6-step English fluency method for intermediate learners – S.T.A.R.T.R

Feeling stuck with your English progress is frustrating. Many learners give up at this point.Are you stuck at the intermediate level, feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, and not sure how to make progress? Are you over-complicating things, hopping from one English learning resource to the next and getting nowhere? Are you tired of not feeling fluent?

Feelings like these at the intermediate stage are very common. They lead to frustration, and learners often end up over-complicating things and getting even more frustrated. At worst, they give up.

language learning mastery curve

Getting stuck in your language learning is normal. But it still doesn’t feel good.

Improving your English fluency past the intermediate level doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be frustrating and overwhelming, either. You can do it on your own, even without a class or a teacher.

Try this simple 6-step system for one week.

If you commit to the process and put in consistent effort for 7 days, you will be amazed at how much your fluency improves.

But even better than that, you will have learned a simple and effective system you can use to keep improving your English for as long as you want.

This is “teach a man to fish” turbocharged.

Your 7-day mission

Your mission is simple:

To be able to speak fluently* about a specific topic for at least 90 seconds.

For the next 7 days, you will work exclusively toward mastering this specific task.

S.T.A.R.T.R — a 6-step English fluency system

I’ve broken the fluency-building process down into 6 steps. It’s even got an easy-to-remember acronym: S.T.A.R.T.R. It’s pronounced “STARTER. The letters stand for Select, Test, Analyze, Research, Train, Repeat.

How to use the S.T.A.R.T.R English fluency system

Choose a topic that excites you

Your topic should make your feel like this.

1. SELECT an interesting topic
Choose a topic that feels interesting and exciting. It should be something that you can look forward to working on for the coming week. It makes no sense to choose something you would never need to talk about, or something that bores you. Can you feel excited about it for a week of study? If yes, then it’s a good topic.

2. TEST your current fluency
What is your starting point? It’s time to find out. Do a self-test before you study or prepare anything. Continue reading…

040 – Daily Rituals part 5 of 5 – Real English Conversations

Hi English learners! Lori here, your teacher from Betteratenglish.com. In this episode of Real English Conversations, you’ll hear part 5 of my conversation with Kyla. This is the final part of our conversation about the book Daily Rituals by Mason Currey. In the previous episode we talked about dealing with distractions and interruptions when you’re trying to work. This time we talk about one of the biggest interrupters of all: email. We also talk about ways to structure your day to make it easier to do important things.

If you want to read along as you listen, you can download the full transcript, including a bonus vocabulary lesson at betteratenglish.com/transcripts.

After the conversation I’ll be back with three questions you can use for speaking practice. Oh, and one final note: I’ve marked this episode as explicit because near the end of the conversation I say a couple of mildly vulgar words. They’re very common slang words that you hear all the time on TV, but I’m playing it safe and warning you anyway. You never know what someone might find offensive!

OK, let’s get on with the conversation!

Real English Conversation Transcript

Kyla: I was going to say, I guess, one drawback about the book actually is that so much of it is, there’s not— there’s not very many current contemporary people in it to ask about their rituals. It’s, yeah, an awful lot of people from the last century before, before internet and so it would be— it would be nice to find, you know, the daily rituals of more people living now with the different forms of communication that we have now.

Lori: Right.

Kyla: Because of course there were several people that would have, you know, they’d have their hour in which they would make their phone calls to their agents or their phone calls to newspapers or, you know, when it was still there. Because you still had the communication that was required with the— the rest of the world. But I think it was probably much easier to schedule, “Okay, this is the time that I’m going to be on the telephone because this is when I have access to a telephone or…”

Lori: Right.

Kyla: You know, “This is the time of day when I sit and write my letters and read my letters,” which there’s no reason why we can’t do that now but I think it’s easier when you have a physical letter that you can put in a pile on the— on the bedside table or the coffee table and…

Lori: Right. And it’s— it’s also…there’s a limit there, you know. It’s self-limiting. You see, “Okay, I have five letters I have to answer…”

Kyla: That’s right.


Overwhelmed by the endless stream of email

Lori: …and you know that it’s not like today with email where at any second, you can get more added to that pile and you never know when you’re going to get one.

Kyla: That’s— that’s right. You’re sitting there answering, it’s like, “I have five emails to respond to,” and by the time you’re done, there’s five more. [laughs]

Lori: Exactly. Or you send your answers and then the person replies right away with still more questions, and it never ends.

Kyla: Yeah.

Lori: So there— there was more of a sense of, like, these finite chunks of work that you could do in a given period than— than now where the boundaries between work and not work and yeah, it’s just getting fuzzier and fuzzier all the time, I think.

Kyla: That’s right. Yeah.

