How to do your self-study with the Fluentzy® English fluency book set

A word before you start the self-study

I’m sure of one thing: By the time you complete using the Fluentzy books as a self-study course, you’ll notice that you’ve gained a priceless skill: The skill of fluency in spoken English — the skill that gets your words flow readily and easily when you speak English.

Read aloud and silently

As you go through the Fluentzy books, you’ll notice one other thing: You’ll notice that I’ve written them in a conversational style, and not in a high-sounding written English style.

Of course, one reason for this is plain enough: I want you to clearly understand what I say — quickly and without much effort. But you see, there’s one other reason: I want you to keep reading this sort of English for some time — English written in a conversational style. Why? Because that’ll help you pick up the ‘feel’ of the real English speech — to a great extent. And that’ll help you to get out of the written English track and to get into the spoken English track.

So it’s not enough if you read through the Fluentzy books silently. No. You should read them aloud as well. Aloud and silently. Not loudly or by producing a lot of noise, but just aloud in your normal voice, so that you can hear yourself. You’ll then get the ‘feel’ of spoken English.

Importance of theory

You know, the Fluentzy books contain theory as well as practice materials. That is, the books in the Fluentzy system are made up not only of practice-materials. They’re made up of theory, too.

By ‘theory’, I mean the detailed and basic practical aspects of the things you should know (in order to become fluent) — and not a set of abstract ideas. The theory parts teach you the nuts and bolts of fluency development, the rules and principles that form the basis of the fluency skill.

So the parts containing theory are very important. They tell you what you should practise, why you should practise those things, how you should practise those things, and all other details of principles. Understand the theory, and you’ll be half way through to your goal.

Importance of oral practice

The practice-materials should be said aloud, and that too, again and again. This is important. Why? Because, first off, you should get to know these materials well. Secondly (and this is very important), you have to train your tongue, lips and other organs of speech — train them to produce the sounds and groups of sounds of the English language in the right way. Thirdly, you have to train your ears to listen to these sounds and groups of sounds, and to get to know them closely.

Do you know why you should train your ears? Because you see, no matter how often you’ve read a group of words, and no matter how often you’ve written it, there’s still a problem: Your tongue and mouth would hesitate to produce in speech the sound combinations it contains. Your mind will fight shy of the sound combinations, too.

And when will you be able to break free of this hesitation? Not until those sound combinations have stopped sounding strange to your ears. And when will they stop sounding strange? Only when you’ve let your ears hear them said through your own mouth often enough. Yes, often enough, and not once in a while. And this is only possible if you do oral practice with word groups of different types: Not with just any word groups whatever, but with word groups that contain the kind of sound combinations that are essential.

Mind you, your tongue, lips and other parts in your mouth and throat — these organs of speech have learnt certain habits. These are the habits of your mother-tongue. And the habits of our mother-tongue are different from the habits of the English language — not in one way, but in several ways. The way groups of sounds are produced in English, and the way idea units are produced in English — these ways are different from the way sound-groups and idea units are produced in your mother-tongue. So if you want to speak English well, do you know what you should do? You should train your organs of speech and your mind: You should train them to learn the habits of English. You should train your organs of speech and your mind to produce the sound-groups and idea units of spoken English.

So give great importance to saying the practice-materials aloud.

How to do your Fluency study

Now let me tell you how you can go about learning from the Fluentzy books.

Non-detailed study

Before starting detailed study, do a non-detailed study. That is, first you should spend some time trying to get a general understanding of everything in the Fluentzy system (or in the part of that system covered by the smaller sets of books you buy under the instalment scheme). Go through all the Fluentzy books — once or twice. Read through them quickly, without making any attempt to study any particular portion thoroughly. This would give you a general idea of all the fundamentals that the Fluentzy system is based on. A general idea. And whenever you take up a particular part for intensive study later, this general idea would act as a helpful background.

First, go through Books 1 to 4 (in that order) and the other three books you buy along with them. Then, go through Books 5 to 8 (in that order) and the other two books you buy along with them. Then, go through Books 9 to 12 (in that order) and the other three books you buy along with them.

When you do the non-detailed study, use a pen or pencil, and mark every part that strikes you as particularly helpful or interesting.

Detailed study

Once you’ve finished the non-detailed study, you can pick up each individual book for detailed study. Now, as far as possible, you should spend a definite length of time every day, reading and learning from the books, and doing drills and exercises. Can you spend two hours in the morning and at least an hour in the evening every day — six days a week? That’d be ideal.

Ideally, you must aim to complete one Fluentzy book in about three days’ time. Organize the periods you plan to spend on the books accordingly. You can then spend the remaining days on extra practice and revision.

Am I asking too much of you? Perhaps many of you are already working hard on other things. For those learners, it may be a bit difficult to find much time every day for this sort of intensive study and practice. I’m sure they’ll work out on their own a different schedule that suits them. For example, even if they cannot devote sufficient time to their study for a few days at a stretch, they’ll find a way of compensating for the lost time on some other day — by spending extra hours on that day. But the best plan would be to spend regular hours every day on the learning activities. Otherwise, for many learners, the progress would be a bit slow. But remember this: Slow progress is better than no progress at all. So feel free to work out your own timetable.

