How I Became Fluent In English – And How You Can Too ✓

In this week’s episode, I’ll share with you how I became fluent in English in as little as 6 months so you can replicate my success. I will also teach you how you can get rid of your thick accent too. I am confident this video will be highly beneficial to your career.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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Being able to speak excellent English makes a tremendous difference in your career. It is sometimes the difference between having a 6 figure salary and barely surviving. More than once in my career, have I seen idiots, absolute idiots making a killing in their careers in international cities like London, Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong just because they can speak English very well. I mean if it was a fair competition, the guy wouldn’t even be a plumber – but he’s working as a director in a very high position, making 6 figure salary. Or at the same time, incredibly talented guys who are barely surviving in their careers working for multinational employers, just because their accent isn’t clear enough.

So, in this video, I am going to show you what I did that took me from barely being able to speak English to the level that I am going to show you in as little as 6 months.

I am 100% sure, I wouldn’t be able to get to where I am in my career, if I didn’t speak this fluent or if I didn’t get rid of my own thick accent.

In this video, I’ll also show you how you can also get rid of your own accent if you are interested. But that’s for later.

Before I get into the details, a quick disclaimer, in case you don’t know me and this is the first video of mine that you watch, I am not an English teacher. Far from it. I am a management consultant and my channel is all about supercharging your career.

So, let me teach you what worked for me when I learned how to speak English about a decade ago, how I reached relatively high level of fluency, and how I got rid of my accent

Let’s break it down. So, there are 2 layers that make up a skill like a language;

We have foundation and we have delivery

Foundation includes Grammar and Vocabulary

And delivery includes Fluency and Accent. Both of which are very important for you to have a successful international career.

Now, there are 2 mistakes most people do when it comes to learning a foreign language.

The first mistake is our tendency to underestimate the resources required to accomplish our projects. Learning how to speak English is a project. One that requires a tremendous amount of dedication and effort. So, that’s where most people make the first mistake. It’s not something you can do half-assed. It just won’t work if you start practicing wrong grammar and thick accent over and over. You’ll only reinforce the bad habits. It will become more difficult in future to fix it.

The second mistake is directly tied to not knowing how your brain works and learns. Unless you know how the brain learns, you won’t be able to create the conditions necessary to support long term learning.

Let’s talk about this. So, how DOES the brain learn?

Your brain can change in 3 very basic ways to support learning. First is chemical.

your brain functions by transferring chemical signals between brain cells, neurons. So, to support learning, your brain can increase the amount or the concentrations of these chemical signaling between neurons. And because this change happens very rapidly, this supports only short-term memory, or the short term improvement in the performance of a motor skill, or learning a language.

The second way that the brain can change to support learning is by altering its structure. So, during learning, the brain can change the connections between neurons. So, here, the physical structure of the brain is actually changing. It takes a bit more time. But these kinds of changes are related to the long term memory or the long term improvement in a motor skill.

Let me give you an example. You take up a new hobby, maybe it's playing guitar. You take up a session and you show incredible progress within that session. You are all so optimistic, thinking of buying your new guitar, you go home all so proud, and checking Amazon for guitar prices, right because after all, you have shown incredible progress within your first lesson, you must be a musical genius. Then, comes the next day, and you realize you forgot most of what you learned. You can no longer play. What happened? You forgot 90% of what you learned.

Well, in the short term your brain was able to increase the chemical signaling between your neurons, but for some reason, those changes did not include the structural changes that you needed. Which supports the long term learning.

It’s 3 step forward 2 step backward.

And there is a good reason for it. Your brain is incredibly efficient. Unless it’s sure that you are sure of committing to a new skill, it will not allocate the resources to make those structural changes.

It’s like. Your brain treats you like you are a teenager who jumps from one shiny object to another the next day. And your brain is like your parent. It’s not going to go and buy that shiny object every single day for you. It’ll only commit the resources if it’s sure that you are really committed and that you sustain that activity. There are great books about this. You can also read about neuroplasticity. It’s amazing.

