In this interview episode of Aussie English I interview English teacher Justin Hammond about his new course and how to become an advanced English speaker.
Watch the interview below!
AE 475 – Interview: How to Become an Advanced English Speaker with Justin Hammond
G’day, guys, and welcome to this interview episode of the Aussie English Podcast.
I’m actually really pumped to be bringing you this one, because I had a lot of fun chatting with Justin Hammond today. He is the special guest on today’s podcast. Now, Justin, I… he’s been on my radar for a while. He has a really interesting story where he ended up over in Russia, learnt Russian, and now has this hugely successful YouTube channel teaching Russians English or commentating on Russian culture from the perspective of an outsider, of someone from Canada.
So, Justin got in contact with me recently because he had put together a course, and initially he wanted me to do a promotion on the podcast, and I told him I’m not really fond of doing ads, of the idea of doing ads, on the podcast, that’s why you’ve never heard I talk here or any of those other companies on here, but I would love to check out the course that you’ve done, and then I would actually prefer to interview you on the podcast to hear about your stories so that listeners can learn English, they can hear about you firsthand, get to know you, and then hear straight from the horse’s mouth what your course is like, what’s it about, and who it’s going to help.
So, Justin sent me the course and let me look at it for about a week, and I have to be honest I loved it. He has set up an amazing course that is very in line with how I like to teach English, where it’s not as focused on grammar points and just rote memory of parts of English, but more… so more really cool aspects like culturally-specific language that’s used or culturally-specific grammar or speaking-specific grammar that is used.
So, his course is really good. We’re going to get into that in this interview, guys, but I wanted to give you a 100% transparency, I wanted to let you know what’s going on, that I did get Justin on here to talk about this course, because I endorse it and I will be receiving compensation as a result. Okay? So, for the sake of transparency, I wanted you to know that, and it’s going to obviously help Aussie English keep moving, keep doing what it’s doing.
And also, Justin is wanting to get me to put together a section for this cause specifically targeting Australian English. So, I’m looking forward to that. Anyway, guys.
Without any further ado, I bring your English teacher Justin Hammond. Let’s go.
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G’day, guys! Welcome to this episode of Aussie English. Today, I have Justin who is an English teacher currently in Ukraine, speaks fluent Russian, and is sort of polishing up your Ukrainian, would you say, or are you sort of just…you’re there, but you’re trying to sort of fend off Ukrainian from Russian destroying your Russian?
I´m definitely fending off the Ukrainian a little bit, especially with speaking Russian I find it kind of chips away a little bit of Russian, confusing me with certain words, is that Russian? Is that Ukrainian? Or whatnot, but yeah, I know, it’s been incredible here, just to see the similarities between Ukraine and Russia, but also the differences at the same time.
Which part are you in? Kiev, right?
Yeah I´m in Kiev, in the capital. I´m here for a few months. It’s interesting because it is, it like the same infrastructure as Russia, but the mentality that I´m seeing seems to be a little bit more westernised. So, it´s interesting the see the difference.
And so, I mean, I would just love to hear about your story, that was part of getting you on today was to hear about how you ended up learning a foreign language such as Russian, teaching English and then a course that you’ve put together which is awesome called Native English, which we’ll get to at the end, but how did you get to here in a nutshell Justin?
Yeah, so essentially what happened was in university, because I’m originally from Canada, and French is our second language, and when I went to study in our capital Ottawa everybody there spoke at least French, usually, as a second language, and then a lot of people also spoke a third language. And so, me growing up in, you know, the western part of Canada, not the French part. We didn’t really enjoy, you know, learning French so I only spoke English and you get there and you kind of feel like a little bit of an outsider, when you only knew one language. So, in university I knew that I wanted to learn a second language. And I did know French from school or whatnot, and I’m not too bad, but at the end of the day you get people who will do a major and then they minor in like psychology. What does that get you, you know, minor in psychology? So, I wanted to do a minor in a language and I started in Chinese, actually.
Geez, straight to hard mode, dude, geez!
Straight into Chinese, which surprisingly turned out to be…it´s probably one of her easier languages to learn from a speaking standpoint, standing standpoint. It’s the reading and the writing that makes it so hard. To the reading the writing because there’s no system to memorize. You know, you have to memorize everything.
Yeah. I did that for three or four years at high school and I remember that was the nightmare, I was like What do you mean? You just have to look up the base character within a character and then sort of hope you can find it in a dictionary and I was like this is so hard!!
Yeah. You know, just 20 strokes like for a word or something. That was my big thing was, you know, grammatically it was quite simple, right? If you studied it you know, you put anything in the last tense, with one word, right? I enjoyed it, but I think that I couldn’t really see myself living in China for two to three years, which is something that I felt was totally necessary for learning a new language or just learning in the classroom but actually going there and living there. So, I was honestly just googling talk more spoken languages in the world because I wanted something useful. Switched to Spanish for a week and realized that when you learn Spanish in the West and in university is you want 150 people in an auditorium at least until you get to the upper levels, right?
Was that the most common one taught there as well?
Probably after French yeah. French was big, and German was pretty big, actually. And so I knew that wasn’t the way to learn a language. And so after that I switched in the Russian kind of looking at, you know, the most thought and language again it kind of goes English and Spanish in terms of… so Spanish including like…and Chinese obviously native speakers or whatnot, but when you´re including your native language plus your second language is English. So Russian kind of falls in around fourth or third, depending on the source you look at, when you throw in the Indian languages and dialects as well, but I wasn’t as interested in those, so Russian came into play. And honestly I’ve heard so much about living in China, where everybody sees you as a foreigner, right? All the time they want to talk to you, take pictures with you, and I feel like that could be fun for a little while, but I think you to, you know, be able to live a normal life.
