Culture

4 ways to improve your English right this minute!

Guys, real talk. Probably your English is really good, especially if you’re reading my blog. I’m not saying that Poles don’t speak English well. On the contrary, I’m impressed how so many people are able to speak so well without ever having lived in an English-speaking country. I make a living on the fact that you make errors so that’s cool with me. BUT I can’t stand hearing and correcting these mistakes anymore. Don’t dare ask me “but are these big mistakes?” A mistake is a mistake is a mistake. You can easily fix these and your English will immediately make a much better impression. So let’s take a look!

Stop using “I think yes” and other Polishisms. I have 22 years. I am running every day. I’m going to home. Localization. My hairs are. What means that? I very like. You have right. How is ___ in English? Italian kitchen. Big money. I invite you.

A little quiz: put your corrections for these in the comments! Let’s see who can get them all :)

It’s nearly impossible to speak a second language without using your first as a model for the way sentences should be structured and phrases should sound. But it’s important to at least try and rid your language of the most basic mistakes, like the ones listed above. Imagine if someone “Jestem 28” or “ona jest 7” every time they talked about age in Polish. It would drive you fucking crazy! Of course I’m saying this as a very patient and understanding teacher.

Stop mispronouncing very common words. Comfortable. Vegetable. Mountain. Photography. Available. Salmon. Journey. Onion. Bird. Receipt. Doubt. Though. Biscuit. Queue. Interesting.

Check this video for the correct pronunciation:

Pronunciation is a bitch in English. That’s the truth. You can blame the influence of other languages, British and American differences, and just the passage of time for that. But really, at least these common words need to be pronounced properly. Particularly anything ending in “on” or “or”.

Common, lemon, person, weapon, Washington, doctor, conductor. “on” makes more of a Polish “yn” sound meaning you should say “lemyn” or “persyn”. And “or” makes more of an “er” sound. So doctor should sound like “docter”, like “writer” or “teacher”.

Another fun example:

fan vs. fun      sang vs. sung      drank vs. drunk — Poles tend to use the Polish “a” sound, which in English actually sounds something in between “a” and “u”. This causes problems because  I don’t know whether you’re saying “fan” or “fun”. Try it!

And yet another:

Stop using the Polish sound for “i” in English words. I’d say this is the biggest issue. The English “i” is most often pronounced the same way as the Polish “y”. This makes words like big, fish, and sit sound totally different. So let’s take these examples:

live vs. leave     it vs. eat     this vs. these     sick vs. seek     ship vs. sheep     bitch vs. beach     shit vs. sheet

Check out this video for the correct pronunciation:

If you say the first words incorrectly, you’ll actually be saying the second ones. When you hit your funny bone and yell “Shit!” would you like it to sound like “Prześcieradło!” No, of course not. That’s absurd but honestly it doesn’t sound that bad as an expletive.

Stop writing sentences with Polish word order. Word order in English is generally subject —> verb — > object.

You say: In my class are many pretty girls. In our city live a lot of homeless people. I all the time make mistakes in English. I went yesterday to the mall. English is for me too difficult.

You should say: There are many pretty girls in my class. A lot of homeless people live in our city. I make mistakes in English all the time. I went to the mall yesterday. English is too difficult for me.

I know, I get it. Every time I say “o co chodzi tutaj” my husband laughs. So I know it’s hard not to form sentences with the structure of your native language. Now that you know it should be different, you can try and form sentences using the English word order. Don’t worry, this comes with time.

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments and I’d be happy to help! xo!

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28 Comments

  • Reply Szymon 4 October 2016 at 21:11

    I’m 22. I run everyday. I’m heading home. Location. My hair is. What does that mean? I really like (something). You’re right. How do you say ___ in English? Italian cuisine.
    I don’t know about the last two ones, could you explain what’s wrong with them? I though that it is correct to say, e.g “I’d like to invite you for/to ___”
    Cheers!