So my point is very simple. If you are not in a constantly English speaking environment, or that you practice all the time, in the correct form, you will never be able to learn English well.

If your environment doesn’t support learning English, and that you don’t want to change that environment, then don’t. Don’t try to learn English. Don’t take it up as a project.

The trick is to learn English like native speakers. Meaning, the words and the use of proper grammar will stick only if you hear them and use them in their relevant context repeatedly, not once in a week.

But Deniz, I speak English every day and I hear English everyday but my English doesn’t get better and my accent is also still very thick.

Of course, it won’t. I’ll get to it soon. I’ll tell you the major mistake you are doing.

But first, let me share MY story.

When I was in 3rd year in college, I realized that English was going to be the future language of the business world. The trend was just way too obvious to ignore.

So, I did what everybody does, I enrolled in an English course as a beginner. A1 or C1 or something like that. They taught us the basic grammar, adjectives, and things like that and there was a test I think after 3 months to progress into A2. And I failed.

The whole thing it just didn’t stick.

Now, I am fairly a smart person, so I didn’t take it personally, but instead, it let me question the way they taught English. Because I wasn’t impressed with even the English of the teacher. I was like if that’s the best I can get even after paying you for 3 years for all the advanced courses every weekend, no thanks…

So I dropped out.

Because I realized that learning a foreign language isn’t one of those hobbies you pick up in the weekends.

It’s not one of those pottery courses, or art lessons, that you can do at your convenience whenever you feel like. You are either in or you are out. In between doesn’t exist.

That shift in the mindset was what made the biggest difference in my life.

So, I immediately enrolled in a student organization called AIESEC and then I arranged an internship abroad.

Now the problem was at that time, my English was still very beginner level. So, I couldn’t get an internship in the U.S. or U.K.

The interviews were horrible. I mean I failed every single one of them of course. I feel bad now. I feel bad for putting them in that situation. Because, they would invest their time to interview me, but then I would be like “Yes. I vork good. You vork good?” Very good” Very good” I do hart vork. Very hart”. “I donot understant vat?

But you see it was a great practice opportunity. I knew I was going to fail every single interview but I was practicing. So, I must have had easily 20 interviews.  I didn’t pass anything, in fact, my AIESEC branch got so many complaints about me. “This guy can’t even speak English, how dare you put him for an internship!”

So, anyway, because of all these interviews, and practice, I got a bit better and I finally secured an internship in the Philippines with a bank.

See, The Philippines is also sort of a native English speaking country. Well educated Filipinos speak very good English. Some of them are like native speakers. And it was just a perfect learning environment for me. Not only I’d be interning in a bank, but also I’d be in an English speaking environment for a year.

Then, within as little as 6 months, all that I learned in the past, you know all that grammar somehow found their place and I started speaking fluently.

And what I did in that 6 months during my internship in a bank was nothing more than, just consciously pay attention to grammar they use, the choice of words, and how they sound. These 3 things. Then, replicate it. Whenever I come across words that I didn’t know, I’d write them down in a notebook, and study those words at the end of the day, and use them the next day. So, in as little as 3 months, I was fluent. But I still had a very thick accent. So, I knew that the project wasn’t done.

Now you may say; Deniz I have no means to live abroad or go for an internship. Yeah well, the reason I had to leave for abroad was that there was no English content at the time. My environment didn’t support English. No internet, no computer, no English anywhere, no tourists, nothing. How do you learn something as complex as a foreign language if you are not exposed to it? So, that’s when I noticed that it’s not a hobby.

So, you actually have more English hearing opportunities than I had even when I was abroad. You can just open YouTube and watch all the videos and ALL MY VIDEOS. And that will help you a lot with your understanding tremendously. But not with speaking.

