Culture Hacking: How to Speak Fluent English and Succeed Anywhere in the World


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Culture Hacking: How to Speak Fluent English and Succeed Anywhere In The World

Author: Balazs Csigi

Cover: Mariana Csigi

First edition published September 2016

Copyright 2016 Balazs Csigi. All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or otherwise, without written permission from the author. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 – The Powerful Connection Between Language and Culture

Chapter 2 – Why You Will Never Master English with the “Words+Grammar” Method

Chapter 3 – How Cultural Semantics Can Transform Your English

Chapter 4 – Four Incredibly Effective Ways to Remember Every English Phrase

Chapter 5 – The Communication Secret I Learned After Eight Years of Research

Chapter 6 – How Metaphors Can Make Your English Interesting and Persuasive

Summary – What to Do Next

Chapter 1: The Powerful Connection Between Language and Culture

You are reading this book so I assume you want to speak English like a native speaker. I have written this book to share my unique language learning method with you: Culture Hacking©. You can use the Culture Hacking© method to master English by understanding the mentality of its speakers.

The truth is that most people never get past the intermediate level in English. There are millions of people in the world today who dream about speaking English confidently and fluently. Unfortunately, they often give up their dreams because they spend long, long years, trying out every method but still not speaking fluent English at the end.

If you want to master English, you will likely encounter old and outdated methods that no longer work. “Keep doing it, keep doing it” you might hear but the results just don’t come and you still can’t speak English as you dreamed you would.

I’m Balazs Csigi and I went through the same challenges on the way to mastery of English. I could read very easily but couldn’t speak confidently for a long time. I studied grammar, memorized thousands of words and did all that was written in textbooks and classes. Still, I felt like something was missing from my English.

Many years have passed since then and, after spending eight years researching linguistics and languages, I’m happy to share with you a new method for mastering languages. It’s called Culture Hacking©. I have used it to learn to speak seven languages: English, French, Russian (advanced), Italian, German, Indonesian (intermediate) and Spanish (basic).

There is one more thing you need to know about me. I’m Hungarian and I’m not a native speaker of English. Yes, that’s right! I’m not a native speaker of English. That’s very good for you because I went through the same process I’m going to teach you.

You can find many English learning “gurus” online who claim to teach you something they haven’t done themselves. Would you become a football coach, for example, if you don’t really know how to play football? Or would you take on the responsibility to give driving lessons if you can’t drive a car?

I had to master English as an adult and I used the same method you are going to learn in this book. In other words, I practice what I preach. This book contains battle-tested and proven advice, not theories and opinions. Using the method described in this book, I mastered English to a degree that I can write books and articles and easily communicate in any situation. I write about 50 pages every single month in English and most native speakers wouldn’t notice that I’m not a native user of English.

I also used Culture Hacking to speak other languages. I never spent more than a few months learning a language and yet, I could achieve outstanding results with the help of Culture Hacking. For example, I learned to speak Russian in five months while studying for just 2 hours per day. Taken together, that’s about 250 hours of studying. The Cambridge English Language Assessment said that 500-600 hours of studying is necessary to achieve the intermediate B2 level. Using my method, however, I could pass the B2 level exam in Russian after only 250 hours of studying, and I achieved a 92% score. That’s less than half the time “officially” required.

Most students don’t even achieve a B2 level after 600 hours of studying. This is due to ineffective methods. The sad truth is that many people spend long years trying to learn a language and as a result, they can’t even speak confidently.

By the way, I learned to speak other languages with a similar speed, including German in 5 months, Italian in 3 months and Indonesian in 4 months.

In this book, we’re going to talk about English and how you can master English using the Culture Hacking method. However, you can use this information to speak any other language as well. I have just told you about my results so you would understand that I am not talking about empty theories here. Everything I am going to teach you in this book is 100% real-world, practical advice that I used in my own life to learn to speak languages fast. I have also written articles about it on websites like Business Insider and FluentIn3Months. This book is the first official guide to the exciting world of Culture Hacking.

Before diving in, let’s talk a bit about you. This book will be very useful if you struggle with one of the following problems:

Problem #1: I can read well but I can’t speak fluently.

This is one of the most common problems I can see as an English teacher. If you can read well but have trouble speaking, you have a good passive vocabulary but your active vocabulary is limited. There’s a language learning myth about vocabulary you probably believed. No worries, you’re going to understand how to build up your active vocabulary. You’re going to see the exact steps you need to take and the strategy you need to follow.

Problem #2: I translate from my own language so my English is slow and frustrating.

Languages are not translations of each other. This is one of the secrets of Culture Hacking. You will never speak fluent English without understanding this principle. It’s little-known but very important. I’m going to explain it in more detail in Chapter 2.

Problem #3: I memorized hundreds or even thousands of words but I can’t make sentences easily and automatically like a native speaker.

In Chapter 4, I’ll share four specific techniques you can use to make sentences easily and automatically like a native speaker. Memorizing words and phrases only helps your passive vocabulary. If you want to easily handle any real-life conversation, you need a different approach.

Problem #4: I don’t feel confident when I have to speak English.

Confidence comes from knowledge of English. In the following chapters I’ll share the essentials of how you can be confident and what are the myths of language learning you need to avoid.

What This Book Is Not

A beginner course: This book is not for beginners. Here the focus is on the jump from the intermediate to the advanced level. In my experience, that’s where most people get stuck.

A pronunciation course: Pronunciation is important in mastering a language and I’ll talk about it occasionally, but it’s not central to the Culture Hacking method. I don’t teach pronunciation; that’s not my field of expertise. In case you’re interested, feel free to contact me through my website (www.metaphorenglish.com) and I’ll recommend to you courses on pronunciation.

A full-fledged course: This book alone is not going to teach you every nuance of English. You’re going to learn a method to master English. If you want, you can use it on your own very effectively, or you can buy a course to help you. (You will read more about this later.)

What This Book IS

You’re going to learn new, fresh ideas to master English. I want you to be in the tiny elite of the best English speakers. I’m going to guide you through the process as a coach guides a sports team to the World Championship. I’ll be frank and honest so you’ll learn quickly and efficiently.