Learning in bursts

Some learners may not like to study at a regular pace, or may not be able to do that, because of the type of jobs they have. They may like to work in short bursts. That is, they may like to spend a few days at a stretch learning from several of the books at once and with great effort. Then they may like to relax their efforts for a few days or for a few weeks. Then they may again work with another burst of activity.

As far as fluency training is concerned, this sort of learning in bursts is not a bad plan at all. You see, each burst of learning activity adds to your fluency skill, and a series of such bursts have a cumulative effect. Interim improvements are extremely important, you know.

So, as far as fluency training is concerned, even during the periods when you’re not studying, you’re actually learning. You see, once you learn about a few stumbling blocks to fluency from a book, this is what happens: From then on, you start becoming aware of their presence in every real-life speech situation that you come across. Till then, you haven’t been noticing them, but from then on, you start noticing them. And you start dealing with those stumbling blocks — by putting to practical use the fluency techniques that the book has taught you. From each of those situations, you’ll be learning about the nicer aspects of the fluency techniques. So you know, even during the periods when you’re not studying from the books, the things you’ve already learnt are working inside your mind — working hard to build fluency in you.

You know, as far as the fluency skill is concerned, there’s no such performance as can be called a final performance. No. Your performance keeps on becoming better and better throughout the self-study period (and throughout your life) — through gradual additions to it.

Books 1 to 4 and Books S1 to S3

First, pick up Book 1 and read through all the pages in it slowly, carefully and seriously.

Try and understand what the explanatory parts say. Make a conscious effort to get to know what they mean. Mark every part that you find especially helpful or interesting. These parts would be in addition to the parts you had marked when you had done the non-detailed study.

Go through the examples and find out how they illustrate the points in the explanatory parts. Practise the drills and work through the exercises. Whenever a book asks you to do your reading aloud, read aloud. And whenever a book asks you to repeat saying word groups several times, repeat them several times. (Repeat saying each word group 3 to 5 times at each sitting).

When you’ve finished Book 1 in this way, you can pick up Book 2 and complete it in the same way. Then you can complete Books 3 and 4 also (in that order) in the same way.

When you’ve finished Books 1 to 4, you can pick up and complete Books S1 to S3 (that you buy along with them) one after another in their serial order.

Books 5 to 8 and Books S4 & S5

When you’ve finished Books 1 to 4 and Books S1 to S3, you can pick up and complete Books 5 to 8 and S4 & S5 in the same detailed way.

Revise Books 1 to 4 and S1 to S3 at least once a week. Pay particular attention to the parts you’ve marked as important in those books. Practise the “word group repetition drills” in Books 1 to 4 and S1 to S3. Say each of those word groups at least two times.

Books 9 to 12 and Books S6 to S8

When you’ve finished Books 5 to 8 and S4 & S5, you can pick up and complete Books 9 to 12 and S6 to S8 in the same detailed way.

Revise Books 1 to 4 and S1 to S3 as well as Books 5 to 8 and S4 & S5 at least once a week. Pay particular attention to the parts you’ve marked as important in those books. Practise the “word group repetition drills” that those books ask you to do. Say each of those word groups at least two times.

All 20 books: B1 to B12 and S1 to S8

Revise Books 1 to 12 and S1 to S8 at least twice. Pay particular attention to the “word group repetition drills” and other exercises. You can now follow any order you want. You can pick up any book or any part in any of it first or next. But do revise all the books at least twice.

Do a lot of general reading in English

Every week, you should read at least one English novel (or play). Read a light one — one that’s enjoyable, entertaining and easily understood, rather than a serious one. This is because light novels and plays are normally written in everyday English. And that’s the kind of English that brings you fluency. Of course, books dealing with serious subjects would also help you — if they are in everyday English. My aim is just this: I want to get you exposed to a large amount of a particular type of English — the type of English that native speakers of English actually use in speech in today’s world.

Ordinary English novels suit fluency-building best

Understand this: In general, classics of English literature won’t suit our purpose. No, they won’t. In general, they won’t help you supplement your fluency efforts. No.

Of course, classics of English literature are splendid when your aim is appreciation of literature. But not when your aim is to get help with your fluency efforts. The reason is this: Classics of English literature are generally written in a literary style, and not in an easy, conversational, everyday style. And they’re often full of literary words and expressions. Most of them even contain structures, words and expressions that are rare in speech or that are no longer used even in writing. And they may mislead you into thinking that the style of writing and vocabulary items used in them are appropriate for use in speech. And you may even unconsciously start copying them. That would be a disaster. An utter disaster.