Resources always exist, it’s your ability to be resourceful that makes the biggest difference. You can find the resources you need as long as you are resourceful. You can be incredibly creative with this. For example, once I came back from my internship I was able to speak pretty good English. Like the one, you saw in the video. But I very well knew that I still had another 2 years in college and I wasn’t going to speak English for 2 years. That would mean the end of my English speaking ability. I was 100% sure. So, what did I do?

I brought in an intern from the U.S. to live with me in my house. While he was having his internship in my city as a foreign student, he lived in my house for 1 whole year, his name is Kevin. then another intern from Japan the next year, Shoichi. By that way, I continued to practice English every single day. Makes sense? And I never lost that skill.

See, it’s resourcefulness. You can always find resources if you look for them. You just need to be creative.  And be committed. I’ll repeat it, learning a foreign language isn’t piece of cake. It’s tough business. So, you should treat it like that.

you are going to have to create the environment that supports your long-term learning. Otherwise, you will forever be the person who can read, write, and understand English but have difficulty speaking it, or speaks with a very strong accent that nobody understands what she’s talking about.

Let’s now talk about Delivery; Fluency and Accent.

the reason you are not fluent is because your brain hasn’t yet learned the ability to automate the activity.

See, I talked about this before in my one of previous videos, you only have a conscious space of about 3 things.

Meaning; you can do only up to 3 things consciously, you can text while speaking to a friend while watching a movie. But the good thing is you can run almost infinite amount of background tasks, meaning activities that your brain learned to automate earlier.

So while you are texting and speaking to a friend, you can also ride a bike, eat, drink, make noise with your hand, move your head, tilt your head. Right?

The point is you need to practice speaking so much that your brain eventually learns to automate that activity of picking up words from the “English Folder”. Until then, you will have to exude conscious effort. But that transition happens a lot quicker than you can imagine.

Delivery is completely different than knowledge. You speak once every year than you think you should be fluent. Far from it. You obtained the knowledge. Fine, but your brain didn’t learn to automate the activity of speaking in English. It is still consciously searching for words, tracking the historical use of those words in their context, and then picking up what is most suitable. You may have excellent writing skills but that doesn’t translate to speaking. A great example of this is academicians. Most foreign academicians are pretty advanced when it comes to reading and writing in English but very basic at speaking.

If you speak English every day, at least an hour or two in English, then you’ll see that you’ll show tremendous progress.

The opposite is also true. If you don’t speak much, then you’ll lose it. Regardless of how good you speak.  For example, I left my management consulting career with PwC Consulting about 4 months ago. I set up The Career Mastery and with our training program we are helping unemployed and underemployed get jobs with our LIG program. So, I do have an office but we are a team of only 3 people. So, I no longer really have the intense English conversations, and presentations I once had. I don’t consult corporate clients anymore.

So, as a result of this transition, I noticed that my English vocabulary is shrinking rapidly.

I mean in as little as 4 months.

Like instead of using the word deteriorate I say it gets worse. That word no longer pops up in my head. Instead of saying maybe show progress, I say it gets better.

And imagine how heavily I was speaking English for the past 10 years in my career. Even then, the brain is all about efficiency. If it doesn’t need it, it’ll dump it.

So let’s make it more practical for you. how can you speak an hour every day.

I’ll go over a few solutions very quickly here;

First one is, what I used to do; I would narrate my day in English every day.

For example, I would start recording my sound and start explaining what I did in the morning, what I learned during the day, what I liked the most and what I hated the most. It would be like a 30 minute summary of my day.

Another option you can do is that you can find a conversation buddy. Someone you can speak every day for a few hours.

You can schedule regular Skype calls where you can talk about your daily activities to each other. One way to go about that is that you can leave a comment below that you are looking for a conversation buddy and they can private message you in YouTube with their Skype details. Don’t share your email address in YouTube, please. Just send a private message.

