Robby Kukurs contacted me several months ago to see if I would consider adding his website www.englishharmony.com to my list of good links.
After visiting his blog I adding his website to my list because I was excited to discover a refreshing and useful perspective on English fluency.
Robby Kukurs's blog provides English learners with informative articles, captivating videos and above all hope (that fluency is possible).
He also knows, all too well, how frustrating learning English can be, but I will stop here because Robby is going to tell you about that himself.
Let's get to it then!
1) We met online in the early months of 2010 and I wanted to introduce you to my website visitors because you and I share some fundamental beliefs about learning English.
Before I get to those ideas, could you tell us a little about yourself? Who is Robby Kukurs?
Robby Kukurs: I’m just an ordinary foreign chap living in an English speaking country – in my case it’s Ireland. I have a normal 9 to 5 job, a family with two kids and a dog. I would be living the typical suburban dream if not for our rented house, but in these times I rather consider it as an advantage!
Speaking of my passions and hobbies, I’m a Jack of all trades and master of none, as I’ve been into a lot of things throughout my life. Yoga and bodybuilding, photography and financial trading – you just name it, and I can probably tell you I’ve tried it.
Working on my well being and mental development, however, is something I’ve never stopped doing. Maintaining and constantly improving my spoken English is part of my personal development strategy which explains why I’m running the EnglishHarmony.com website.
2) From your emails and your website, you come across as a really outgoing and friendly person.
Has this helped you learn English? Would you say that shy or introverted learners have a more difficult time picking up/learning a language?
Robby Kukurs: Of course real interpersonal communication is invaluable for any English learner. The English language is a means of communication first and foremost and it’s the lack of speaking practice that leads to all sorts of English fluency issues. So no matter how shy you are, you need to expose yourself to live conversations and more importantly – you have to speak.
It would probably surprise many of my online followers on YouTube and my blog to find out I’m actually quite insecure about myself and very self-conscious about everything I do. It’s the self-programming for success that does the trick so even on days when I’m down I simply convince myself that I can, that I’m confident and strong and you know what? It works!
Also you have to bear in mind that all our fears are much more terrifying and powerful in our imagination. If you’re dreading going to that company Christmas party because you don’t want to make a fool out of yourself with your bad English – simply ignore your inner child for a minute and sing up for it.
The moment you start chatting with someone your fear shrinks in size and stops draining away your confidence simply because you’re taking action and communicating with another person using English.
I have to agree on that introverts find it harder to learn English as they basically spend more time sitting in. Reading, watching TV and similar activities will build up your passive vocabulary but will do little to help with your spoken English.
Therefore more live communication or even speaking English with themselves is something that introvert English learners definitely need to engage into!
3) From your experience as a language learner you decided to develop your own English course.
Could you tell us more about the English Harmony system?
Who is your program for and what can people expect from it?
Robby Kukurs: The English Harmony System 2.0 is an English fluency and confidence building video course (containing 3 DVD's) with a focus on spoken English. It’s not your traditional English learning program because you have to be a decent English speaker to use it. Many decent English speakers, however, still struggle with English fluency big time, and that’s who my System has been built for.
Getting tongue-tied in the middle of a sentence, struggling to formulate one’s thoughts clearly, hundreds of thoughts mixing in your head inhibiting clear speech process, completely blocked mind when one has to engage in a real-life conversation – these are typical signs of the English fluency issue thousands of foreign English speakers experience all over the world.
If you’re one of those struggling English speakers who can speak quite fluently on occasions but on others you feel as if there’s a supernatural force preventing you from speaking – the English Harmony System 2.0 is for you!
It’ll rearrange your spoken English patterns so that you can produce speech automatically and fluently. One of the three modules of the system deals exclusively with the mental side of the speech anxiety, so you’ll also become much more confident and you’ll be able to manage the fluency issue symptoms to the point of their complete eradication.
Sometimes it’s hard to draw a line between those foreigners whose English is sufficient for using the English Harmony System 2.0 and those who still have to come along.
I’ll put it this way – if you know that you’re quite an articulate English speaker on some occasions but on others you struggle big time for reasons you don’t really know, the chances are that the English Harmony System 2.0 will help you!
4) How can learners get the most from your program?
What sort of schedule should people create to make a lasting difference in their fluency?
Robby Kukurs: There are 60 speech exercising lessons overall, and the best effect is achieved by doing a lesson in the evening followed by a repetition of the same lesson the following morning.