Everything you read here is going to be practical, battle-tested advice that I’ve personally used on the front lines of language learning and teaching. No outdated theories and conventions here.

By the end of the book, you’ll see that culture is deeply connected to language and you can’t master one without the other. The key to fluent English is a change in your mindset. My mission is to give you a new way of looking at English that will unlock your full potential.

What Culture Hacking Is

I’ve talked quite a lot about Culture Hacking but I still owe you a definition. “Culture hacking” means mastering a language by understanding the culture and the mentality behind it.

The core idea of my method is that language learning is not simply about memorizing something. When you speak a new language, you can experience having a different personality. I remember a German friend of mine who came to visit me in Hungary. As he spent a few days here, we went out sometimes to visit friends.

Sometimes he was a little shy, especially when he started talking to anyone of the opposite sex. He was simply this type of person. But after going to a few gatherings, he confessed to me, “Balazs, when I speak English, I’m much more easy-going. I feel more free and I can start conversations more easily than in German.”

Many people actually say that English is quite a relaxed and easy-going language. When you speak the language, you become a different person. Every language you speak gives you a new personality, a new way of looking at the world.

Culture hacking is all about getting in sync with the personality and culture of the other language. Imagine travelling to a far-away, exotic country. You are walking on the streets and as you slowly breathe in a new culture, you feel energized and seduced. Do you remember your last holidays abroad? Or maybe visiting a dream destination? One of my favorite countries is Greece. I love its atmosphere, the food, the music, the sea, the nature and the people. I love discovering a new mentality and way of life.

Language learning is the same. It’s like travelling and discovering another culture and way of life.

What exactly is so different across cultures? Well, there are really many differences across cultures.


Cultures differ in the expression of emotion. Have you ever felt that you can’t express your emotions the same way in English? It’s because English and American people have their own unique way of feeling and expressing those feelings. You can only speak English like a native speaker if you can communicate your emotions the same way as they do. Amazement, frustration, anger, joy and enthusiasm are all communicated in a special English or American way.

As I live in an intercultural marriage, I can often see how joy or enthusiasm is expressed differently in different cultures. On one of our dates, Mariana (then my future wife) asked me, “Why don’t you express your emotions?” It took us a few more hours of conversation to see that there are some cross-cultural differences in the way we intonate, use words, gesture and mimic. My lovely wife, Mariana is Ukrainian and one of the main values of her culture is emotionality and sincerity, that is, to express emotions very sincerely and intensely. That’s the opposite of Anglo-Saxon culture where reserve and not hurting the other person’s feelings are much more important.

In fact, I met Mariana through Lang-8, a popular language learning site. We taught each other languages without any intention of getting into a relationship. But the language learning adventure has soon become a marriage, an international, intercultural marriage. Yes, life can have unexpected and exciting surprises for anyone.

At the beginning of our relationship, Mariana sometimes didn’t understand how I express my emotions and opinions. One notable difference, for example, is smiling. Russian and Ukrainian cultures interpret smiling differently than many other cultures.

A few important “rules” about Russian smiles:

1. A smile shows affection so it is not for strangers. If you smile at strangers, it can be quite weird in Russia.

2. If Russians perform their job or do serious business, it is not common to smile. Contrast it with the U.S. where a wide, warm smile is the perfect start in business and official situations.

3. Russian culture values sincerity very much so your smile should also reflect your true emotions. If you smile all the time, it’s considered insincere and it raises suspicion.

The differences go on and on. Smiling means something and this meaning differs across cultures. The same goes for language. Words have meanings and these meanings differ across cultures. I’ll explain this in more detail in Chapter 2. For now, it’s enough to remember that words are used differently across cultures and you won’t speak fluent English by simply going through flashcards and trying to remember words.

Culture Hacking teaches English by showing the cultural baggage behind English words and expressions. True mastery of English comes with understanding how native speakers express themselves. That’s when you can become a real advanced speaker of English.


Cultures and languages are also different about how they express opinions. The British, for example, are famous for saying something else than what they mean. Here are a few common examples.

A Brit says: Quite good

A Brit means: A bit disappointing

How other Europeans understand it: Quite good

A Brit says: Very interesting.

A Brit means: That is clearly non-sense.

How other Europeans understand it: They are impressed.

A Brit says: You must come for dinner.

A Brit means: It’s not an invitation. I’m just being polite.

How other Europeans understand it: I will get an invitation soon,

A Brit says: I only have a few minor comments.

A Brit means: Please re-write it completely.

How other Europeans understand it: He has found a few typos.

Can you see how British people tend to express their opinions and how people from other cultures interpret it? It’s called hypocrisy by some but in fact, it’s all about culture. English culture prefers a subtle way of expressing opinions. They prefer to look a little uncertain as that is considered more polite. If you want to speak English fluently and easily, you need to understand how opinions are expressed in Anglo-Saxon culture.

As you see, it’s not enough to simply remember words. You need to use them as native speakers do.

What can Culture Hacking do for you?

In this chapter, we defined Culture Hacking and I showed you a few examples from real-world communication. Now we’re moving on to the next chapter to see how you can apply Culture Hacking to turbocharge your own English. With Culture Hacking, you’ll be able to achieve the following:

— Express your emotions and ideas as English native speakers do

— Understand cultural differences and become much more successful in both your personal and professional lives

— Speak English fluently and confidently

— Enjoy language learning to the fullest, just like travelling to a new, exciting country

I’ll summarize this chapter with the following principle:

Culture Hack #1: You can only master a language by understanding the culture and mentality behind it. Otherwise, you’re set up for sweating and struggling.

Chapter 2 – Why You Will Never Master English With The “Words+Grammar” Method

In the first chapter, we discussed that you need to understand the culture and mentality to master a language. But what does that exactly mean? Why is it necessary? Why isn’t it enough to simply remember words and grammar and practice speaking?

The common way of learning a language is to study grammar rules and memorize words. But this method doesn’t really work. Many people think that when you speak, you simply pull out words from your memory and put them together with grammar rules. They think that when you know enough words and grammar rules, you just need to practice and everything will fall on its place.