Yeah. You start feeling like Madonna every day that you leave the house if you like oh, man, I can´t handle it!
That’s exactly the way it happened. So, for me, it was like, hey, you know in Russia… I can fit in.
Just don’t say anything!
And for two years, you know, I lived there and honestly almost nobody knew that I wasn’t Russian. Some people can kind of tell from your face when they really look at you. When you’re just walking down the street, you dress like a local or you, know you, go in any do whatever you want. And it wasn’t until I started speaking that people would kind of notice and so, you know, that and then I think the other bigger thing with respect to languages was I heard how in say France, for example, my roommate was from France and he is talking about how another guy in our dorm who grew up 30 minutes from him, but had a different dialect. And I didn’t like that idea of these different dialects, whereas with Russia I’ve travelled the entire country. West Coast, East Coast they speak the same. With the exception of the odd word that’s different dialect… no difference in accent to me whatsoever.
Really? Is that homogenous? Wow!
It is. There are regional little kind of languages that come from the other nationalities and ethnicities there are there, but Russian by and large it’s the exact same across the board. It’s not like this Egyptian Arabic vs Syrian Arabic, right? Where people are like, oh, you learned Egyptian or you learned high German and low German. You know, it’s a very standard and flush across the border. And then of course the other reason was it got beaches in the south and mountains for snowboarding in the north.
It ticked all the boxes!
Yeah. So just going to hit all those boxes and then of course the intrigue factor, you know.
Yeah, exactly. And what was the process like of learning Russian though and what was your Russian like before you moved to the immersion? Did you have a very good level or did you just sort of jump in the deep end?
So, I’d done one year in university so, your eight months, twice a week which was nothing. My first night got lost and then two younger guys stopped them on the street probably 19, 20 years old and just didn’t speak a word of English and I barely spoke Russian so I had to call my friend that was going to see and then put her on the phone and she translated everything. But yeah, I was surprised, I think, especially having known some Germans and people from other Norwegian countries or whatnot. You kind of expect well you have this idea that you know you meet someone who is 17, 18, 19 years old that they´ll speak English to you. Whereas in Russia that’s probably one of the biggest things the young people don’t. And if they’re up until they leave school around 17 they have to learn English up until that point, it’s interesting if they’re 15, 16, 17 years old they probably can have a little bit of a conversation with you, but if you’re 18, 19 or 20 and didn’t continue to learn English after they left high school, they can´t. But if they’re at least 20, 21, 22 it´s cause they’re interested in it and they continue to study it.
It is such a funny thing, isn’t it? Because it is that… it’s a very Western at least English-speaking country kind of arrogance of ´´oh every foreign to speak some English so, wherever I go in the world I will be able to communicate with everyone because everyone learns my language´´ whereas… I kinda of imagine and it is something you’re assume, but once you start learning languages I think you sort of get a bit of a wakeup call to that and it not necessarily being the case, but I can’t imagine yeah what it’s like being someone who speaks this language that’s only spoken by a small group of people and having to travel like I’ve had my fiancée came to Australia before she spoke any English and I was just like… I can’t imagine putting myself in that situation where I was going some way to live and the people that I would be around would definitely not speak say Portuguese and I would have to learn their language, whereas with English obviously you have no matter where you go in the world you can pretty much say in any village who speaks English here? And someone will put their hand up a bit like I can say a few things and I’ll be able to like, you know, translate with a few gestures, chucked in.
And that’s just there, right? I tell people all the time and I certainly tell myself I almost wish that English wasn’t my first language. Because the only benefit, the only benefit to speaking English as a first language does if you want to teach English and even then it’s had that barrier, that gap is going down to, right?. If you grew up in your first language is Portuguese, it’s Finnish or whatever it is, depending on the country you’re in, you going to grow up speaking English and learning English anyways. Obviously, as much in certain countries, but the resources especially there for someone learning English versus someone learning Finnish are Russian, you know, if you want to learn English you’ve got every resource available. So at the end of the day, it’s way more beneficial for you to have that whatever that foreigner native language for you as your first language because then you’re always going to speak fluently, whereas I never going to be like a perfect 100% Russian speaker so, I’d rather have had Russian as my first language and then learnt English really, really well like so many of my Russian friends have and then had that kind of as, you know, your advantage. So, there’s always that aspect.
I always get massive language envy with regards to people learning English because I know whatever language you speak, when you come in to the English-speaking realm, there is so many resources out there that you will drown in it, right? Whereas for me wanting to learn Portuguese, even though there’s like something like 200, 300 million speakers in the world, no one learns that language. They all learn Spanish or they all in English and that’s how they communicate. And so, there’s just nothing. I mean, when you get in there too there is a lot of music and culture like that but I guess I just get that envy of people when they start learning English it’s like okay, every single big film in the world is pretty much going to be in English and you now have access to all this stuff. So, I found myself when I was learning Portuguese and I started just getting Game of Thrones putting the dubs on in Portuguese and then using Portuguese subtitles. I was just like sweet, I´m set.
How is it like for you leaning Portuguese? It´s good, it´s been really… I feel like I’m lazy though, because it’s so close to English, say compared to Russian or Chinese or any of these other languages where it doesn’t feel as big of a jump and I can kind of cheat quite often. Where you get a sense of words that are Latin based or especially I speak French as well and so it’s just any time I don’t know where I can pretty much take a guess at two different words or whatever that I know in English or French and I if I put a Portuguese accent on and it pretty much works.
Did you find that working with Russian at all with regard to learning vocab and grammar? Was it a big jump compared to learning say French or Spanish?