Another option is an app called HelloTalk.  It’s a text based app that teaches conversation. And apparently, there is an option on the keyboard that allows you to send voice messages to your partner. They can then respond with a voice message of their own.

Another option available to you is called Verbling Community.

It’s a chat group based website that you can create chat groups and let people join the group based on their English speaking level. So, you can use that website to talk to native speakers and other English language learners for free. I mean I wish I had these opportunities 15 years ago.

Another option is that you can get a part time job with survey companies. One of those market research companies is Gallup. They regularly hire freelancers who will make calls to people to ask a few survey questions.

So, by working there part time, you can both get paid and improve your English.

See, there are always resources. It’s all about resourcefulness.

Now, all of these options can help you increase your fluency… tremendously. But they don’t help your accent.

Remember, delivery includes two components, fluency, and accent.

We covered the fluency. Now, let’s talk about the accent.

Let’s fix that accent of yours.

By the way, if you haven’t subscribed to my channel yet. I strongly recommend you do and also hit that bell curve so YouTube can notify you of my future videos. Because, quality is my first priority. So if you see a video from me, you can be sure that it’s unique and highly beneficial to your career. I don’t shoot fluffy 3 tips to a massive success kind of videos. I don’t. I don’t do that.

Good. Let’s move on. Accent.

[Finger Snapping] Before I share with you how I fixed my very thick accent, I want to talk about why you should also consider getting rid of your accent.

And if you are wondering why I am snapping my fingers. Just be patient. It’ll make sense very soon.

Look, we live in a pretty ugly world. It’s a world where you are judged in 5 seconds by the way you look, they way you sound, the way you carry yourself, and so on.  it’s unfortunately so cruel that the level of English you speak determines your perceived intelligence and intellectual capacity. It’s cruel, ugly, but it’s the fact. This will be a lot more clear to you if you live in cities with high expatriate population, like Dubai, Qatar, London, New York, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

I didn’t make the rules, I simply accepted the rules. I have no motivation or a mission to change this. It’s not within my power to change it. But it is within my power to inform you about it.

Now, let’s talk about the accent. Let’s talk about how I was able to dump my thick accent and adopt sort of a North American accent. Not exactly north American but something clear enough for everyone to understand. Now, you don’t have to sound like Mary Poppins but you need to sound clear enough. You will still have bits and pieces of a foreign accent, it’s fine, it’s even good. it makes you sound a bit exotic. We are talking just being clear, that it doesn’t interfere with your communication. Also set clear expectations, you’ll never be able to speak like native speakers.

Unless you learned English at a young age, you’ll hit diminishing returns. And your biggest limitation will be the fact it will take you longer to explain something than a native speaker does. It’s not a horrible limitation. And you won’t really see this impacting your career negatively. For example, if I were a native English speaker, this video would have taken only half the time. I am sorry that I am not and that it takes me a bit longer. But hey, thanks for your patience.

Anyway, let’s start with why your accent doesn’t get better even if you have been speaking English for decades.

The reason you are not able to fix your accent  is because each day you speak English with your heavy accent, you are reinforcing the bad habit. You are strengthening your accent.

It’s a negative feedback loop.

So, the more you speak in the wrong accent, the more difficult it will get for you to fix it.

Accent is a sound. And just like this guitar, it has a string. Your vocal chords. It has a hitter, air… The air you breath out.

So, by birth, you are capable of producing the sounds of every single language on earth. It’s a just a matter of working the right muscles.

Now, let’s start with the ground rules.

When you speak in a new accent, your brain is pushed to create new neural pathways. Remember we talked about this earlier. And it won’t want to do it unless it’s sure that you are determined. It’ll resist. I told you, your brain is all about efficiency.

A very quick side note here, my wife can’t produce the th sound. Like Three or through, instead she says tree or tru.

But here is the funny thing, I spend a minute with her, I take it to extremes you know I do THHHHHHRUUUU. Then she does it, it’s perfect, and within 5 minutes, she is able to perfectly say three, through. But comes next day, it’s tree and true again actually not even tree and true it’s tree and tru.