Well, that’s how conventional language teaching works and, unfortunately, it’s not very successful. Once you get past the basics, you’ll stop improving with this method and you might wonder why you can’t move on to fluency.

I’ve known many students who tried this method. They studied grammar, memorized words, then went out to practice with someone. But the method didn’t really work. The students were frustrated and angry because they put in the work but the results didn’t come.

Speaking a little bit is still very far from true mastery and fluency.

Every time they talked in English, they mentally translated from their native language to English, and thus, could only speak slowly. You can imagine how frustrating it was for them.

The reason is simple: language doesn’t work this way. You might think that English = Words + Grammar + Practice, but it’s not true.

I’ll spill the beans on the secret: The main problem with conventional English learning methods is the so-called Translation Mentality. Languages are not translations of each other. Every language encodes a unique mentality and worldview and it can’t be exactly translated.

Every language cuts up the world in its own way. Now we’re going to look at examples from a few of the languages I speak. They are great examples illustrating very well the following basic principle:

The world looks different in different languages.

Let’s start with the first example. Russian has no word “to go” like the English “go.” If you want to say in Russian that you’re going somewhere, you need to choose from four verbs, and you must first ask yourself, “Are you going on foot or by a vehicle?” and “Are you going just one way or both ways?”

Then, based on your answers, these are the verbs you need to use:

on foot, one way: idti

on foot, two ways: hodit

by transport, one way: ehat

by transport, two ways: ezdit

In the same way, if you say “bring” in Russian, you need to consider the same:

Are you bringing something on foot or by a vehicle?

Are you bringing something just one way or will you also take it back?

Depending on the situation, you need to choose one of four verbs.

Every language cuts up the world in different ways. If a Russian thinks of “going” somewhere, she needs to think through all these things at the moment of speaking. An Englishman doesn’t need to do the same.

When you learn to speak a language fluently, you also learn to think differently, according to a different logic. If you master Russian, for example, you learn to think about physical movement in a new way. You learn to pay attention to different things. Suddenly, it becomes important that you’re going somewhere one or two ways, and what means of transport you’re using. If you didn’t speak Russian before, you didn’t need to pay attention to these distinctions but now that you have mastered Russian, the language influences your thinking and almost forces you to think differently and to pay attention to other things.

If you want to master Russian, even to just say a simple sentence, you need to be aware of the way they slice up the world. If you don’t know all the different versions of “go,” will you speak fluent Russian? No, obviously not.

If you just try to learn the Russian words idti, hodit, ehat, ezdit as translations of the English go will you use these words confidently? No, because they are not the same as go. They are not translations of the English go.

Maybe it sounds very surprising but it is true of most words in any language that they cannot be exactly translated into another language.

Experienced translators know this. There are usually no exact translations. Just as you cannot say that hodit or ehat is the same as go, so you cannot exactly translate most words of one language into another language.

What does this mean for your English learning?

Language gives you a new pair of glasses to look at the world. It influences your imagination, your values, your behavior, your way of thinking, even your emotions. That’s how powerfully a new language can impact your personality.

Conversely, if you want to master English like a native speaker, you need to understand that English is not a translation of your native language. To speak fluent English, you need to think and feel like a native speaker. And that’s when you will be able to speak English confidently and fluently.

Let me show you first a few more examples, and then we will get down to specific study techniques that you can implement yourself.

Our next example comes from the German language. German makes a distinction between erfahrung and erlebnis. Both of these words mean “experience” if translated into English. Why is it that the German language needs two words to describe one concept? The answer is because German has two concepts for experience while English has only one.

Let’s see the specifics so you can see what I mean. Erlebnis comes from the verb leben (to live). If you had an Erlebnis, it means you “lived” through something. Erlebnis is an exciting and thrilling experience. Erlebnis is like a little adventure. It can be used both for good and bad experiences but one thing is sure: it’s exciting and thrilling. For example, if you experienced an earthquake, went to a very exciting amusement park, or traveled to an interesting, new country, these types of experiences can be called Erlebnis. They might be good or bad, but they are not boring.

In contrast, there is Erfahrung, which is a neutral word. It doesn’t imply that the experience was exciting or thrilling. For example, if you traveled with an airline a few times, you can say you had good experiences with that airline. Here, you aren’t talking about something exciting or thrilling, you simply had an experience with an airline. In this case, we use Erfahrung.

As you can see, German makes a distinction: there are thrilling experiences and there are just plain, simple experiences. In German, this difference is so important that they invented two words – Erlebnis and Erfahrung.

Do you think you would need to understand these differences to speak fluent German? Do you think you could master German by simply repeating: erlebnis = experience, erlebnis= experience and erfahrung = experience, erfahrung = experience?

No, you’d be confused because you wouldn’t know how to use erlebnis and erfahrung. You need to understand how German native speakers use those words. However, to do that, you need to get an idea how German native speakers think and see the world. Every time they talk about an experience, they think subconsciously, “Was it an exciting experience or just an experience? Was it an erlebnis or an erfahrung?”

This is the same as Russian native speakers who think subconsciously, “Is it a one-way or two-way motion? Am I going on foot or by a vehicle?” If you just kept repeating, hodit = go, hodit = go, you wouldn’t know how to use that word. You should understand how Russian native speakers use hodit and idti. However, to do that, you need to get an idea of how Russian native speakers think and see the world.

Does this all make sense to you?

The world looks different in different languages.

In other words: Languages are not translations of each other.

The only way to master English is to master English and the American way of thinking and culture. You need to understand how English native speakers use words and phrases if you ever want to be fluent; however, to do that, you need to get an idea of how English native speakers think and see the world.

Before we move on, I want to share with you one of my favorite examples straight from Indonesia. As I mentioned at the beginning of this book, I speak seven languages to various degrees. I don’t speak all of them fluently, as I only had a few months to study some of them. However, even a few weeks or months were enough for me to get to an intermediate level with the techniques I am going to share with you. This is the case with my Indonesian. I spent three and a half months in Indonesia when I was still a university student.