It is a huge jump. Now the interesting thing about Russian is for a certain period of time the entire nobility spoke French. So, there are lot of words in Russian that are taken from French are the same in French, which is quite interesting, I never thought about. But it was the whole, I guess let´s say, different alphabet, you know, using Cyrillic instead of English. That’s the part that intrigued me so much was I did kind of feel like even reading you know Spanish subtitles I don’t know Spanish. You could still get 10 percent of the words kind of mean they like the idea of being like normal learning Russian. It’s totally different. You know, this is me decrypting this entirely different language. Was interesting, I was in Portugal two three years ago on and phone from Russia to Portugal and you probably will notice it not knowing Russian, but I noticed at the time that it in Portugal it sounded so often to me like people were speaking Russian.
That´s what I always say about the Portuguese accent!
I just met an American so, nobody else agreed with me, in Portugal they were like ´´no no no´´ and anybody else there, you know. Even the Russians they´re like ´´no it sounds nothing like´´, but I just met an American guy day here in Ukraine and he’s Portuguese, he was saying, oh so he’s Brazilian, but he was saying ‘Absolutely! I thought that too´´. And he was just as surprised that I said it and I was like thank you someone’ll finally agreed.
I just had that moment.
Exactly! Nobody else seems to think that´s a thing, but even just certain words like ´´obrigado´´ or whatever, to me it just sounds so Russian. I thought people were speaking, turned around…right. And then of course you get to say the more like wider looking Portuguese people, especially when I hear those and think oh maybe it is Russian, right? You’re looking at their face and they don’t look like a standard Portuguese. So that turned me off a bit in Portugal, but I loved it there.
And so what did you do exactly, once you got to Russia, how did you first you or your Russian and get from beginner level getting lost in the street having to communicate with a friend on the phone with some kids, to obviously now having a huge, huge, hugely successful YouTube channel where all the videos are in Russian or in English with Russian subtitles? What was the jump? How did you get from A to B there?
So the biggest thing for me was just that intensive study at the beginning. So and went there for the first year I was studying and six days a week, or five days a week, you know, a few hours a day in the classroom. And that’s what really helped build that I would even suggest vocabulary base, learning the grammar didn’t work as well in Russia because they couldn’t explain it to you in English. And so you often have a new kind of reference to grammar ask people about it, but even just from, you know, you’re constantly being in it, constantly being immersed and building up the vocab. That’s the big thing. And then when it comes to remembering the vocab, because you’re in Russia, I’m a firm believer in whatever you want to call, the rule 4, rule 5, rule 6 where you need to hear something or interact with it in some way 4, 5, or 6 times before it sinks in. So, I’d hear or learn the word in the classroom, than you would see it on and ad on a street sign, and then I would hear someone speak it and then still not get it, and then the second time again after that I heard someone speak it again and then it kind of sunk in.
That’s pretty much me with people’s names, I think.
When you´re just studying, right? You just hear it one day, you hear it again the next day while you’re studying, you know, and you’re not really getting that repetition. And so, the vocab doesn’t sink in as much.
And then the other thing is being around the language, it’s about mastering those conversational intricacies the way they´ll say something… like oh, you know how, right? There´s all those little subtle words…you know, ´´so as´´…
I remember that moment where I first started learning French and I was like ´´wait you don’t just translate every word in English into a French word and that’s how it works when you speak another language?´´ Isn’t it just lined up the exact same way but they are just different words? And then realizing oh crap, like you have to learn expressions, I had no idea until I started learning French was like What? Like in Portuguese you say: One spear´s throw, two rabbits, instead of, two birds, one stone. So that sort of stuff always blew my mind, that you would find these expressions that were the same but totally different.
Yeah, just the way they translator it. One trick that I’ve used a lot It depends on what you can benefit from it, but it’s always worked super well for me. So of course, you know there’s a difference between saying something 100 percent grammatically correct and saying something the way native speaker would say.
So for me what I found really worked well with Russian was, I had a friend, Nikita, who has always spoken English at a very intermediate level, he’s never gotten or never progressed so, he still…he speaks really well, he understands everything I say, but when he speaks to me he always speaks in a very Russian way. I can tell he’s transliterating from Russian.
So, then when I would speak Russian, I would think about what I want to say and what I would do if I didn’t know sort of the most Russian way to word it in Russian, I would think oh, how would Nikita say this? How did he say it in English?
To think about the structure.
Exactly. So, I would take what he said in English, which was wrong, and I would reverse translate what he said in English back into Russian and that would usually give me the right Russian way of saying it.
That´s so funny.
So, what I´d do is really like just try and spend a lot of time talking to him listening to how he would say things in English and he’d be talking to me in English and I’m taking mental notes on what he’s saying wrong. So I can then reverse translate them in the future back into Russian because that’s how I kind of learn the construction, which is I guess something similar that you would learn just from reading.
Once you take advantage of that intermediate level whereas when they get hard and kind of know the way to say it and it doesn’t really work anymore.
That’s happened with me and a few of my students who speak Portuguese and Spanish they tend to structure their sentences very differently. So, you’ll often hear them saying things like ´´probably I’ll go tomorrow´´ and you’ll be like that’s… it’s correct, but it’s just not what native speakers would say. They’ll always say I’ll probably go tomorrow.
And then you have to get into a whole lot. You don’t have to, but if you really want explain to them how it could be correct, you then have to open this massive can of worms about how do you not know what you are wanting to say, you might have started with probably, the probably… but then that becomes a whole emotional thing about what’s going on in your head at the time. A whole new can of worms.
That side of English I find is very difficult. I think probably with most languages, there you go, just used it, but I think with most languages you would learn them and you can communicate with lots of clunky grammar and misplacement placements and then it’s that final sort of step from intermediate to advance when you start using the structures that native speakers use that I like to really emphasize with students and on the podcast and everything. It’s like OK this might not be correct. Another one was like you have something a lot of the time you’re just say you got something or you’ve got something and it’s kind of like it’s not necessarily correct to say you got, you got 10 minutes to do this, you know, you have got 10 minutes to do this, but it happens and most people say that.