  • Reply Piotr 4 October 2016 at 21:18

    Mistakes pointed out by you should be corrected in that way:
    – I am 22 years old (a formal sentence. In English we use ” to be” to definite someone`s height and age)
    -I run everyday (It`s my habit)
    -Placement (I`m not quite sure)
    -My hair is ( no plural)
    -What does it mean?
    -I like it very much.
    – You are right. By the way, a sentence written above by you isn`t bad. But its meaning is completely different than mine. That would be translated as “Masz prawo” in Polish.
    -How to say/spell it in English?
    -Italian cuisine.( Kitchen-the kind of room, Cuisine-the kind of food).
    -Great money. (A big word is used to definite somebody`s or something size).
    – I would like to invite you (We rather don`t invite people everyday, do it?).

    These mistakes seem to be really really basic and they are made by beginners mainly. However, learning a new language is never easy, is it? You know it best I suppose. And what about English pronunciation? It`s really a tough cookie for foreigners unfortunately. Poles have a big trouble with this as well. As wrote in my one of previous post, this is related to teaching-grammar and theory instead of speaking. I was taught the same way. What`s an effect? When I read something in English I understand almost everything. But my listening and hearing are much much worse. If I want to watch some film in English, I need suitable substiles. Furthermore, many words in this language sound almost alike for many of us. Your examples are classic. I know that mispronunciation can make communication harder, but… My cousin living in the United Kingdom told me that expats speak English in many ways and British know what they mean. Unless they are Asian-Japanese and Chinese speak English horribly apparently.

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 5 October 2016 at 12:04

      Piotr – you think these are basic and essentially they are but nearly everybody makes these mistakes except the most advanced. But I mean you’re right if someone makes these mistakes then I can understand them but who wants to make mistakes? I’d rather use “a lot of money” instead of great money. Also I’d say “how do you say” or “what is ___ in English?” Thanks for the great comment!

      • Reply Piotr 5 October 2016 at 13:51

        You are right. Nobody wants to make mistakes. However, unless you are proficient in English (or you grew up in English-speaking country) it`s almost impossible to avoid them. Even if somebody knows a foreign language really well she/he will read (or say) something incorrectly. Sooner or later. My level of English is close to B2 ( I did some placement tests out curiosity) and I can use it quite freely. But I tend to “lose” needed words and make mistakes. Some of them are really stupid. They exist in my posts although I know the proper version. This can be irritating a bit I admit. Luckily, when I see some comments written by non-natives my complexes get cured almost immediately. Thanks for compliment Leah! I`m glad that you`re patient and understanding for your students. I find Polish teachers well educated but… They are too focused on correctness really. If students do something badly, they interrupt their speaking in a moment.

  • Reply Piotr 4 October 2016 at 21:27

    I forgot one sentence. I will go home( to isn`t needed and decision is made spontaneously. No planning I think).

  • Reply Phil Forbes 4 October 2016 at 21:29

    Off the top of my head, a lot of Poles I teach use the word ‘that’ quite a lot. Very rarely is it used incorrectly, but not using it shows a better control of the English language. I think that we should help him. I think we should help him. And I know exactly where it comes from. Myślę, że…!

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 5 October 2016 at 12:03

      yes but when they should be using “that” like something physically or figuratively far from you, they use “this”. so you’ll start finding yourself overusing this and you’ll never be able to stop :)

    • Reply Szymon 5 October 2016 at 18:17

      You’re right Phil, I absolutely abuse “that”. But I just think that it’s lesser evil to add it, even when it’s redundant, than to not add it and make an actual mistake :(

      • Reply Leah Morawiec 6 October 2016 at 15:02

        Actually I think that’s a wise move Szymon because it’s always going to be correct, just a little wordy. The reason we take out that is because we don’t like “that” more than once in a sentence. Like e.g. “He said that he wasn’t happy that I called him so late”

  • Reply OLa 4 October 2016 at 21:32

    I am 22 years. I run everyday. I’m going home. Location. My hair is. What does that mean? I like it very much. You are right. What is ___ in English? Italian cuisine.
    I’m really surprised that we can’t say big money!!
    and I’m inviting you (?)/ I would like to invite (?)