I participated in a scholarship financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia. By the end of my stay, I could talk to Indonesian native speakers about many different topics, I could get things done in Indonesian and I felt quite confident. I could even give short public talks in Indonesian whenever it was necessary during the scholarship.

I discovered that just as is the case with European languages, Indonesian cannot be mastered with the Words + Grammar method.

I had to understand how Indonesians see the world and how they use the language to express themselves.

I was often surprised that many Indonesian words had very broad meanings. Enak, for example, means both “tasty” and “comfortable.” In most European languages, these are completely different concepts. Food can be tasty and a car or house can be comfortable. However, in Indonesian mentality, tasty and comfortable are two sides of the same coin – physical pleasure. Comfort gives you physical pleasure and tasty food also gives you physical pleasure, so they don’t separate these concepts.

Tasty and comfortable are both described with the same word: enak. Now, could you master Indonesian without understanding these distinctions?

No, not really.

One of the main reasons why many people don’t speak English fluently is because they don’t understand Anglo-Saxon mentality and culture. As a result, they don’t know how English native speakers use words. So they sub-consciously translate from their own language. If you experience any of these “symptoms,” you probably translate from your own language:

— Your English is slow, you can’t speak fast

— You can’t speak English automatically and you need to think too much before saying something

— You’re confused and shy when speaking English

— You don’t feel confident in English-language conversations

— Your English doesn’t feel native-like

In my language teaching experience, students get stuck on the intermediate level and can’t master the language because they haven’t truly understood Anglo-Saxon mentality and culture yet. So whenever they speak English, they subconsciously translate from their own language. You know what it leads to right? They can’t use English like a native speaker.

“What’s the antidote?” you might ask. “How do I master mentality and culture? Can I do it on my own? Will it take a long time? Is it difficult to do this?”

These are all very good questions. Head on to the next chapter and see how you can use Culture Hacking with no worries. I simplified everything so you would feel that mastering English is fun, simple and enjoyable.

I’ll sum up this chapter by spelling out our second principle:

Culture Hack #2: Languages are not translations of each other because every language reflects a unique worldview. The Words + Grammar method is only good to reach an intermediate level but it will NEVER get you to an advanced level. Understand the mentality and the culture behind English and that’s how you’ll be able to speak English fluently and automatically.

The next chapter will give you many examples from English and a tool you can use right away.

Chapter 3: How Cultural Semantics Can Transform Your English

In the last two chapters, we discussed the two basic ideas behind Culture Hacking:

Culture Hack #1: You can only master a language if you truly understand the culture and mentality behind it.

Culture Hack #2: Languages are not translations of each other because every language reflects a unique worldview. The Words + Grammar method is only good to reach the intermediate level but it will NEVER get you to the advanced level.

You may rightly ask, “It all sounds nice but how can I implement it? It’s easy to say that every language reflects a mentality but how can I put it into practice? Doesn’t it take a lot of time to discover the hidden cultural meaning of every word?”

These are sharp, smart questions and I’m really happy if you have asked them. The answer to your question lies in linguistics. Linguistics makes it easy to discover the meaning and culture behind languages. If you know some linguistics, studying a language can become really, really easy and you can save hundreds of hours, instead of wasting thousands of hours using methods that don’t work.

Before I show you how you can use linguistics, let me tell you a bit about my background in linguistics.

There are at least eight linguistic disciplines I use on a regular basis:

— cognitive linguistics

— semantics

— cultural and communicational anthropology

— pragmatics

— discourse analysis

— corpus linguistics

— sociolinguistics

— translations studies

I have read hundreds -- if not thousands --of books and articles and I’ve developed Culture Hacking as a combination of the above linguistic disciplines. I created my own method of learning and teaching languages that I have used with great success both for my own and my students’ language pursuits.

The reason I am talking here about linguistics is for you to understand that Culture Hacking is solidly grounded in linguistic research. I didn’t make this up; it can all be proven scientifically.

I am going to cover several linguistic approaches in this book, but the most important one is semantics. It’s actually a lot of fun to do semantics. It’s totally like a detective story with a secret code to crack. The difference here is that you need to crack a secret code behind the words and phrases – that is, what they mean and how they are used in a different culture.

Semantics is the study of meaning. When you hear the word “meaning,” you probably think of a dictionary definition. That’s very far from what we’re doing here.

Dictionaries can only give a short definition without explaining all you need to know about a word. In order to use a word confidently, you need to know the answer to many questions such as:

— What does the word mean?

— What are its synonyms and what are the differences between them?

— When would you use which synonym?

— Is the word formal or informal?

— What other words go together with it? What are the typical word combinations?

— What images and metaphors are connected to the word?

— How is the word used in conversations?

— How would a native speaker use the word?

— How is the word used to express emotions and opinions?

— Can you easily offend others if you use the word in the wrong context?

— What cultural values can you see in the word?

And there are many, many other questions like these. All this might seem formidable and overwhelming; however, in reality, it is a really simple process. You ask many questions about a word or phrase and you get a very detailed picture. You really deeply understand how the word is used by native speakers. If you lack this understanding, you won’t be able to use a word confidently.

Most dictionaries only give you tidbits of information with a few example sentences. In fact, you need much more. Let’s take an example.

You’re reading an English article about Jack, a creative genius, and you come across the word “authority” in the following sentence:

The young Jack had a dislike for authority.

Now I’m going to compare the conventional way of looking up a word’s meaning and the Culture Hacking approach. We’re going to look at the sense of “authority” as it appears in the example sentence above.

Conventional (old, standard) way of looking up a word:

1. You go and find a dictionary.

2. You get definitions for every meaning of the word “authority.”

3. You pick one that looks closest to the meaning in the text. In our case, for the word “authority”: a group of people with official responsibility.

So the young Jack had a dislike for a group of people with official responsibility (=authority). That’s how this sentence can be understood using the dictionary definition.

But the Culture Hacking approach can tell us much more and show us more precisely how a word is really used by native speakers.

1. The word “authority” often comes up in word combinations like rebel against authority, detest authority, resist authority, push against rules and authority and similar expressions. If you observe English-language articles carefully, you can see that many entrepreneurs and creative thinkers are described as having a kind of dislike for authority. It’s because they prefer to make their own decisions and forge their own path.