That’s why I have an entire lesson on using got in my course because, again, it comes down to… I’ve done videos on it as well, we’re kind of lazy, we’re kind of lazy in that sense. Rather than saying I arrived home at 8am, I bought a new car last week, I received a letter in the mail, we´ll say I got home at 8am, I got a new car last week or I got a letter in the mail. That’s going to work 95 percent of the time.
You know, you can replace the verb with GOT. The only reason why I might say bought a car instead of got a car would just be, you know, because explaining specifically the method in which I received it. You didn’t necessarily, like my friend didn’t give it to me, it wasn’t gifted to me, you know?
You’re trying to remove ambiguity, right? You´re trying to say okay this is how it arrived here, here how I got it. It’s not just this is the state, I have this thing, you want to know ok how did you get it?
It just gets lazier and lazier, to the point where I explain something to somebody and then you go ´did you get it?´.
Exactly, exactly, gotcha! Gotcha!
It just goes all the way down. So, you know, it’s one of those things where it’s not wrong by any means to say I arrived, I received or whatever, in fact I think it’s better, It sounds, you know, it’s much more rich.
And people understand, right? There is no or there is a lot less ambiguity if you use those kinds of verbs very specific. It’s like okay I’m not going to be confused about what you mean when you say that.
Yeah. I don’t think I’ve ever really said like I arrived home last night at 10. I would say I would use arrive for a much greater sense like I arrived in Russia for the first time.
Exactly, with flights, travel.
Flights and travel, but like for just I got home last night? Whereas in Russian you would use all the specific verbs. The original got, right? So, that’s one thing that, again speaking with Russians in English, I started to learn why they were speaking like that and then someone says I arrived home at eight o’clock and I go Why did you say arrived? Oh, because in Russian… Do we do that in English? Oh, no, we don’t. And then that’s how you kind of start to learn these cultural differences, I guess.
Exactly. Before we get too deep into that because we can talk about that at the end and I’d love to go through quite a bit of it. How did you end up teaching English? And how did you end up with a YouTube channel?
So, teaching English honestly with Russia extremely difficult to get there without a visa. Easiest way to get there is just to teach English because then you’ll have a school that will sponsor your visa. So I got, you know, got an English teaching. That’s really what that was all about. You know, it was a part of that was that oh I´m graduate university then go teach English for a year, like so many people do. It’s a way to get a job because you’re not going to get any other kind of job that’s not teaching English in Russia with a, you know, an insane amount experiencing going through red tape.
So, that was really just, again, it was a way to get me back in nothing more, unfortunately. But, once I started doing it, I realised the demand for it and the need for it so, especially in Russia where almost especially in their state schools or whatnot, there are no native speakers, it´s Russians teaching Russians, which is totally fine, but of course the result of that is the enormous stakes that one teacher has passed on or whatnot. That’s kind of the biggest thing that I noticed in Russia in kind of leading into my YouTube channel a little bit is people were coming and paying all the extra money to come to the school that I worked at a language center and to learn from me as a native speaker. Specifically, for you know the pronunciation aspect of things, the conversation practiced, for the interest just from a cultural standpoint. And I kind of found that, you know, I did have classes where I taught, you know, beginners and it felt so wasted. Because you’re paying all this extra money to study with the native speaker, when there are so many Russian teachers who are way better than English and I am. They´ve learned from their first days and all that stuff. So, they´re way better than you or I will ever be, and, you know, kudos to them because they’ve have learned it so well. I don’t remember learning present continuous when I was a kid, you know, that kind of thing.
It’s kind of a two bladed sword or two edged sword where you kind of like okay, I’ve mastered this language and I can speak it well, but I don’t know how it works.
And so, I’d have to go back and read it at least for me teaching English I was the same sort of position as you I finish university, it was like ok I´ll start doing this because there was a need for it and I just enjoyed helping people and I had no formal training and I just started learning and I was just like oh my god! Some of these rules, some of these reasons why we do things is so sort of like just abstract that we’d never thought that was why, it’s so funny how much you open a can of worms when you get in there and start looking at the grammar and you just like…
It’s very learnable and, again, thankfully because English is so popular there are so many amazing resources and even from a teaching perspective that you can draw upon to really help you with that. And I’m a firm believer in not reinventing the wheel. I don’t really like the idea of being able to know how to make this as understandable as possible? You kind of go at it that way and then with respect to the YouTube channel itself, there is kind of a two sort of goals with that connect in other things later but essentially one was I was in Russia and I would have all of these amazing conversations, I got to bar with somebody on the street in Russian and because I was doing that conversation in Russian they were so much more involved. They had so much more respect for me and the conversations that we had we’re just incredible. And then the next day, you know, you kind of forget what we talked about and I kind of wish that I had recorded, you know, on like an audio tape or something. And so, you know, how can share this later?
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I need more of this! I need to review it!
Exactly, and then I thought about doing a blog, but I couldn’t really add, you know, the same kind of emotion into it. So, that was kind of the main reason as I wanted to be able to share these conversations that I was having with people in Russia with the rest of Russians because I knew that if this Russian in front of me was enjoying the conversation and you know thought it was hilarious I would make this mistake or that mistake, that I everybody enjoy it as well.