  • Reply Anna 4 October 2016 at 22:20

    The last one should probably be “Welcome”, but it’s difficult for me to imagine that someone could make that big a mistake. But hey, people learn from their own mistakes! At least I hope so.

  • Reply Magdalena 4 October 2016 at 22:30

    Great post! Please, do it more often :) !

  • Reply Maria 4 October 2016 at 22:40

    I think so.

    I’m 22 years old. I run every day. I’m going home. Location. My hair is. What does it mean? I like it very much/a lot. You’re right. How do you say ___ in English? Italian cuisine. Good money. I’m inviting you.

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 5 October 2016 at 12:02

      Yes! Except the last one. The last one we’d probably say I’d like to invite you. But good money works or a lot of money :)

  • Reply molibden 5 October 2016 at 01:16

    – “I jog everyday”, if I were better at descriptive grammar I’d be able to tell why “I run everyday” makes no sense
    – Is it really that bad to say “big money”? I mean, in certain situations like, let’s say, looking at an Soviet oligarch’s villa and then saying “Woah, I smell big money here”
    – I have a feeling that “I invite you” isn’t incorrect, it’s just not used this way
    – I’ve also noticed that pronunciation is that much a bitch that it’s challenging even to spell it
    – „O co tutaj chodzi” is not incorrect enough to laugh at people saying so I think

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 5 October 2016 at 12:01

      1. You can say I run everyday. Why not? 2. Yeah big money isn’t great. You should say “a lot of money”. e.g. he makes a lot of money. 3. I would like to invite you to… but it doesn’t work like “zapraszam” in the way of “we welcome you” or something. We rather wouldn’t say something like that. Maybe “feel free”

  • Reply molibden 5 October 2016 at 17:45

    Actually I thought “run” is about the activity itself (określa konkretną czynność, a nie pojęcie abstrakcyjne) so it would have to be sth like “I run everyday, cause I am always late for the bus”. I guess it would be ,,predicative complement of the object”

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 6 October 2016 at 15:03

      You might be better than me at descriptive grammar (I’m just a lowly teacher!) but running is a sport so it’s normal to run everyday :) I mean for some crazy people, of course!

      • Reply molibden 7 October 2016 at 01:24

        Just thought the proper name of the sport is “jogging”.
        And about the “size” of the money — I feel you should introduce words like “crapton” or “shitload”. It would help in teaching people actual everyday English I suppose.
        😉

  • Reply Paul 6 October 2016 at 02:28

    What’s wrong with “big money”? I’ve seen it used in magazines like Forbes. I’ve heard it in songs. There’s even a novel titled “Big Money”…

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 6 October 2016 at 14:58

      Well there are situations where you can say it if you’re really exaggerating… like if you said just “big money” but generally if you say “they have big money” it doesn’t sound good. You’re supposed to say “a lot of money” because that’s what you use with uncountable nouns

  • Reply Honorata Raubo 6 October 2016 at 10:35

    Thank you very much for the movies: how to improve my english right! It’s really helpful! BTW: I like your webpage! Regards.

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 6 October 2016 at 14:57

      very glad you enjoyed them, Honorata!

  • Reply Kasia 6 October 2016 at 19:10

    Hi Leah :) just wanted to say i saw you in dzien dobry tvn this morning and was quite impressed with your Polish. You go girl! I find your blog useful and I am pretty sure I will be coming back to read more of your posts. I am an English teacher myself and I now work in a huge British company. You cannot even imagine how many times i had to tell somebody that there is no table in ‘comfortable’ (I mean the letters are there but not when you say it out loud). Anyway good luck with everything!

  • Reply Nancy Southers 28 October 2016 at 23:35

    So happy Piotrek wasn’t “leaving you for one month” Haha!

  • Reply Asia 8 January 2017 at 15:50

    My niece, who lives in England but her parents are from Poland and try to speak with her in Polish, often says something like “Jestem 8, ale jak będę 9…”. 😉

    • Reply Asia 8 January 2017 at 15:51

      *talk with her

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 9 January 2017 at 19:24

      hehe so cute :)

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