Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all Effortless English Club members!

As you know, it is a tradition to make resolutions at the beginning of the year. The word "resolution" has a couple of meanings, but here it means "a strong decision".

Basically, a New Year's resolution is a goal for the next year.

Hopefully, one of your resolutions is to be an excellent English speaker!

How will you do it? Here are a few links and resources to help you get started on this important goal for 2008:

The 7 Rules Email Course
This is my free email course. In the course, I tell you 7 methods for improving your English speaking fast. The 7 Rules focus on fluency-- which means speaking and understanding English easily and automatically. Use the 7 Rules when you create your English study plan.

Lingq is run by my friends Steve and Mark Kaufman. They have an excellent system, some of it is free and some you have to pay for. The free system allows you to save and review new vocabulary... which is a great service. When you pay, you can talk to their tutors on the internet (using Skype) and also submit writing for correction. I'm using Lingq now to improve my Spanish-- they offer many different languages! Last week I had my first Spanish Skype chat (Ill be writing more about my experiences with Lingq in the future).

This is a great language exchange and social site. At Kantalk, you meet other English learners and speakers. You can sign up for group chats, make friends, and schedule individual talks with other members. The great thing is-- its all free :) Like Lingq, Kantalk members use Skype to communicate with each other.

Those three services will give you a strong start in 2008. This is the year you become an excellent English speaker!

Good luck.

Listen To This Article at:
The Effortless English Podcast.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

American Accent Training- Review

"American Accent Training" is a book and CD set by Ann Cook. You can buy it on As the title suggests, this is a pronunciation-only system. It is designed for one thing-- to improve your English pronunciation and get you to speak more like an American.

This system has two major strengths. First, it focuses mostly on intonation rather than individual sounds.

Most pronunciation books and CDs focus on the sounds of difficult letters. For example, they spend a lot of time on pronouncing "r" and "l". The result is that students improve these sounds a little, but their overall pronunciation is still terrible.

For most students, INTONATION, not the sounds of letters, is their big problem. Poor intonation is the reason native speakers cannot understand you. Which is why I like American Accent Training-- the program focuses on the most important pronunciation skill.

The second strength of this program is that it is listening based. Surprisingly, many pronunciation programs focus on the EYES instead of the ears. I've seen a lot of books with complicated drawings of the mouth and tongue, for example. All these complicated drawings are useless.

American Accent Training includes 5 CDs, so it is listening focused. And as all Effortless English members know, you learn to speak by listening. You improve speaking with your ears, not your eyes. This is true for pronunciation, as well as fluency, grammar, and vocabulary.

American Accent Training, however, does have one big weakness. It is boring. There are a lot of word lists and sentences to practice, but not of them has any meaning. You spend your time practicing random words and sentences. So, the biggest challenge with this program is finishing it.

I recommend American Accent Training only for students who are advanced and who want to focus all of their energy on pronunciation. If you are very motivated to improve your pronunciation, and can endure some boredom, the program will help you.

For everyone else, I recommend using movies and my english conversation lessons to improve pronunciation. These are much more interesting to use. Simply listen carefully, pause after each sentence, and copy the speaker's pronunciation. Make it a game-- pretend you are an actor!

Good luck with your English learning :)

Listen To This Article at:
The Effortless English Podcast.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I often write about the benefits of easy, fun reading. In fact, reading easy novels is the best way to improve your vocabulary. If you can listen to audio books of the same novels, you'll improve your speaking too!

The very best approach is to choose a series of novels. By doing this, you get both the benefits of easy reading AND the benefits of narrow reading. The same is true for audio books and listening

Members often email and ask me, "Can you suggest a series of easy novels".... so here are a few that I recommend:

Goosebumps by R.L. Stine
These are scary novels for children. They are about monsters and mysteries and other fun stuff. The reading level is at an intermediate level- about a 3rd or 4th grade level. The Goosebumps series is a perfect one to start with. In fact, I just started reading my first Goosebumps novel in Spanish-- and I have ordered many more from

The Hardy Boys
The Hardy Boys is a very old series-- I read the books when I was a kid. The novels are about two boys who are private detectives. All of the stories are mysteries.