And then the second reason was when I was teaching there was… I also worked with an American guy who didn’t speak any Russian and there were times during his class where his students would get up and leave walking to mine and ask me to explain something to them in Russian. Not out of disrespect or anything, but they were older adult students who just needed things explained to them in their native language and I completely understood that because I needed a lot of things he’s explained to me about Russian in English so, I can really understand that part of it. And at the end of the day I know lots of people tell, you know, immersion, immersion, immersion, but certain things you simply need to understand how they work and you need that 100% clear understanding of why. That could be, not always, but could be in your native language. So, that kind of led me to the two types of videos that I do. One these cultural videos, which is my thoughts on Russia, my thoughts on language people, everything like that, which kind of came from those conversations and on the streets that I was having with people. And then the other type of video that I do is teaching English to Russian speaker, but of course being different and doing it in Russian so that I can say hey, you know, see if I can put the biggest focused on, you know, the biggest advantage to doing that in Russian and speaking Russian specifically for Russian speakers is when they make a mistake, I usually understand why they’re making that mistake. So, I’ll get on my video and say alright, I will take a simple example, in English you say ´´what is that called?´´ In Russian you literally say ´´how’s that called?´´.
And so they´ll say, you know, how is it called when you do this? right. And then I’ll go back and say look I understand in Russian you’re literally saying (speaks Russian). It´s like what is this or how is this called, but in English we going to say it, but in Russian I’ll say the wrong way, but using the transliteration from English to be like remember it this way in her own language, even though it’s wrong for you it’ll be right once you translate it back for us. And so, I have had that advantage, you know, really gives that that bonus and then of course if you’re doing in their language they want to watch the guy who’s taking the time to learn their language so, they’ll watch me kind of thing.
I think you’ve nailed something. I think there’s a lot of channels doing that now where you notice native English speakers taking English in a foreign language. So, I think there’s another one called Small Advantages which is an American guy in Brazil and his channel has gone bonkers, but he is doing the same thing where he obviously speaks Portuguese at a very good level and he does all of those sort of cultural things. It’s awesome. So, what would your… what are the biggest hurdles that Russian speakers tend to have with learning English? What advice would you have for any Russians or I guess any English learners listening right now, what was the biggest piece of advice be when probably getting from intermediate to advanced?
I think that for me what I’ve noticed, you can have a very advanced level of English speaking or English speaking incredibly well, but you will always, always sound like a beginner if you don’t use articles properly. At the end of the day, and this is especially true for Russians because we have all this western media that shows this terrible Russian accent and criminals and mafia and if you listen to them these guys speak good English, but the only thing do is they drop the articles here. You know, it’s someone who is this mastermind criminal is having this fluent conversation, been in America for 20 years, but still doesn’t use articles, really? So, that’s how you put on that Russian scary sounding accent. You say I am boy, you know, you dropped the ‘are’. So, I think that part of that mentality plays into the effect of learn articles and you go from zero to 100 in a second. Even if your English isn’t very good, if you can use articles properly, you’ll sound so much better than that advanced student doesn’t use articles.
And when you say articles, you´re meaning A, AN and THE, right?
Yeah, A, AN and THE And or no article, of course, depending on plural and countability. That’s what I always ask myself, you know, seeing my friend today and she’ll speak English and I won’t tell her what to say, I´ll say What do we put before a noun? You know, you just said a noun, what do we put before a noun? And then, she backtracks. And so, it’s asking yourself those questions. Any time you see a noun, do I put something before? Yes or No? Countable or not? Yes or No, right?
That was such a big thing too, I’ve got a few students ones from Azerbaijan and the other ones from Russia and they both have obviously languages where they don’t use articles and so sort of mind opening when they when I first encountered that oh a language without articles because I’m used to French and Portuguese which have them ,and try to explain it and it is so funny when you sort of try and get into the nitty gritty of like why do we use them in certain places? But it was as soon as they made that change and they started using them correctly it was like… even though it was the most minute change that they had made, it made them sound like, you know, they had been learning for an extra year or two with regards to their advancement, just overnight.
100 percent. And then your next hurdle with articles is explaining to them why they’re important. Because a lot of Russians are don´t get… why do we need them? why can’t I just say I am boy? And in an instance like that you’re 100 percent right. You don’t need the article.
Exactly. People will understand, they´re not going to be confused.
I say they’re going to be confused but there are instances where you absolutely do need it. The difference is massive.
One of the things that I still can’t figure out no aspirations about as I found a book in a library in Ottawa is the Russian book and the name of the book in Russian was just Scientist and I’m kind of thinking, Well… is it ‘a scientist’ or ‘the scientist’? They’re totally different, right? In English, you have to have an article, therefore you would know whether or not it’s about like a famous scientist, like ‘the scientist’, someone important, or just for standard whatever, you know, no-name kind of guy, like ‘a scientist’. And they kind of, you know, never really explained to me which way they would interpret it. Well, you know, once you read it you´ll understand, and I go, I know, but…
I want to know before!
And the other instance that I’ve talked a lot about is for why it’s so important, is that, my friend with meeting me at the airport before I was leaving to Russia and she was giving me a suitcase to take with me. So, I was already there waiting for my flight. She was late coming in a taxi and so I texted her like, hey where are you? I have to go. And I realized that the car had pulled up or whatnot, but she’s saying… She texted me back saying, I’m talking to a taxi driver. A taxi driver. And I go, what are you doing talking to a taxi driver? Whereas, had she said I’m talking to the taxi driver, I would have understood that she meant the one who brought her and they´re probably discussing payment or where to go came or something like that, but when, she said, a taxi driver, it made me think she was just chatting with a random person.
Who happened to a taxi driver.
…who happened to be a taxi driver. And so, you know, instances like that, it becomes very important. So that’s why even in Russian I’m like how I wanted to see just a taxi driver, I don’t even know how I would have said that.
Because for me, not having the article I would have, in Russian, I would understand that as being specific, but without… what if I wanted to make it non-specific, what would I have even done. You know?
You have to go a different route, right, and explain things a bit different, and give a bit different context to get that message across.