Why? Because, she didn’t convince her brain to stick to it.

She didn’t reinforce the new motor skill so it becomes a long term structural change in the brain. That structural change is what will make it stick.

So, this is one of those situations where you need to prioritize Quality over Quantity. The moment you realize you said tru, go back and immediately reinforce the correct version, then say through through through through at least 5 times. Don’t let that slip. Don’t let that get away. If you do it, you just told your brain that it’s ok to say it wrong. It’s not OK.

If you are embarrassed, if there are other people around you, then immediately take a note of that word, and repeat in the correct form as soon as you have time. That’s exactly what I did when I fixed my accent. I didn’t let any word slip. At the beginning, the first week it was chaotic. I’d be pronouncing pretty much everything wrong. I’d be like Let’s say I’ll give you the report tomorrow. Instead I say, I gif you di riporrtt. Then, I’d be give give give give, you you you you, the the the the, report report report, report report. So, I really sounded like an idiot the first week. But you know what, that’s fine. Who cares? I’d rather sound like an idiot for a week then miss out on the opportunity of fixing it for good. And your goal is not even to sound American or British. You just want to be intelligible. So, the bar isn’t very high. Sort of neutral accent.

It only took me 4 weeks to completely fix it. That’s it. Just a month. I mean you can’t even master guitar in a month. I fixed my whole accent within a month. My point is, it’s not difficult. The reason you are not able to fix it is because you are not reinforcing the good habits.

One of the eye opener for me was when we were in a bar in the Philippines with friends. The place had a live music and there was a very pretty lady singing Careless Whisper from George Michael. She was beautiful, the song, her accent, her pitch it was just beautiful. So, after her performance, I went to congratulate her. And to my surprise, she had a very strong Filipino accent when she spoke. A very strong one. And I was confused. How can you sing like that but speak like this. It just didn’t make sense. Then she immediately shifted her accent to American, then to British, then she asked me? Would you like an Australian? Then, I was like.. marry me? It’s ok…

Sorry I lost my thoughts for a minute there.

So, this experience made me realize that it is possible to generate all these different accents with the hardware we all have. This meant that even before I practice words, I just need to learn how to generate those sounds. And that lead me to realize that Americans don’t move their lips like most other languages. And that they create the sound in their throats. And understanding this was mind blowing for me because it was natural and very easy to imitate. Because there is a technique which we are all capable of doing. That you can do right now which creates a similar sound.

Do you know what it is?

It’s called Vocal Fry. That meant if I worked on vocal fry then that would mean I would eventually learn how to make the sound.

That’s precisely what happened. By the way, this is vocal fry [DEMONSTRATING VOCAL FRY]. Vocal fry happens when there is not enough air passing through the vocal chords, creating that very low frequency sound. Don’t get me wrong I am not saying Americans or Canadians constantly do vocal fry. No, it’s that at all. Not even close. It’s just a very simple practice for most of us to bring the sound to a lower frequency and generate it here in the throat.

So, once I got that. What I did was, every single word I see or use, I tried it with vocal fry. This is not a very difficult task. I really didn’t need to know learn how North Americans pronounce each word. I didn’t need to check internet or anything. Because, I already knew it. I already had that mental sound of it. You also do. You have already heard it thousands of times. It’s just that you can’t make that sound. So, understanding what the issue is important. I repeat, you already have that mental audio recording ready. You just don't know how to make the sound. Good?

Now, you speak English probably not more than a couple hundred words. Next thing you need to do is to just practice each word 100 times. Really, minimum of 100 times and do it as many times as you can. Let’s say that your vocabulary is 500 word wide. That means you need to practice 50,000 times. Because you will do 100 times each word. So, that’s 50,000. And let’s say you repeat twice in one second. This means, you need 25,000 seconds which is around 416 minutes or 7 hours.