It takes 2 months to complete all 60 lessons and after that you should go through them all once more to make sure those natural English speech patterns remain deeply embedded into your mind.
5) Your blog is full of wonderful videos Robby. How do you choose what topics to make videos on?
Robby Kukurs: Sometimes I get the inspiration from my blog readers’ e-mails, on other occasions I get inspired by other bloggers’ articles and comments. And quite frequently I’d get an idea for an article or a video out of thin air - a thought just suddenly crosses my mind and that’s it!
I’ve also made quite a few videos following my own real-life experiences, and many of my videos have been created with the sole purpose of explaining the English fluency issue to people.
It’s still something that requires a whole lot of discussion before the foreign English speakers actually realize why they have the issue and I’m happy to reveal many techniques and strategies of dealing with it in my videos.
6) In your opinion, what is the most frustrating thing about learning English?
Robby Kukurs: If the student gets frustrated, there are basically two options why it’s happening.
Firstly, it could be down to lack of motivation and not having a vision for the application of English language down the road. This can be observed a lot in schools where English studies are compulsory but the students don’t see a real need to learn the language because they don’t use it in their daily lives.
To deal with this type of issue it’s paramount to create the right conditions so that the students actually feel compelled to use the language instead of approaching English studies as a sequence of grammar tests.
Secondly we have to touch the subject of inadequacy of many English learning methods that can be very boring and therefore cause frustration.
If we substitute boring English vocabulary drills by memorization with learning new words from the context, much of the frustration just goes away. The same can be said about shifting focus from using materials that are designed specifically for English learners to using English for reading literature that the students actually find interesting.
In other words – all that is boring, compulsory and reminds of test-orientated language learning system is going to cause more or less frustration.
The more English learners use the language to enjoy activities they’d enjoy doing through their native language, the more they get involved in English studies!
7) What about mistakes? Many learners are significantly held back by their fear of making mistakes. How does your program deal with this fear? Do you have any tips or suggestions for learners who can't seem to overcome this fear?
Robby Kukurs: The easiest and most effective way to overcome your fear of making mistakes is by ignoring it and jumping into an embarrassing situation as if you’d be jumping into cold water.
Of course, it’s not that easy, otherwise no-one would be having confidence problems, but we have to remember that fear is always much bigger when we just think about it. When we’re actually in the middle of a conversation, your fear shrinks and you’re forced to act instead of dwelling upon how embarrassing the conversation is going to be and so on.
The more you expose yourself to such situations the better it will get over time, but of course, you have to be mentally prepared. A very shy person can damage their confidence completely by a few mistakes made during a short conversation even if he or she puts on a mask of confidence beforehand.
The English Harmony System 2.0 contains confidence building meditation lessons which deal with different anxieties like fear of making mistakes and feeling inferior to other English speakers. Affirmations and visualization are methods used for thousands of years by followers of eastern religions and philosophical schools and it still works in these modern times.
The second Module of the System called Confidence Mentor will tune your mind onto the right wavelength so that you feel much calmer and don’t perceive embarrassment as a big deal anymore!
8) One of your most popular blog posts in 2010 was "English Small Talk Phrases" and I wanted to know why you believe it was so popular? Do your visitors seem the most concerned with their small talk skills?
Robby Kukurs: Casual phrases and expressions form a big part of spoken English fluency and I think my blog’s visitors realized that it is something they need to work upon.
Majority of my blog readers are foreign English speakers struggling with English fluency and the article about small talk phrases provided them with an instant solution. It literally takes you a couple of those small talk phrases to sound more fluent. Just take, for instance, a typical conversation starter phrase – "Here’s the thing..." Formal words and phrases don’t come close to the efficiency of this and similar phrases in casual conversations!
9) I absolutely LOVE your blog post which talks about why learning English in Schools sucks. Could you give us a break down of this article and the main reasons why schools and language academies are failing English learners?
Robby Kukurs: Thanks, I’m glad you like that blog post, I enjoyed writing it too!
The very essence of this article can be described using a single sentence – school English studies are detached from reality.
English students are required to study the language instead of using it- and how can anyone expect them to speak fluent English if they spend most of their time buried into textbooks? Reading and writing take up majority of students’ time but it does little to contribute to their real language skills!
They can become proficient at analyzing the English language with surgical precision just like ancient monks would learn Latin and spend their lives re-writing manuscripts.