You could say with another taxi driver, I could have said in Russian I probably wouldn’t make sense, but yeah. So that… those are my two kind of stories or, like, why the articles are so important, especially when Russians tell me that they don’t get it, they don’t understand why.
Brilliant. And so, I guess, this´s obviously led to you… you know, you started this YouTube channel, you´re sort of teaching English and now you’ve got of course Native English. What made you decide to create this and who is it targeted for?
Sure. So, my biggest goal with I see it in teaching English is two things: one, to make learning for a native speaker, or to make learning English in general as affordable as possible and as accessible as possible.
So, affordable as possible because, again, especially having taught in a country like Russia where there’s not nearly as much money, them paying, let’s say, 30 US dollars an hour, which would be kind of standard, 30 to 40 dollars an hour, for a private lesson might work for a few people in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but for the rest of the country, you know, that’s a day´s pay, if not two. Not everybody can afford that. So, I wanted to say well, if you do have an amazing instructor who costs this much, how come everybody shouldn’t be allowed to benefit from this knowledge? So how do you make that sort of learning as affordable as possible and that’s kind of how I came to the whole self-study online course, where you can take somebody’s knowledge and put it all in one place and then of course the price is lower and with that being in that format, online course, it then becomes accessible as possible to everybody. So, again, it’s not just the people living in that instructor’s city that should be able to benefit from it, should be the people in Siberia as well and the people in Egypt and the people in France that are learning English.
So, how do you take learning English from a native speaker or in general make it as, one affordable as possible, and two, as accessible as possible? So that’s how I came up with the idea of doing the online course, that format kind of satisfied both elements of that. The other reason why I’m with the course itself is focused on spoken English. And the reason for that is, as I was saying when I was teaching in Russia, students were coming to me for that conversation practice, for the pronunciation element, for hearing the way you structure your sentences all that kind of stuff.
So, if they wanted to learn grammar, I’m not going to try and go out there and make just course and be an expert on grammar if I´m not, right? I want to take that biggest advantage of being that native speaker and make that course surrounding that. So, that’s kind of how that came about. And then of course with it being that higher level the courses intended for students B1 and up.
Yeah I got that feeling, I was like man this feels like it’s targeted beautifully at intermediate to advanced, you know, getting them over that initial hurdle of you understand it, you can hear the English, you can, you know, pass it through your mind, you can communicate, but you now want to sort of polish everything up and get from intermediate to advanced.
Exactly. And that’s really where the focus is. I’ve been asked to do a lot to do beginner groups, but again that brings me back to okay, I’m to have a Russian instructor to do that. Explain that in your language, and the people I’ve talked to that have asked for that, they´ve also said they would like that in Russian. And again, that comes back to me not trying to be a master or something that I’m not. When there’s a Russian instructor out there who can explain it perfectly to them, knows the grammar better than I do or whatnot.
Like I said earlier, why reinvent the wheel and why give yourself something harder to do than someone else could do for less time, less energy?
Exactly. So, it’s been an interesting road and I like the idea of being able to constantly push updates into the course so, if I work on a student, work with them for six weeks or whatnot, but then a whole new element of what I’m teaching people now we’re only ever working on one on one they don’t get that. Whereas now when you purchase the online course, you have lifetime access to it all the future updates or anything else they come out, I’m on another bit update for it right now. Again, all those people, they can go back, they can review it, you know, especially if they want to review a certain medicine or something like that, but they also get that future access as well. So that’s really the big thing behind it. And in the sense of the way it’s growing or whatnot, you know, we were talking about even with the language dialects, or whatnot, I’d like to see you kind of growing you know big group of native English-speaking friends helping each other, helping students learn and kind of building that up and taking that information as accessible as possible. Because I think that, you know, you can spend a lot of time just kind of sitting in the Internet and finding things that are outdated.
It feels good too, right? You can get into that mode of being collector… obsessed. When you go out, you know, it happens to me I always say things I want online, books, whatever, I buy them, but I don’t actually use them especially if it’s free if you get them for free.
Quite often the biggest problem is that you don’t use it because you can pay money to… your hard-earned money for that thing and so you’re just as happy to not touch it again and forget about it. So, but I love… I was going through it and I really love how concise your lessons are. They tend to be between five… usually five to ten minutes long, sometimes 20 minutes long and the more advanced ones later on. That was really good just how dense it was. Can you talk about how you decided to structure it? Because I thought that was beautiful too.
So, the structuring elements for me I was really focusing on that one stop shop idea. You know, you come in and you get access to whether it’s reductions, it’s phrasal verbs, it’s idioms and expressions, but I wanted it to be more of a pragmatic or logical sort of sequence, so you kind of start off and you´ve got, hey, these are the strategies that you know, are going to work for you, but you also need to be keeping in mind while you go through the course, then you go through a whole bunch information, right? You can’t avoid that, right? Here´s what you need to know, right? So, this is where we are going through your idioms and expressions, your slang, and whatnot. The important part of that is these are the ones that we’re actually using in The West versus somebody who goes and goes, oh, why can´t I just go into Urban Dictionary and look up something? Well, open up urban dictionary, 95% of what is there, we don’t use.
It is very specific to a very few small amounts of people in one location in the west of the US.
So, when I tell people with Urban Dictionary for anyone that’s listening and has looked at it before is never go in and just browse through the terms there. However, it is a great resource if you hear something. So, if you hear someone say something then you go look that up, then it becomes a great resource for that.
I think that’s something that intermediates tend to find very difficult too. You can learn all these words and you can work it out, but you need to sort of start learning which ones are actually used versus which ones are kind of like sometimes written, sometimes used by academics, sometimes use very slangy. You kind of need to learn that that by touch and feel and actually using references, reading, watching movies and then say okay, I’ve heard it, I´ll use it and I always saying to people, if you haven’t heard someone use it and you don’t have any context, ignore it, don’t use it just leave it alone. Don’t just pull the weight off line and try and, online, and try to use it in a conversation because you’re probably going to misuse it.