Lori: But I agree. I agree with you that it would be great to hear some examples or read some examples of people living in our time dealing with the— the kind of problems we’re dealing with every day. Yeah, very cool. Let me see. Was there something else? I guess my— my…I don’t know if it would be my final question, but one question that I have for you is, if you have picked up anything from the book that you have started to apply to your own life, or that has somehow changed the way you approach getting your creative work done or your productive work done?

William James

William James knew how to get things done.

Kyla: One of the— one of the things for sure is, and I actually went and found the quote again because I thought it was a brilliant quote, and it’s from William James. And he talks about what he calls the “effortless custody of automation.”

Lori: Whoah!

Kyla: I have really tried to do sort of the opposite of automating the creative process, but that’s automating the mundane process. And I found a little bit of success and I think— I think it has grown over time and will continue to grow but sort of, like, we kind of have a routine in my household of, like, when dishes get washed and when they get put away and who does what. And I think it sort of making habits out of the mundane but other necessary things that have to happen and just kind of getting those things out of the way without having to think about them leaves you more time and more space to do the things that really matter, which, you know, is creative work or learning new things. And I think that was sort of, oddly enough, one of the things that I really took from that book, and it’s almost the opposite of what the book was about in some ways. [laughs] Continue reading…

039 – Daily Rituals part 4 – Real English Conversations

Hi English learners! Lori here, your teacher from Betteratenglish.com. In this episode of Real English Conversations, you’ll hear part 4 of my conversation with Kyla. Up until now we’ve been talking about the book Daily Rituals by Mason Currey. But in this part of the conversation we digress [go off topic] and talk about dealing with distractions and interruptions when we’re trying to work. That’s one of the fun things about conversations: you never know where they are going to go!

What kind of things do you find distracting when you are trying to work or study? How do you feel when you get interrupted when you’re trying to concentrate? Do you think you have anything in common with Kyla and me? Listen to the conversation and find out!

If you want to read along as you listen, you can download the full transcript, including a bonus vocabulary lesson at betteratenglish.com/transcripts.

After the conversation I’ll be back with three questions you can use for speaking practice.

OK, let’s get on with the conversation!

Conversation transcript

Lori: Yeah, it’s, I think, really important. I found that it kind of made me feel a little bit better about myself because I find that if I’m going to sit down and do something, maybe not necessarily– necessarily creative, but that really requires my full attention and concentration, I cannot handle distractions and interruptions

Kyla: Yeah, yeah.

Lori: …at all.

Kyla: They’ve even done studies where, I think when you’re trying to do something, every distraction, it takes you about 15 minutes to get back…

Lori: Right.

Kyla: …to what you were doing? Like, that’s the amount of time it takes your brain to handle, “There’s been a distraction! What was I doing before? Where was I? Oh yes, here we are…”

Lori: Yeah. It’s –

Kyla: “…now we’re going again.” And so that, having that sort of place to make sure that no distractions bother you.

Lori: Yeah, it’s really important. And I think nowadays, you know, people with families, and not to mention just our little devices going off and pinging us all the time. You know, it’s– it’s getting harder and harder to create that– that block of undisturbed, focused, uninterrupted time for yourself, I think.

Kyla: It is. It– it really is. And I was, you know – Google just had their…just released their news on their, sort of their new gadgets; the new Android, the new apps they’re coming up with.

Lori: Okay.

Kyla: And one of the things they’re doing is they’re trying to integrate all of your electronic devices so that if somebody calls you on your phone, it will alert you on your laptop.

Lori: Nooo!

Kyla: And I was just like, “That’s a terrible idea!” [laughs]

Lori: It’s…I think it’s a horrible idea.

Kyla: Like, in order to get anything done, you pretty much have to disconnect from the internet if it’s not required for what you’re doing. [laughs]


Image courtesy of Wilengebroed on flickr.com

Lori: Yeah, totally. And you know, I’ve really come full circle when it comes to things like the internet and being connected in social media. I mean, in the beginning back in, well let’s say, 10 years ago when it was still fresh and new and people were talking about web 2.0., it was this fantastic thing.

And now I find, oh my god, I just, I don’t want all that distraction and all those little tiny calls to my attention throughout the day that I’ve almost become anti- [laughs] internet. Which is, I mean, there’s some kind of irony there because I also am running a website, and of course I want people to look at my website and listen to the podcasts. So it’s kind of a, um – yeah, almost hypocritical but…

Kyla: No, I’m the same. I mean, for…and I’m sort of like, I’m not a…I’m a great– I’m a great social person in person but I’m not– I’m not entirely sold on this social networking business. But I’m a musician! [laughs] So…

Lori: Yeah.

Kyla: Now I have all these, you know. All these, you know, different websites and, you know, the various platforms for getting your music out and I’m…I kind of have to be like, “Okay, I really need to schedule some time a day to actually go and use these things,” you know? It’s…I mean, it’s a great tool to, you know, exactly kind of get your– get your music or your– your podcasts or whatever it is you’re doing out to the world. But at the same time, if you spend all of your time on that, you kind of lose the time that is required to actually make the art…

Lori: Exactly!