In real life situations a person is required to open the mouth and speak according to ever-changing situations. Improvisation is the keyword when it comes to speaking English with real people, and it’s not something you can learn sitting behind a desk with all your senses focused on yet another English Grammar Tenses table.
10) In your own opinion what are the three biggest mistakes that an English learner tends to make when trying to learn English?
Robby Kukurs: The biggest mistake is translating from one’s native language. It’s responsible for most of the English fluency issues where the English speakers stutter and hesitate and create unnatural English sentence structures.
Secondly it’s trying to speak very fast. There’s a widespread belief that fast speech equals fluent speech and many foreign English speakers fall for it and find themselves getting stuck and not being able to speak at all. All foreign English speakers have to bear in mind that English is their second or third language after all and there’s nothing wrong with taking a bit more extra time to express the thought clearly and precisely!
The third biggest mistake is trying to use too-clever language. It’s another misconception that the more sophisticated words are used, the better one’s English sounds and if you speak using simple language you’ll be considered a bad English speaker. In fact, nothing can be further from truth as even native English speaking professionals use quite simple and plain language to get the message across to others!
11) As English continues to be the international language of business, parents have realized how important it is to get their kids learning English as soon as possible. I was talking to two mothers in the supermarket the other day and they were frustrated because the English academies here are very expensive and the group sizes are very large (about 10-15 kids per group).
Robby Kukurs: What advice can you give to parents who are trying to get their children on the right track? Can you think of some do's and dont's that every parent should know?
It depends a lot on the environment. If we look at emigrant families living in English speaking countries, an absolute must is to join some sort of a day care facility as soon as possible. It took my cousin’s daughter just a few months and a few hours a day to learn English to fluency – all because she was immersed in an English environment where the language was actually USED instead of TAUGHT as a school subject!
Speaking of foreign countries – it’s a hard one to answer. Not all parents send their children to specialized English schools – and even then it’s not guaranteed that they don’t simply increase the number of English lessons per week. As I said previously – English has to be USED as a medium to get involved in activities rather that studied as a subject and I doubt even specialized institutions will involve children in other activities through English language.
I’d say it’s more beneficial to the child to get a satellite TV and make them watch Disney channel where they can pick up real conversational English and watch cartoons and children’s films with them. Although one of my video blog posts is dedicated to discussing usefulness of watching TV as an English improving tool and I conclude that it’s not going to have a big impact on your ability to speak, it’s still a brilliant tool for learning to listen, understand and build one’s passive vocabulary.
Here I can bring up an example of my brother who learnt German exclusively from watching German TV channels and in the end he was the best student in the class. He learnt to understand conversational German before he even started German studies at school, and school studies simply added more substance and structure to his general language knowledge.
If a child learns a language only at school, the chances are that he’ll be required to focus mostly on grammar topics and that will inhibit the natural language learning process. Of course, some classes are better than others, but still I think it’s invaluable to have the child exposed to some sort of real-life English experience – be it watching English children’s channels or finding English speaking playmates for your offspring.
12) What do you have planned for English Harmony.com in 2011? Also, if you have anything else that you feel would interest readers please feel free to mention it here.
Robby Kukurs: I’ll keep providing my blog readers and YouTube channel subscribers with free and great quality content – regular videos and blog posts. There’s no better feeling than reading comments and receiving e-mails thanking me for my advice and I get great satisfaction out of writing articles and shooting videos!
I’ve also planned to upgrade the English Harmony System 2.0 in the second half of 2011 – you know, I have to follow the technological trends! iPads and iPhones, Apps and other new pieces of hardware and software have become mainstream and to be honest I haven’t caught up with it all yet! It’s about time I implement some of it in my System and I think I’ll send a questionnaire to my customers to find out in what other formats I should release the English Harmony System 2.0.
I also plan to add more lessons to the System providing my customers with even more opportunities to improve their spoken English. I’ve also been thinking about a free video course so that any of my blog readers could see how my unique speech exercising technology works and what results it produces.
That’ll keep me busy this year for sure – and let’s not forget I’m also planning to post more videos where I’m playing guitar and singing popular English songs! I recently took up guitar playing and so far I’m showing quite good progress. I want to show to all foreign English speakers out there that there’s no limit to activities you can enjoy using the English language!
Thank you so much for taking the time to give us your perspective Robby Kukurs!
You raise some really interesting points and you also provide some priceless tips and advice to English learns.
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