That’s a good rule. Yeah, that’s a very good rule to implement. With respect to the structure so, again, is those high-level strategies then all the information, here’s what you need to know. And then we go in to okay, not in the sense of like, hey, don’t believe us, but let us show you it´s actually been used and that’s why we have that Street speak unit in there.
That was awesome, that was when you guys were just out in the street chatting with people in English, right, with sort of real life contextual subjects that you were chatting about like music sport and that sort of stuff.
And Az is a great teacher goes through and does a whole lesson based on that conversation so, that you know we literally film all these conversations and then we sit down, hit pause, boom, an expression, write it down, boom, an expression, write it down, give an example from the video and then say here look here’s what it means, here how it´s being used. So, actually seeing these expressions that are coming out in real conversations, but the off course, you get access to hearing how people make mistakes, you get access to hearing how people, you know, sound when they’re startled, when they’re nervous, when they’re excited, you get those different levels of emotion there and then once you’ve learned all this information probably the number one or number two question that I get the top two questions I get from students are one how do I start learning English? Where do I start from? The second one is how do I find people to talk with? How I’m able to practice with?
And so again this whole idea of like delivering this mass of course and then saying goodbye, you know, didn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me.
Exactly. You had such good action of all content there at the end, I think you were like okay guys here’s what you want to do if you want to go and make friendships and long-lasting relationships with people who speak English in order to practice your English. So, it was good thank you finish it up with all this actionable stuff that I can kind of like all this learning but then go out and use it in the real world environment.
Exactly and so the idea becomes oh, ok, I´ve learned it all, what do I do with it now? How do I find people to practice with? And thankfully we have technology that allows us to do that and essentially it comes down to not going and approaching people from the sense of language exchange because again those are just standard sort of almost business relationships, we are going to speak 30 minutes in my language and 30 minutes in your language and it comes down to this very business relationship thing, whereas the way I look at learning languages from people is I´m helping somebody, who I normally help? I help my friends, I help my friends, know about becoming friends with these people and offering your help in exchange for their help. But you’re not talking about exchanging languages. So, if you like scuba diving if you´re Portuguese and you like scuba diving and you want to practice Singlish. There’s thousands of people that you can talk to that have no interest in learning Portuguese, they are scuba divers which means you’ll have to speak English with them all the time, how do you meet these people, how do you get connected with them. What’s the right way to introduce or solve, to offer that value, that’s kind of what that whole section is about, to really get you that free English-speaking practice and then some sort of other tricks and tips you can do to get that way. But yeah, that was for me the whole big thing is what do you do at the end of the day once you learned all this information? How do you practice it?
I think it’s really good that I think that anyone who is at that stage right now where you’re not massively advanced but you’re at that intermediate trying to get over that hump of sounding more natural and learning the kind of language that native speakers would use, because I love that you had culturally focused speaking and you had speaking focused grammar those sections there were absolutely awesome, especially the culturally speaking, focused speaking section I thought that was just brilliant because you were sort of talking more about wow what did people actually say? And even if they’re different genders they may use different words or different expressions. And I get that in the Australian English. Can you say mate to a woman? and it’s kind of like… no. You don’t tend to do that. Women may do it to other women, but guys will not call women mate unless it’s kind of a very blokey kind of guy, very manly, manly kind of girl and you know that it’s ok.
Ok, so that’s it. I honestly didn’t even know that. So…
And there are those rules everywhere, right? So, it is really good, and I think this will be a really good resource for anyone who isn’t currently in an immersive environment as well especially if you’re preparing to try and potentially study overseas or go overseas shortly.
Yeah, absolutely. It’s been an interesting run and what not. With the culturally-focused speaking section a lot of that came from real situations, where I’d seen students end up in either an uncomfortable situation or had just come as a result of me talking to English students. One big thing that I noticed in Russia was somebody who would introduce themselves and say I’m from this city and I’d say Where is that? And he goes 200 kilometers north of St. Petersburg. And I love that. I loved it. I loved how specific that was. I don’t know how it works in Australia, but in North America we would never ever say that, you would say it’s a two-hours drive. It’s a four-hour flight, based on whatever is the most popular way of traveling there. I would never say Ottawa was four hours or 400 kilometers from Toronto, right? Unless somebody actually wanted to know how far away that is, but even then, I would answer, it’s a four hour drive. What are you talking about? So, that idea of is 100 percent correct to say what you’d said. In fact, I love it and I think it’s even better. But you want to blend in and sound like a native speaker. Here’s the better way to say it at least according to North American English or whatnot. And so, those kinds of things we talked about the whole genders of certain things that we used to refer to our friends.
That’s what I was going to say, I loved that section where you explained using boyfriend versus girlfriend and how that is. Can you explain that quickly?
