feel progression. Otherwise, your perspective will trick you into thinking it’s not happening. Just like with fitness, your probably have a terrible sense of self-perception.

For the most part, the school system does a pretty good job of setting a sequence of progression. Whether or not you actually get better, because you’re moving along in classes, you feel like you’re improving.

On the other hand, if you focus your efforts on solely using academics as measurement, you’re going to feel unsatisfied. The payoff isn’t really there. Academics are important, but they’re limited in scope. They can’t really tell you how well you’d do in practical application.

Plenty of language learners, however, will stick to that kind of model because it’s the most familiar method of tracking they know.

And this is why an aptitude for conversation doesn’t feel like an accomplishment. This is why the ability to give directions to a stranger doesn’t feel very rewarding. So even if people are experiencing progression in real life, they can’t see it or feel it.

People have been conditioned to think they need a formalized test in order to get a sense of improvement.

How do I evaluate an advanced speaker? I look for someone who can adapt and deliver.

Too often, language learners obsess about finding the “perfect” vocabulary word. They fail to realize that English doesn’t work in terms of perfect word choices. We need words that are appropriate enough for the topic, context, and listener.

In addition, language learners who obsess on an idealized “perfect English” fail to incorporate variety in their speech. They’ll say the exact same things, the exact same way, every single time. A “perfectly” dull delivery rarely sounds advanced.

Very important speaking qualities to possess, but very difficult to evaluate. And that’s why you need a good coach/instructor to pull you out of your head space. Otherwise, you’re very likely to kill your own progress because you can’t see it.

If you can’t see progress, you probably need a different marker.

If you can’t feel progress, you probably need to re-define your goals. You need to remember the bigger picture.

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"Don't let a couple losses throw you off course. All you gotta do is win someday." #animequotes I had a question from @jomanh1193 a/b its meaning. I thought it was pretty straight forward, but I can understand how it can be confusing. Most of you probably aren't familiar with the phrase "to be thrown off course". Don't confuse this with "of course" which means "definitely/absolutely". When you're off course, that means you're going on a different route from the map. So in other words, when people fail and lose, they don't feel like they're following their plan. They don't feel like they're meeting their expectations. They feel disappointed. "But all you gotta do", this is a reminder that means REMEMBER! Even if you lose today, you can still win tomorrow. Keep going!

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Remember, true progress doesn’t look sexy. That’s why movies always incorporate montages– watching the daily struggles is boring!

English Lesson: “Other” vs “Another”

English Lesson: “Other” vs “Another”

If you heard the phrase “my another friend”, would you know it’s incorrect English? Would you know how to fix it?

Before we jump into the correction, let’s first review our understanding of “other” and “another”. I think it’s easier to cover “another”, so we’ll do that one first.

When we use “another”, it’s in terms of “one more” or “a new one”. For example, if you’re dining out, you might say:

  • I’d like another drink.
  • Can I have another order of fries?

If you have something that’s getting old (usually a piece of technology), you’ll eventually need to replace it. In this case, we can also use “another” to describe the need for “a new one”:

  • I need to get another phone (mine’s getting old).
  • I need to get another watch (this one’s broken).

However, “other” is used to differentiate between two or more objects. Imagine you’re at a party and your friend asks you to grab his drink off the counter. You might take one and ask, “This one?”

If you’re wrong, your friend will point out, “No, the other one (the different one).”

Here’s another example: your friend points out a dog at the park, but there’s lots of dogs. You notice a cute puppy and ask “That one?” Again, you’re wrong. So your friend has to say “No, the other one.”

So if you wanted to use “other” in the context of friends, how could that work? Maybe you bring two friends to a party and need to introduce them to the crowd. “Here’s my friend Tom, and my other friend Lisa.”

If you think through the context, “my another friend” just doesn’t work.

If you’re interested in learning more conversational English like this, connect with Jon to sign up for online private English coaching or face-to-face sessions in Boston. We’ll work on making you sound like a native speaker.

Pronunciation Practice: Within vs Without

Pronunciation Practice: Within vs Without

I’m doing something a little different here with the Pronunciation Practice videos: I’m actually giving you exercises to practice.

Just like any physical fitness program, you need to drill in the movement. You need to build the muscle memory. You need to have practiced the motion enough, so you can do it without thinking.

Most people don’t take their pronunciation this seriously, and guess what? They rarely improve.

Remember to put in the time and effort!


  • Be sure to touch the back of your teeth with your tongue when saying “within”
  • Don’t over-emphasize the “t” sound at the end of “without; focus on the vowel sound “ou”

If you’re interested in learning more conversational English like this, connect with Jon to sign up for online private English coaching or face-to-face sessions in Boston. We’ll work on making you sound like a native speaker.


English Lesson: 5 Phrasal Verbs Using “Call”

English Lesson: 5 Phrasal Verbs Using “Call”

If you want to sound more natural with your English speaking, it’s a good idea to incorporate the use of phrasal verbs— just be sure you don’t carried away and try to use them in every, single sentence.

Phrasal verb overload sounds very un-natural!

For those who don’t know, a phrasal verb is when you take a verb and add a preposition. For example, hang + out = hang out, which means to spend time together.

In this post, let’s cover 5 phrasal verbs that use “call” as the base verb.

  1. call on
  2. call off
  3. call up
  4. call in
  5. call out

1) Call On = to choose, to pick

Example: When I was teaching, I called on different students to answer the questions.

Note: this will be the least common one to use because it requires the speaker to be in a position of authority (i.e. a teacher speaking to students, a manager in a meeting speaking to employees, etc.)

2) Call Off = to cancel, to stop, to postpone

Example: We had to call off the meeting because the boss was sick.

Note: common word associations with “call off” are meetings, parties, plans, dates, and appointments

3) Call Up = to call, to phone

Example: I called up my friends to see what they were doing.

Note: this phrasal verb has no substantial difference in meaning, however, it can be used to sound more conversational and natural

4) Call In = to phone in a place, location, person (implied)

Example: I didn’t go in to work today. I had to call in sick.

Note: be aware of the context. Most of the time you won’t see “call in” by itself, but in the context of “to call in sick”

5) Call Out = to point out, to identify

Example: Jon called out Chase for trying to sneak out of the party.

In that example, Chase wanted to leave the party without anyone knowing. However, Jon didn’t let that happen. He drew attention to Chase, and everyone saw him.

Example: Valerie called out Richelle for not following her diet.

In this example, maybe Richelle made a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight. Valerie is her friend and wants to support her. But when Valerie comes over to hang out, she notices Richelle is eating a big bowl of ice cream. Valerie is pointing out that Richelle is not following her resolution.


If you’re interested in learning more conversational English like this, connect with Jon to sign up for private English coaching. We’ll work on making you sound like a native speaker.