Is your English blocked?

Looking across Cardiff Bay to Penarth, the Barrage and the sea by Andrew Davis

A barrage is an artificial barrier across a river or estuary, a wall that blocks or restricts the flow of water to prevent flooding.

There is a barrage between my home town, Penarth, and the capital of Wales, Cardiff. It separates the waters of two rivers, the Taff and the Ely, from the sea. This has formed a lake, known as Cardiff Bay. It is now possible to walk or cycle from Penarth to Cardiff. On one side are the calm waters of the bay, where yachts and swans sail peacefully. On the other side, is the sea. This part of the Welsh coast has the second highest tidal range in the world. Twice a day, when the tide is out, extensive beaches are revealed. When the tide is high, waves sometimes crash over the sea walls built to protect this seaside town.

So, when we think of a barrage here, it is protective, keeping the wild and dangerous sea out of the safe harbour. It is a walkway we can use to reach our parliament, our opera house, the sport and leisure zones of our city.

Are you going to let a “barrage” block your access to fluency? Or will you use it as a route to confidence in spoken English?

Let me help you find the source of your problems. I can analyse your difficulties and assess the true level of your English.

Are you a confident speaker, but you know that people do not always understand you? Maybe you can’t understand them? Or are you good at writing? You can express yourself on paper but you never find the words quickly enough to hold a conversation. Do your nerves let you down when you try to speak English? Your mind goes blank and you seem to forget everything you know. Perhaps you have very good passive or receptive skills. You read complex texts without difficulty and you can follow BBC Radio 4 or a work discussion quite easily. When it comes to creating sentences, however, you feel lost. It takes too long to write an email. You can never think of anything to say in a social situation.

Perhaps something is blocking your fluency, restricting your confidence, getting in the way of your mastery of the language.

You feel like a little child when you try to express yourself in English. That makes you frustrated. So you find it difficult to concentrate. You can’t remember any simple phrases. You hope desperately for a magic key to unlock the invisible box that contains your knowledge of English, all the rules and structures you have memorised over the years, all the wonderful words you recognise when you hear them. Where are those words when you want to use them? Locked in that box.

You want to sound competent and professional in your working life. You want to feel relaxed and intelligent when discussing current affairs with friends or making small talk with acquaintances. You can achieve this if you use English instead of just learning it.

Speaking English in a classroom is relatively easy. You can practise in a safe place where nobody will laugh at your mistakes. The real test comes when you are out in the world, on your own, in rough seas. The purpose of language is communication. Not to sit in a safe harbour, repeating the same old phrases with other students, but to get out there, to jump into the waves and see where the current takes you.

Does this sound frightening? Don’t worry. I can help. We’ll begin in quiet waters, talking together, but we will be using English to communicate all the time. We’ll talk about everything under the sun but we’ll focus on the areas you need to strengthen. Soon you won’t notice you’re speaking a foreign language. You’ll be thinking in English and conversing. It’s that simple.

I’ll make sure you’re ready for the wilder waters then I’ll lead you out across the barrage, to a life where you can talk happily to people from all over the world. You’ll discover new career choices and opportunities for adventure. I love watching my clients grow in confidence and seeing them sail off into fluency.

Individual immersion courses are the fastest route to fluency, but frequent one-to-one sessions with a trained and experienced native speaker can also be effective and are more realistic if you do not have time to travel.

Will you allow English to be a barrier to progress in your career? Or will you let the language take you places you’ve never even dreamed of?


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