Steve Jobs’ famous comment is very telling in this regard. He once said:

“Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- They're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

He clearly identified as a “rebel” and a “misfit” who doesn’t follow the “rules.” He didn’t mention the word “authority” in this quote but if you observe Anglo-Saxon culture, you can discover the following connection.

Authority and rules are disliked, resisted, detested and pushed against by original and creative people (like Steve Jobs). It’s because they are too creative to merely follow others’ orders and commands. Instead, they prefer to come up with their own original ideas. This behavior is considered good in Anglo-Saxon culture as creative people change and improve the world.

Thus, following authority and being a creative thinker are two opposites on a scale.

When you read the sentence “The young Jack had a dislike for authority,” you can see that it’s not at all about Jack hating people with official responsibility. Rather, it’s all about Jack being a creative, original guy who doesn’t like to follow self-limiting rules. You can also see from the sentence that Jack is shown in a positive light because being an original thinker is a good thing. So the example sentence tells us quite a lot about Jack, for example:

1. He didn’t like self-limiting rules.

2. He’s a creative person.

3. He is a good guy, having original ideas and not just following the herd.

You can see that once you understand the full meaning of a word like authority you can understand what native speakers really mean. You can also learn to use words in a native way as you start to see the culture behind them.

My native language, Hungarian, doesn’t have the same images and ideas associated with the word authority. Hungarian culture doesn’t think of creative geniuses as misfits and rebels pushing against rules and authority. Hungarian culture doesn’t have the same attitudes and values as Anglo-Saxon culture.

For this reason, most Hungarians wouldn’t be able to use the word authority as it is used by English native speakers. They’re not familiar with the ideas and images behind the word so they wouldn’t describe a creative genius as “pushing against rules and authority” or “detesting authority.”

From this point on, you can go on into many possible directions to fully understand and discover the meanings and images behind the word authority. By exploring it from different angles, you can gain a three-dimensional understanding of this word.

Let’s see a few more angles you could take.

1. Authority combines with a number of other words such as detest, dislike, resist, push against, reject, defy, deny, rebel against. What are the images behind each of these phrases? How are they different from each other? A native speaker can use all these and many other combinations. To speak English like a native, you need to know a dazzling number of word combinations and when to use them. No worries, Culture Hacking shows you the real meaning of words and phrases.

2. You can explore further meanings of authority and see why these meanings are culture-specific, as for example: authority as an expert, authorities as an official organization, authority as the moral right or power to do something. These meanings are interrelated and give you an even fuller picture of the Anglo-Saxon concept of authority.

3. You can also go on and discover other words that fit into the “creative, original rebel” motif. “Follow the herd” or “blend in” are negative phrases, referring to people who don’t have anything original to say. While “to stand out” and “be unique” are positive phrases, describing the Steve Jobs-type original people. This way you can better discover the American cultural ideal of originality and rule-bending creativity.

As you can see, there are endless pages that one could write about any English word. There’s simply so much culture and meaning behind every word. English words are windows to the Anglo-Saxon way of thinking and mentality. If you don’t master this mentality, you won’t be able to speak English really fluently. You must understand the meanings and the culture before you can use words like a native speaker.

In the preceding few pages I have given you a short illustration of how semantics can be used to go deeply into a language and discover the true meaning of words. Granted, it takes quite a bit of time and practice to develop good skills in semantics, allowing you to easily paint a three-dimensional portrait of any word.

It took me three and a half years of intense research and language learning to master this method, so you definitely won’t have this skill overnight. But it’s not a problem because even now, with your current level of understanding, there are three ways you can use the concept of Culture Hacking in practice:

1. You can go on to Chapter 4 and take a look at some specific techniques I use every day to teach and master languages.

2. You can read good books about English and American cultures. For book recommendations, feel free to contact me through my website (www.metaphorenglish.com).

3. If you have already applied the techniques in chapters 4 and 5 and you want more guidance, I’m happy to do that for you with my course, the Metaphor English Mastery System.

The course teaches English mastery through culture. I won’t mention the course very often in the book, and you are free to do everything on your own, which is fine, or you can get professional guidance.

I feel it my obligation to inform you about your options. Then you can do as you please. You can use the techniques and principles on your own or work with an experienced language guide like myself. That’s how I can help you.

Language learning is also a craft, just like engineering, music or shoe-making. You need special skills and expertise to pursue it. Linguistics is no different than any other profession. It takes years of study and practice to reach a high level, and the easiest thing you can do is to have a language guide, someone who already went through the whole process. This way, you can get proven advice and hand-holding every step of the way.

There are also techniques and tips in the book that anyone can implement without a background in linguistics. These techniques are an important part of Culture Hacking. The next chapter will show you four easy-to-use and very powerful Culture Hacks.

Before we go on, I’m going to articulate the third principle. The Culture Hack we’ve discussed in this chapter is:

Culture Hack #3: You need linguistics to truly master a language. Linguistics gives you the tools to understand the culture behind the language. A good language guide is an expert in linguistics so he can show you around the wonderful world of languages and cultures.

Chapter 4 – Four Incredibly Effective Ways To Remember Every English Phrase

In the last chapter, we covered some exciting territory. We explored fascinating ideas from the enchanting world of linguistics and semantics.

But truth be told, linguistics can be intimidating and overwhelming. After all, it takes quite a bit of time and practice to become a linguist. It is like free diving 40 meters deep in the sea; it is tremendous fun but only if your lungs are prepared in advance with breathing exercises. Otherwise, you expose yourself to the risk of serious health injuries.

For this reason, I designed this chapter to provide a little break for your mind. Let the ideas of the previous chapters sink in. Now we’ll switch from the heavy stuff to learning four practical techniques you can put into practice right away. Every technique is a Culture Hack so this chapter has not just one but immediately four Culture Hacks stored up for you.

I have to make one reservation: this chapter is not exhaustive. I’m not going to talk about the importance of listening and pronunciation here. These are widely known among teachers and students. This chapter will be focused on little-known study techniques that can skyrocket your learning speed. I’m sure you’ve already seen some of the concepts I’m going to introduce. Now you will understand them from a fresh angle. I know you’ll benefit greatly from this chapter.