Kyla: …that you’re making in the first place and –

Lori: Yeah, I couldn’t have said it better myself. [laughs]

Kyla: [laughs] We actually – the album that I recorded with my band a couple of years ago – we’d had…we recorded the whole thing about three times, and I just wasn’t happy with it. There were things that we just weren’t happy with the first couple of times. And we’re all recording at home. And we finally got it recorded but we moved into a new apartment and just decided not to get internet until the album was done. And it really– it really did work out well. And it’s fine because I work full time, and we watched Doctor Who every night which is, like an hour and a half long. Like, I was like, “I don’t understand how we recorded an album!” because I was working 40 hours a week, and we watched TV every night. But at some point between the 40 hours and the TV, there was about 2 hours in which I was just plugged in and recording guitar so…

Lori: Oh, cool.

The internet can be a big distraction when you have hard work to do.

Kyla: But it was kind of, yeah, there– there was absolutely no outside distraction. And I still need it too, you know. I mean at the time, well, and still, like, email is the way you contact me for the most part. So I still had to be going, like, I had to take about, you know, 45 minutes to go to a cafe or the library to use the Wi-Fi too to do those things. But it was really like, “This is the time of day in which the internet is attached,” and, you know. And it kind of worked out, like, yeah, it was almost like, “Here’s a schedule for this,” and then the rest of my day didn’t have any of those distractions. I was like, “How come I can’t do that when I have internet in the house?”

Lori: Right. When you were using that little block of time every day to– to do your internet things; did– did you notice that you were more efficient or that you got more done?

Kyla: Oh, definitely. Definitely. Yeah.

Lori: Because –

Kyla: Because it was like I’d…I would have a list! I’d be like, “Okay, these are the things I need to do on the internet. So you know, check this email, make this post and…” and yeah. And I did. It was, like, “Here’s my time. I don’t want to be here too long.” Yup, I definitely.

Lori: Yeah. I can’t remember who it was, I heard someone else talking about that or reading about it who was basically saying the same thing – had trouble with their internet at home and was, like, forced to just go out to a cafe or something once a day to do all the emailing and would just, like, bang through all these! Everything! Get it all answered in, like, half an hour. Whereas, when he had his great internet at home, he could spend forever on the internet and not get anything done.

Kyla: Oh yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

Lori: So there’s something about that idea of– of putting some kind of limitation on yourself or knowing in advance that it really is just a discrete amount of time that you had to do something that kind of forces you to really get down to it and get it done. It’s very interesting.

Kyla: Yeah.

Lori: So yeah! [laughs] This is turning into quite the conversation. [laughs]

Kyla: It is! Yes, it is. [laughs] We’re somehow– we’re somehow still on topic but not at all talking about the book.

Lori: Yeah. But that is the way– the way things go…

Kyla: That’s the way things go.

Lori: …it’s kind of cool. Did you –

Kyla: [crosstalk]

Lori: No, go ahead.

Kyla: Oh, you go ahead.

Lori: No –

Kyla: No, you –

Lori: No, no, no, no, you. You, go ahead.

Kyla: No, no, you! [laughs]

Lori: No, I’ve already actually already forgotten what I was going to say! So…

Final words
That’s all for this time. I hope you’ve enjoyed the conversation. Remember that it’s important to practice speaking if you want to improve your English fluency. Here are 3 discussion questions that you can use to practice with your teacher, tutor, or your language exchange partner.

1. What is the biggest internet distraction for you, and how do you deal with it when you need to work?

2. How do you feel about constantly getting email and social media notifications on your phone or computer?

3. Do you think you work more productively when you have a set block of time? Why or why not?

Make sure to download the transcript so you can read along to check your understanding. The transcript also has notes about the language we use in the conversation, and explains a lot of the vocabulary. You can find it at betteratenglish.com/transcripts.

Until next time, keep on practicing your English. In fact, you can practice right now by leaving me a voice message or joining the conversation on the Better at English Facebook page. You can find all the ways to get in touch at Betteratenglish.com/contact. Bye for now!

Vocabulary and usage notes

to sit down and do something
People often use the phrase to sit down and do something to talk about starting to do tasks that take a lot of time and attention, for example writing a long text, working on a drawing, answering a lot of email, etc. Usually you need to sit down to do these tasks, and the hardest part of doing them is forcing yourself to start.

to handle
To cope with or deal with something successfully

full attention
All of someone’s attention. Full is a very strong collocation with attention, so learn it as a phrase!

A distraction is something that takes your attention away from where it should be, or where you want it to be.

And interruption is something that stops you from doing whatever you are doing for a short period of time.

to bother
If something bothers you, it annoys you, often because it interrupts you or distracts you.

not to mention

[Download the transcript for the rest of the vocabulary]