On the other hand, light novels and plays are normally written in an ordinary, everyday style, and not in a literary style. And they’re full of structures, words and expressions that are used every day in real-life speech. These structures, words and expressions are the power-house of the English that’s actually in use — of the living English. And these are the structures, words and expressions you need to have a mastery of. Light novels and light plays get you to come across these structures, words and expressions again and again in a variety of everyday contexts. This develops your familiarity with them remarkably well, and these structures, words and expressions begin to occur to you readily whenever you think of putting facts and thoughts into words.

Ordinary crime stories, romances, humorous novels and plays may not be books of high literary merit. But they’ll give you a lot of exposure to these living structures, words and expressions. For a start, it’s better to confine yourself to one author. You’ll then be exposed repeatedly to the same language, style, expressions, etc. in a large number of situations. After you’ve read five or six books by the same author, turn to another author. Then you’ll come across a sizable amount of the same language, style, expressions, etc. in a variety of situations created by this other author. The cumulative effect of all this reading experience would be this: A bank of ready-to-use English phrases and expressions gets set up in your brain. And through association of ideas, this bank starts supplying you with ready-to-use phrases and expressions when you think of expressing your ideas.

Recommended English reading

Books by Erle Stanley Gardner, James Hadley Chase and John Grisham are ideal from this point of view. These authors would keep you soaked in the living part of modern-day English. This is the kind of English that you’ll find to be of the most general use.

Of course, books even by these authors contain here and there vocabulary items and usages that are dated. Any book by any author is almost certain to contain a certain percentage of dated elements. But what these authors repeatedly expose you to is that part of the English language that has achieved some sort of permanence over the last 100 years or so, and not those parts that only had a short life or will only have a short life. These authors would get you immersed in English that is neither too old nor too modern.

You need a good English dictionary

You must get into the habit of looking up words in a dictionary every now and then. Pick any word. From any page. Check their meanings, usage, pronunciation. Read all the example sentences under an entry. Don’t try to learn anything by heart. Neither the meanings nor the examples. Just pay attention to them. That’s all. Look at the meanings and examples. Listen to what the meanings and examples tell you. Just be with them for some time. Spend some time with them.

You must do this dictionary work every day for some time — even if you think you know all the important words quite well. You must. This dictionary work is very important, because it helps you develop a feel for words and their collocations (= words that normally tend to occur with those words). And if you want to achieve a real mastery of the core vocabulary, this ‘feel’ is essential.

But there are two things you must be careful about:

1. Avoid bilingual dictionaries

You should generally use only an English-English dictionary, and NOT a dictionary that gives ‘English meanings’ for your ‘mother-tongue words’ or a dictionary that gives your ‘mother-tongue meanings’ for English words.

You see, bilingual dictionaries can only help beginners starting to learn English, and not advanced learners like you. In fact, they’ll harm you. Yes. First of all, if you keep on using a bilingual dictionary, your mind will get into the habit of thinking in your mother-tongue and of trying to translate those thoughts into English — instead of getting into the habit of connecting your thoughts directly to English speech. This translation-instinct will stand as a barrier between your thought and speech, and you’ll find it difficult to become fluent in English. And secondly, the English you speak will be stilted and artificial, and not like the genuine English that native speakers of English speak — or even write.

So you should avoid using a bilingual dictionary.

2. Avoid high-sounding and rarely-used words

When you run your eyes over the pages of a dictionary, your aim must not be to learn all sorts of high-sounding and rarely-used words. No. Your aim must be to learn how you can use frequently-occurring words. And even if you look up high-sounding words and rarely-used words, your aim must not be to actually use those words, but to find out how you can avoid them — by making use of simpler words in their place. The meanings of those words will give you a clear idea.

You’ll get lists of frequently-occurring words in the various Fluentzy books. They’re the words you should pay all your attention to.

What dictionary should you buy?

Now, here’s a list (in alphabetical order) of some of the most helpful dictionaries on the market:

• Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary.

• Collin’s COBUILD Advanced Learner’s English Dictionary.

• Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.

• Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners.

• Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of English.

Chances are, you already have one of these dictionaries with you. But if you don’t, buy at least one of them now. Today. Don’t worry about which of them to buy. You can buy any of them blindly. You won’t go wrong. They’re all equally suitable for our purpose. Of course, each gives greater attention to one or two aspects, and the others don’t give as much attention to them. But this doesn’t take away the general usefulness of any of them for our purpose. So you should have at least one of these dictionaries with you. All the time, if possible. And you should make use of them every day.

Of course, these are ‘British’ dictionaries, and not ‘American’ ones. But you should buy and use one of them, even if your sole interest is in ‘American’ English. Yes. This is because these dictionaries deal with the common core of British, American, Australian and other varieties of English thoroughly. But if you’re very particular that you must have an ‘American’ dictionary meant for advanced learners, you can also think of buying one of the following dictionaries — in addition to one of the five dictionaries listed earlier.

• NTC’s American English Learner’s Dictionary

• Random House Webster’s Dictionary of American English

But don’t forget to buy one of the five dictionaries listed earlier — because the English language that has international acceptance is the common core of the British, American, Australian and other varieties of English. And that is the kind of English you should be fluent in.

That’s it. Now you’re ready to start the self-study.