Now, that’s not too bad, is it? 7 hours…

So, I did this. And I saw incredible progress but it still wasn’t there yet.

And that’s when I figured out 2 very important concepts.

First one is word stress.

And the second one is sentence stress.

These 2 are the ones that made the biggest difference.

So, the word stress is like this. For example, the word important.

So, before, I fixed my speech, I would pronounce it as IMportant, or ImporTANT, then I figured out there each word has a certain stress syllable. Such way of speaking doesn’t exist in many languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean.

The stress in that word important is at POR, imPORtant. That was another eye opener for me. Or CaliFORnia, InstRUCtor, DeSIGN, reDUCtion. DEtail, it’s not deTAIL, some people wrongly say deTAIL but it’s not correct.

Once I realized this, then my hearing also changed. I started paying a lot of attention to these stress syllables. See the problem is, there is no rule you just have to sort of get that mental recording of the sound. So, if you don’t look for it, you won’t realize it. For all these years, you didn’t look for it, and that’s why I didn’t register. You find what you look for.

It’s funny like that. You just need to consciously look for where the stress syllable is. And once you put a conscious effort to paying attention to it, your brain almost like creates a new folder, or like a new excel file and start REcording reCORDing the words in that database one by one.

You’ll see. It’s amazing.

Ok. I hope it’s clear so far.

So, once I mastered the stress syllables in words. I still wasn’t there. Something was missing. But I couldn’t figure out what that was. What is missing?  I mean, I am producing the perfect sound, I stress all the right syllables. But when I speak, it’s still very obvious that I am not a native speaker. Then I asked the question?

When does the problem happen? It happens not when I individually say words. But it happens when I construct long sentences. It was like my rhtym was off. I couldn’t explain it.

Then after a month or so, I figured out what I was doing wrong. Or what I wasn’t doing right. Apparently, English language has a rhytm.

Seriously.

English is a stress-timed language. I didn’t know what that meant until I decided to read more about it. And at the time, Google wasn’t a thing. It existed but Wikipedia didn’t. So, trust me finding an answer to your solution from books is so difficult. I mean you have got to read 100s of pages to find a very simple solution.

Sorry I digress.

Anyway, so, in English the length of a syllable is irrelevant. Let me give you an example.

It’s gonna be an eye opener for you.

Ready? So, here are the examples.

I will go to school. I’ll go to school. I’ll be going to school. I’ll have been gone to school

They all sounded natural to you right? Why wouldn’t it? Now, I am going to do a very simple thing and you’ll figure out what made them sound natural to you.

Finger Snapping.

I will go to school.

I’ll go to school.

I’ll be going to school.

Did you get what I did? So, in English we stress certain words and de-stress others.  So, the timing of a sentence depends on the number of stress syllables not the entire number of words in a sentence. So, even if it’s a 20 word sentence, the timing can very well be as fast as a 5 word sentence with more stress syllables.

So, because of this, you speed up pronouncing certain words, and slow down in the stress syllables.

If you don’t do it, then you sound robotic, here is an example;

I will go to school. I will be going to school.

I sounded like SIRI, didn’t I?

And that’s actually the problem with Siri. Because, a stress word changes based on the context. Siri or Alexa cannot know the context.

So, it can be

Like, who is going to school?

IIII will be going to school

Where are you going?

I will be going to SCHOOL.

Got it?

So, that’s the trick.

Let me do a few more examples so you can start paying attention from now on;

Do you wanna GO?

Not DO-YOU-WANT-TO-GO?

Do you wanna GO?

If you are a non-stress timed language speaker, like Chinese, paying attention to this, this alone will help you tremendously.

We are done with this video. Thanks for your time. Now, feel free to watch my other videos, and when you are doing it, please pay extra attention to the rhtym, and stress words. It’s amazing what your brain will pick up.

You’ll be amazed.

See you next week!