Understand the Power of Context

The most common problem English students struggle with is making sentences. If you think about it, speaking a language is all about making sentences. It’s not about blurting out separate words and it’s not about reciting grammar rules. No, no, no.

If you speak English fluently, it means you can make sentences easily and automatically like a native speaker. Yet, most students can’t put together native-like sentences.

Have you ever felt a lump in your throat when you need to say a full sentence? You’re trying to remember words and idioms and phrasal verbs and grammar rules and one by one, you slowly and painstakingly put together a sentence.

Or maybe you’re already confident in your intermediate level but you just feel that you don’t always have the right words to say in a conversation? Somehow your English sentences don’t feel really native-like and inside, deep down you know you want to speak English much, much better?

Do you dream of speaking interesting and colorful English?

You don’t need to seek any longer because now you’re going to be equipped with four blockbuster language learning techniques and strategies – four new Culture Hacks that you can put into practice right away.

Let’s get started with the first one. If you’ve read anything about language learning, you’ve probably heard the following idea:

You should learn everything in context.

I’ll define context in a minute but first, imagine you are visiting a country for your holidays --

let’s say, Greece. You land in Athens and your hotel is in a little town near Athens. However, instead of having a map of the region, all you have is a list of cities. You only know the list of cities and towns but you have no idea how they’re connected. How can you get from one point to the other? How can you navigate around? In one word, if you’re not aware of the connection between cities and towns – the roads and railway lines -- you have no way of getting around to your destination.

The same applies to mastering English vocabulary. If you only have a list of words and you don’t know the connections between them, you’ll get lost. Yet, this is exactly what many language courses do. They tell you to memorize words and try to put them together into sentences without knowing how they combine.

It’s like throwing someone out in Athens and asking him to find another city without having a map.

This is where “context” comes in. Context is like a map showing you how words are connected together.

The context of a word could be defined very simply as the words around it. That’s clearly not a scientific definition, is it? But why would we make it more complicated when it’s actually really simple.

For example let’s say you want to master the English word “mind.” If you want to use this word as a native speaker would, you need to know how it combines with other words. You need to understand how a native speaker would use the word “mind” in a sentence.

So first you need to look at various sentences from articles and conversations and observe how the word “mind” goes together with other words.

Words never stand alone in communication. They always stand with other words, just like people regularly hang out with their friends (but not with strangers or their enemies).

If you observe the English language carefully, you can notice that the word “mind” combines very often with the preposition “on.” What’s on your mind? In other words, what are you planning to do?

J R Firth, a famous 20th century linguist has said:

“You shall know a word by the company it keeps.” 

Another example is the word,“brain.” “Brain” is a different word, so it keeps different company than “mind” does. We rarely say “What’s on your brain?” “Brain” doesn’t combine with the preposition “on.” Just like you have friends, words also have their own friends they prefer to “hang out with.” These friend groups are called collocations.

To be “on someone’s mind” is a collocation that means “to plan.”

The word “mind” has many other collocations as well. Mastering an English word means to know the most common collocations, the most common combinations of words.

For example, English and American people say “your mind wanders” if you can’t focus. But they don’t say “your mind walks around slowly” or “your mind strolls.”

If you only memorize the word “mind” but you have no idea about its collocations, you’ll never ever think of saying “what’s on your mind?” or “his mind always wanders.”

That’s where many people get stuck with English – they easily understand words like “mind,” “power” or “skills” but they don’t know their collocations. As a result, they try to put together sentences based on their own native language’s logic which is completely different.

Here is a very important rule:

If you don’t know the collocations in a language, you’ll never master it.

The beautiful thing about English collocations is that they reflect English mentality and culture. They’re different from Russian, German or Hungarian or whatever other language’s collocations.

In English, your mind can “wander.” Wandering is a type of slow walking without a purpose, just like when you’re wandering around on a beach without going anywhere in particular. If you say in English that your mind wanders, then a native speaker thinks of your mind relaxing and thinking about random topics, just like a wandering person is relaxing and walking along a beach randomly.

There’s a picture, an image behind this collocation. The mind wanders just like a tourist wanders around and relaxes on a beautiful beach.

But Hungarian, my native language, for example, is different. We don’t say that your mind “wanders.” We say that your mind “goes on an adventure.” We use a completely different image.

The fun thing with collocations is that they are often interesting images that reveal the imagination of a different nation. They’re not just boring “word pairs” you need to memorize and sweat over.

Every English collocation is a reflection of Anglo-Saxon imagination and culture.

English people say “bright idea” but they don’t say “shiny idea.” It’s not just an accident. You just need to look at the difference between shiny and bright. Shiny usually describes something with a smooth, glossy surface. Bright, on the other hand, usually describes something full of light. It’s used for objects or spaces such as bright moon, bright sky or bright room.

An idea is not a surface so it cannot be “shiny.” It’s bright. It’s more like an object. As you can see, collocations are not random.

This is a very important innovation of Culture Hacking. Most of linguistics teaches that collocations are random and you just need to memorize them. This way, collocations are boring.

Culture Hacking, however, says that collocations are interesting. They follow the logic and the imagination of a different culture or nation.

Practical steps you can take to use this principle:

Take any English text or listen to any English conversation.

Observe how words behave and how they combine with each other.

Pick a collocation that you find useful.

Translate the collocation word-by-word into your native language. If it doesn’t translate well, then you’ve found a little treasure. It means that your language is different from English in the way it uses that collocation.

Remember the collocation very well because it will make you sound more like a native English speaker. Instead of putting English sentences together based on your native language, you’ll now have a real native English collocation.

Some collocations are visual and easy to imagine. Play with your mind and imagine that collocation. If you see the collocation your mind wanders, then check what it exactly means to “wander” and imagine your mind wandering around. It will make collocations extremely fun and interesting.

The bottom line is whenever you notice a set of words in a sentence next to each other, it’s almost always a collocation. Most of the time, they’re different from the collocations of your own language.