Absolutely. So, I had a student in my class and there was a group of teenagers. So, of course that was, you know, unlucky for him. He had said my boyfriend did this and I knew what he was trying to say. But other students are laughing and it’s because in Russia you will, you know, like, my guy friend or whatnot. They have two separate words for friend. They have a word for guy friend and word for a female friend, or whatnot. And so again you kind of have to explain that. So he said no boyfriend and the other students were laughing, and I go, ok, I need to share this with other people, so other people don´t end up in this situation. And so that’s what it comes down to is, and I’m sure it’s the same thing for you, certain terms that we used to describe people can completely change depending on who’s doing it who’s doing it. So, a girl can say girlfriend about her female friends, but I can’t see girlfriend unless he’s dating her, right? But you can say female friend and in fact have to say female friend to differentiate that and then it comes down to, you know, a little bit further it was even adjectives, right? You know, you can´t call girl handsome. You don´t call a girl handsome. Girls when they call guys, they will call guys pretty or beautiful, but there’s usually a very feminine association with that, like he’s a… if you say pretty boy that’s obviously something very, you know, left field, but… There’s that…
Well that’s it, I’m not going to say here’s my boyfriend. Isn’t he beautiful? Your automatic assumption would be that I am gay and this is my romantic partner who… yeah… And I found that really interesting because it is something that a lot of English teachers probably don’t even think about when they’re trying to teach English so, they don’t think about these culturally focused speaking points. And it is so important if you want to avoid those kinds of embarrassing situations where people will understand with context, but it’s always nice when you’re learning a language to avoid humiliating things and the one that I always say in Portuguese is that I used to try and say what I was trying to say I’m excited about something and it’s the same in French. If you (speaks French) or (speaks Portuguese) it means I’m horny. It doesn’t mean that I am excited, you have to say animated. You have to use the equivalent of animated TV. Like I can’t wait for this movie, I’m so horny. It’s like no, no, no.
Maybe that’s why French is so romantic. Exactly, exactly. But that’s it. I mean I guess too, I kind of say just go and make these mistakes. It’s not a big deal. The good thing is you make them once and you will never forget again, you know, if you accidentally introduce your mate and tell everyone that he is your gay lover and people ask you about how long you guys have been together? You’re never going to forget again that you made that mistake.
Then yeah, you only do that once. You only do that once, and it’s the same thing in Russia they use, when you say for example I enjoy something, they´ll often say I get pleasure from. Of course, immediately… I was at a speaking club and the guy had some type of bird at home, and he was like Yeah, that´s my bird and immediately I just stopped him of course nobody else understood, just stopped him right there, and said, let’s fix that for you.
Let’s fix this right now, guys. Like, yeah, you can’t say that. That’s the kind of sexual connotation.
No, that’s good, I should do a video of that so it. Yeah 100 percent. It´s one of those things where everybody at the end of the day, English speakers really understand what you meant, but just even just avoid those awkward little funny sort of scenarios. Here’s what we’re going to be talking about and it’s not sure that culturally focused we’re culturally focused speaking… I really wasn’t sure how to title that and then I like that that narrowed down culturally focus speaking and I scoured the internet looking for similar styles of things, but I really couldn’t find them and not a big focus point for learning.
That’s when you know you’re on to something, that’s when you know you’re on to something, if you can´t find other people taking those sorts of things and you know they’re important, you´ve nailed it.
Yeah, there´s no sort of like… you’ll find the odd sort of thing that kind of touches on a point, but it’s not part of a larger scheme of you know what is culturally focused speaking speeding or whatnot and that’s why I had to think of how to name that unit. Same thing with the grammar, the grammar unit I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel or to even try and say, you know, there are Russian teachers out there who have way better teaching grammar. My whole point of the grammar in unit is I’m not going to teach you articles. I’m going to teach you why you need to focus on articles or whatnot. Here the main grammar aspects as they specifically relate to speaking to sound better at speaking. There are certain grammar points that are the best to focus on, some grammar mistakes you can make and it’s fine. Others, when it comes to speaking, you really want to have nailed down especially with that informal conversation.
And of course, I started that unit off with articles, for that exact reason.
Exactly, I think you’ve nailed it and I think great course. So, anyone who is at intermediate and wanting to get over that hump to advance and sound a lot more natural when they are speaking English. Where can they get their hands on this course, Justin?
So, we can put the link down below, but essentially, it’s on Lingova.com.
All the links have been in the description.
Awesome, awesome, man. Well, thank you so much for your time today I really appreciate it. I will post all the other links to all your other relevant channels because I’m sure there is, hopefully, the odd Russian speaker listening to this podcast who can… who can check it out, but unfortunately guys if you want to learn from Justin you need to sort of probably learn Russian first, at least on YouTube.
On YouTube, yeah definitely. The course itself is for anybody speaking any language but yeah, the YouTube channel itself is focused to Russian speakers. But yeah thanks for having me on. Super appreciated. I hope people can hear the differences between our accents and really nail down the different ways, but I think at the end of the day we speak 100 percent the same for the most part.
Exactly, I think it’s just accent for the most part and maybe the odd slang term like a mate or a bloke.
Mate or bloke, yeah, we don’t say either.
Awesome, Justin thank you so much again and I’ll have to have you on again soon to chat about what’s going on in Ukraine.
Thanks Pete, appreciate it.
All right, guys. So, I hope you really enjoyed that interview. Justin, thank you so much for coming on. You’re an absolute legend for coming on here and telling us all about your story and about this course, Native English.
Now guys, I wouldn’t suggest this course for really, really advanced learners. It’s an amazing course, but it will probably cover things you’ve already learnt. However, if you are an intermediate English speaker, this course is going to be perfect for you, getting you over that hump, through that plateau, to advanced English.
Now, if you would like to sign up for this course, go to Lingova.com, That’s LINGOVA.com. The link will be in the transcript. And you can use the coupon AUSSIE, as in ‘Aussie’ from Aussie English, AUSSIE. And this will save you 15% of the total cost of this course.
Now remember guys, if you are Russian, you can check out Justin’s channel. Unfortunately, if you’re not Russian, like me, you probably won’t get much out of his channel, because 99% of it is in Russian, but you can go to YouTube and just type in “Justin Hammond English”, so that’s JUSTIN HAMMOND, and you will find him on there, or you can visit him on Instagram and Twitter @Justinochek, that is JUSTINOCHEK.
So, that’s it for today, guys. Again, thank you Justin for coming on. Guys, check this course out and I will chat next time. Peace.
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