Nancy Drew
Nancy Drew novels are very similar to the Hardy Boys books, but are targeted to a female audience.

Sweet Valley Kids; Sweet Valley High
This is a very big series of romance books. The Sweet Valley Kids books are the easiest and are written for children. The Sweet Valley High books are for High School level readers, but are not too difficult. I recommend starting with the Kids books and reading a lot of them. Of course, read them only if you like romance novels!

All of these series can be found on

I highly recommend reading a lot of them. Fun, easy reading is a great supplement to my english mp3 lessons. Even if you are an advanced English learner, start the habit of reading easy novels. Then gradually read novels that are a little more difficult.

Choose series whenever possible, because "narrow" and concentrated reading produces faster improvement.

This kind of reading, combined with my english mp3 lessons, will produce amazingly fast improvement in your English. Try it for 6 months-- you will be amazed!

Listen To This Article at:
The Effortless English Podcast.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Power of Narrow Reading and Listening

Dr. Stephen Krashen is the top language learning expert in the world. He just published a new paper with Dr. Clara Lee Brown titled, "What is Academic Language Proficiency?"

In the article, Drs. Krashen and Brown discuss the best strategies for learning "academic English". Academic English is basically Advanced English. Its the English you need to succeed in universities and professional jobs.

Academic English is the next step after fluency.

So, how do you learn academic fluency? What does the research show?

1. Narrow Reading and Listening
"The narrow reading strategy is to read texts by one author, which helps ensure comprehension and natural repetition of vocabulary and grammar." (Krashen, 2004b).

Many students believe that they must listen to MANY different speakers and read many different authors. But, in fact, this is a less successful method. Picking just one speaker or writer is much better. Why?

Because speakers and writers naturally repeat many words and phrases. Each speaker has their favorite set of phrases. In speech, they naturally use these many times. By focusing on just one speaker, you will automatically get a lot of repetition of new vocabulary and grammar.

In other words, you will learn English deeply. If you want to learn academic English, you should listen to a speaker who discusses advanced topics. For example, in my level 3. lessons, you hear me discuss many academic-level topics related to culture, politics, human rights, and relationships.

By listening to all of the lessons, you naturally get a lot of repetition of common academic words, phrases, and grammar. You learn these deeply, but you don't need to try to memorize them. You learn deeply and automatically. You learn them effortlessly.

2. Don't Study Word Lists or Grammar Rules
We acquire language and develop literacy by understanding messages, not by consciously learning about language and not by deliberate memorization of rules of grammar and vocabulary (Krashen, 1981, 2003).

This is a very important point. To learn Academic Level English, you do not study grammar rules.... and you do not memorize vocabulary lists. As Dr. Krashen says, these strategies are failures. They are not successful.

To learn Academic Level English, you must listen to and read a lot of academic English-- and you must understand it. This seems simple, right?

The important point is that you MUST understand what you hear and read. How do you do that if the English is difficult? First, you can use interesting and fun lessons that help you understand more difficult articles and speeches.

Second, you can start with easy speeches and books, then slowly find more difficult ones. For example, you start listening to easy audiobooks for children. You pick one writer-speaker and listen to all of their books.

Soon, these will seem easy, so you find some books and audiobooks that are a little more difficult. You keep repeating this process, and within a year, you are reading adult novels.... and listening to adult audiobooks.

Finally, you choose academic level books, magazines, and audiobooks that interest you, and you listen to them everyday.

By following these methods, you will learn Academic English. You will understand Advanced vocabulary and grammar. You will correctly use advanced vocabulary and grammar.

And you will never again study grammar rules and vocabulary lists!

Listen To This Article at:
The Effortless English Podcast.