Mastering collocations is one of the best ways to quickly boost your English fluency. Without collocations, your English skills will be extremely limited. You will never speak advanced English without an active knowledge of them. These “chunks” or “phrases” may have other names, but the main message is to learn combinations of words, half-sentences and whole sentences instead of individual words.

A story will drive home exactly what I mean. One of my personal language learning heroes is the late Erik Gunnemark, an Estonian polyglot, who could speak over 50 languages. He said in his amazing book, The Art and Science of Learning Languages, that he knew 3000 words in Romanian, but he couldn’t even ask for a glass of water. It’s because he had no idea how to combine Romanian words. On the other hand, he knew only 150 Hungarian sentences and he could easily get by in everyday situations because whenever he had to speak, he could simply pull out a sentence from his memory and use it.

Advanced English is no different. You need to master the way words connect to each other.

In the following parts of this chapter, I’ll show you some techniques to easily remember collocations when you need to use them in a real-life conversation. The moment has arrived to formulate our next Culture Hack:

Culture Hack #4: Observe how words go together. Notice the collocations and chunks in every English sentence. Imagine them (e.g., that a mind “wanders”). Compare them with those of your own language. You’ll discover that they’re your best friends on the way to English fluency.

How many words should you know?

The next principle we’re going to cover is almost never taught and talked about anywhere else. Even though it’s one of the most important English vocabulary principles I know. Using just this one principle alone, you can supercharge your English vocabulary to stratospheric levels.

This principle is called Deep Learning. I’m not talking about the deep learning methods you can find all over the internet. Let me explain what I mean.

In Culture Hacking, I have developed a special mindset about vocabulary: Quality matters over quantity.

What really matters is not how many words you know but how well, how deeply you know them.

A few years ago, I experimented with so-called “basic words.” I thought every language has a few hundred, or maybe a thousand basic words and if I learn them, I’ll be able to get by in a language very quickly, even if not perfectly.

There are very common words that make up most of a language. English has 2,000 words that make up 80% of everyday English conversations. Still, you can’t get very far with them. The reason is simple. Those 2,000 words can combine in thousands of different ways, so if you just memorize them, you won’t be able to use them in real-life conversations with native speakers.

I’ve read some research in German (Schnörch, 2002) that says it’s not really worthwhile to learn basic vocabulary.

The authors say the most important thing is not how many words you learn but how deeply you know them. It’s much better to know 100 words and 15 collocations with those words than to stuff your head with 2000 words and know zero collocations.

Many years ago, I tried to improve my language skills by writing down hundreds of common words in the languages I was studying. I thought that by memorizing these words, I would quickly get by in everyday life. I made very long lists in my notebook and I was confident I would have a breakthrough soon. . . except that I didn’t. After memorizing hundreds, or even thousands of words, my language skills didn’t really improve.

I wasn’t aware of the context of those words so I couldn’t even ask simple questions.

Just think of English. You probably know the meaning of “What’s up?” but could you guess it if you only knew “what” and “up”? Of course not. You need to know the entire sentence to use it like a native speaker.

There’s so much you can learn about a word or a phrase. For the sake of the example, let’s assume you want to master the phrase “frame of mind.” If you want to learn this phrase superficially, you can simply put it in your flashcard application or notebook:

frame of mind = mental attitude

And you could keep repeating it:

frame of mind = mental attitude

frame of mind = mental attitude

frame of mind = mental attitude

And so on and so on. The question is whether you really understand now how to use “frame of mind.” As a matter of fact, “frame of mind” and “mental attitude” are used very differently from each other, even though they are called synonyms in dictionaries. As I’ll show you in the rest of this chapter, there’re very few true synonyms. Most dictionaries do you a disservice by putting an equal sign between words that are actually radically different from each other.

For example, mental attitude is quite rarely used in spoken English. Rather, it belongs to the world of written English. You can come across this phrase in academic journals, BBC articles and official letters, but it’s not going to be very useful for you in daily communication.

However, frame of mind is a fairly common English expression. The most typical contexts in which you can see it include the following:

to be in the right frame of mind

Example conversation:

A: Today I’ve had such a terrible misunderstanding with my boss. I want to resign right away.

B: I think you’re not in the right frame of my mind now to make this decision. Relax a bit and let’s talk things over.

As you can see, “you’re not in the right frame of mind” is used here to say that “you’re nervous and upset and not in the right emotional state to make such serious decisions.”

What can you draw as a conclusion? You can notice that this phrase is often used when talking to an emotionally upset person who wants to make a bad decision. If you tell him “he’s not in the right frame of mind” then you encourage him to relax and make the decision later.

You can also use this phrase to justify someone’s bad actions.

Example sentence:

I’m sorry for what happened but she was not in the right frame of mind.

What this means is that she really didn’t want to do that bad thing. She was just emotionally upset.

Can you see what I’m doing here? I take a phrase, for example, “to be in the right frame of mind” and I examine how it’s used in actual conversations. It’s used for

Talking to an emotionally upset person who wants to make a bad decision.

Justifying someone’s actions.

You can open a new section in your Evernote or notebook with the title “to be in the right frame of mind” and you can write down the types of situations the phrase is used in and an example conversation for each situation. This will give you a three-dimensional, detailed picture of how to use any English collocation, word or expression.

There are websites containing a truckload of TV show transcripts from the U.S. These transcripts show you how native speakers use the language. Not every show is the best for learning English but often, you can get a very good idea of how a certain collocation, word or expression is used in actual conversations.

Let’s compare the traditional word and phrase memorizing approach and the Culture Hacking approach.

Traditional approach: frame of mind = mental attitude, frame of mind = mental attitude, frame of mind = mental attitude, frame of mind = mental attitude. With this approach, you won’t really understand how the expression is used in real-life conversations and you won’t be able to use it like a native speaker.

Culture Hacking method: You take note of common expressions with “frame of mind” as for example “to be in the right frame of mind.” You look at conversations and articles to see how it’s used and you begin to recognize typical situations like:

Talking to an emotionally upset person who wants to make a bad decision.

Justifying someone’s actions.

Then, you write down example dialogues like the following examples for each scenario.

