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  • Hello, I'm Julian Northbrook from

  • Interesting question: Why do I struggle to speak English even though I am quite good at grammar?  

  • The honest answer to that question is likely because you are quite good at grammar.

  • You've probably focused on it too much,

  • spent too much time studying it.

  • And therefore, are overly reliant on it, and you have been trying to train yourself to speak English by using those grammar rules.

  • But the problem is that does not play nicely with what's supposed to happen in here to make this happen smoothly.

  • There was a time when we thought native speakers of any language, not just English,

  • were processing that language using grammar rules and individual words, computing them in the mind to create sentences step-by-step as they went.

  • But that never really made that much sense.

  • Then in 1983, the researchers Pawley and Syder published their seminal research work.

  • Two theories, or two puzzlesfor linguistic theory: Nativelike fluency and Nativelike selection.

  • And in that paper, they argued that native speakers shouldn't be able to speak so fluently

  • because if we were using grammar rules and individual words, computing them, that would happen in working memory.

  • The conscious part of the mind, which is extremely limited - It's really not that powerful.

  • Therefore, we shouldn't be able to speak so rapidly, so fluently without screwing everything up every five seconds.

  • Not only that but grammar doesn't explain how we sound so natural.

  • Why do we say, 'Could you help me with this'? instead of, 'Would you aid me in this task'?

  • Both are equally grammatical, one sounds very weird, the other sounds very natural.

  • Why do we say 'good morning' instead of 'pleasant first half of the day'?

  • Same situation: One sounds extremely strange, the other sounds very natural.

  • Well, the answer to this question and the fluency puzzle is that

  • we don't default to computing sentences using grammar rules and individual words at all.

  • What we actually do is make use of a different part of the mind,

  • not working memory or conscious memory but long-term memory, which is immensely powerful.

  • We store large blocks of language in long-term memory that we can just pull out and line up as we speak as wholes

  • without having to compute or analyze or do any kind of difficult mental gymnastics as we go.

  • These chunks of English are how we speak fluently and how we speak naturally.

  • And if you, the second language speaker want to learn to speak in the same kind of way in English, as you already do in your first language,

  • you need to switch your focus from grammar and vocabularywhat you were taught in school.

  • And instead, start seeing and learning and using English as a system of high-frequency, highly natural chunks instead

  • And once you get good at this, fluency and naturalness in the language will follow.

  • I'll see you on the other side. And this is me, DrJulian Northbrook signing out from another video for another day.

  • See you later, guys. Bye-bye.

Hello, I'm Julian Northbrook from

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