A: Today I’ve had a terrible misunderstanding with my boss. I want to resign right away.

B: I think you’re not in the right frame of my mind now to make this decision. Relax a bit and let’s talk things over.

A: She really offended me yesterday.

B: I’m sorry for what happened. She was just not in the right frame of mind.

It’s time to formulate our next Culture Hack:

Culture Hack #5: Aim to learn words and phrases deeply. Collect as much information as you can. See how they are used in actual, real-life conversations. Write down example dialogues. Learn whole sentences instead of individual words. Just by using the traditional “frame of mind = mental attitude” approach, you won’t master any phrase.

As a side-note, this is what I’m also doing in my courses. Diving deeply into detail, I guide you around the culture and language usage so you can speak every phrase confidently and easily.

The Dale Carnegie Method

Let me tell you about the Dale Carnegie method to cement new words in your active memory.

Have you heard of Dale Carnegie? He was one of the most famous writers of the 20th century. Writing books about communication, public speaking and stress avoidance, Carnegie was most well-known for his book How to Win Friends and Influence People, a New York Times bestseller which sold over 30 million copies.

I have read almost all his work and I completely fell in love with his books. My favorite one is Stop Worrying and Start Living . I must admit it’s better than 95% of modern motivational and self-help literature. It’s a must read. Another book I really enjoyed and benefited from is his book on public speaking. Dale Carnegie was a brilliant public speaker.

One of the important core skills in public speaking is to have a massive, nuanced and well-polished vocabulary. According to Dale Carnegie, to possess a word involves three things:

— to know its special and broader meanings,

— to know its relation to other words, and

— to be able to use it.

We’ve discussed how to know the true, full meaning of a word and how to discover its relation to other words, but we haven’t yet covered all the strategies on mastering a word and becoming able to use it.

Dale Carnegie had a bullet-proof tip to burn any word into your long-term active memory: use it at least five times in conversations. One of the most effective and powerful ways to remember any word is to do the following:

1. Create a list.

2. Whenever you learn a new word, write it on the list.

3. Use the word at least five times in different conversations. For example, if you talk online with other students or native speakers, always have the list in front of you and try to use a few of the words. Put a stroke next to every word after you used it so you could keep track of how you are progressing.

This technique is equally good if you write workplace or personal messages in English. Have the list in front of you and put at least one word into the message.

Once you’ve used a word five times, cross it off your list.

This technique can be incredibly effective if applied regularly. Please note that it does require some self-discipline on your part. You will never be able to master English if you don’t have some good ol’ self-discipline. No shiny motivational ninja trick is going to do that for you. You need to make some effort and work a little bit on your English.

In the world of instant gratification, there are language courses promising you results without effort, claiming you will master English while sleeping, or promising to teach you English in 2 weeks.

Believe me. There’s no mastery of any language without work involved . . . but work can be sweet! It will bring you results beyond your wildest dreams. In this book, I’m sharing methods that did wonders for me. They taught me how to work effectively and enjoyably. At the end of the day, of course, I still had to buckle down and do some work. There’s no way around it.

The only question is whether your efforts will yield fruits or be wasted. Many people dream of better English but get stuck with bad methods, and that’s why their efforts go without the desired results.

I’ve designed Culture Hacking to be a method for proactive people who also want to DO something for their English. If you’re in that group, you’ve come to the right place because the methods I’m sharing can multiply your efficiency and help you speak fluent English as you’ve never imagined before. Of course, you will have to do the work!

Getting back to the Dale Carnegie technique, don’t forget to create a list and make sure you use new words and expressions at least five times in real-life conversations, emails, essays or however you regularly engage in English language communications.

One important caveat though is that you’re only going to benefit from this technique if you first understand how a word or collocation is used correctly. If you just memorize a word but you’re not familiar with its typical collocations, meaning and other information we’ve discussed in previous chapters, you’ll do more harm than good because the wrong usage of the word will stick in your mind. As you might know, it’s much more difficult to un-learn, then re-learn something than just to learn it than just to learn it right the first time.

Before using this technique, make sure you understand the full meaning, collocations and cultural background of a word. This is what a language guide does for you. I’ll talk more about that later.

In summary then, please find our next Culture Hack below.

Culture Hack #6: Use every new word and phrase at least five times in a conversation or in writing. Make sure to understand the usage of the word before practicing it.

The Secret of a Russian Polyglot

I always like to learn from those who have already succeeded with language learning. If I want to pick up any new skill, I seek out the most successful people and try to learn from them. That way I can improve at a wildly successful speed in any field or endeavor.

I think that one of the main ways someone can be successful in languages is to simply master several languages to a high degree. One of the polyglots whose writings I’ve benefitted from is Dmitry Petrov. His writings are scarcely available in English so I had to do some research in Russian.

Just to set the stage, Petrov speaks about 20 languages. He can perform simultaneous interpretation in seven of them. Famous politicians from Gorbachev and Yeltsin up to present-day Russian leaders have chosen him as their official interpreter and language teacher.

He has developed a number of original language learning techniques which he has successfully used himself. In one instance, he travelled to Israel and started learning Hebrew from absolute scratch. In three weeks, he could already communicate in Hebrew about most everyday topics. Petrov just went out into the streets of Jerusalem and got himself understood in a language he was just beginning to learn. More than that, his language skills were good enough to discuss even philosophical topics in Hebrew.

That’s what I call effective language learning. Petrov also said that mastering a language is more than just the Words + Grammar approach. One of my favorite techniques from his arsenal might surprise you due to its stunning simplicity.

I’m talking about the power of your handwriting. If you write down something in your handwriting, you’ll remember it eight times (!) better than if you just hear it. Pick any collocation, sentence, or phrase and write it down in your handwriting. It will work wonders for you.

Here’s what to do:

1. Find a good English text or transcript of a conversation.

2. Go through the text and look at every sentence: would you say it that way? Would you think of that phrase or sentence structure? Is it in your active memory?

If not, write down the sentence in your own handwriting in a notebook. There’s no better way to remember a phrase and have it sink deep down into your active memory. If you write something down, it will stick in your mind eight times better!

It’s important to write out only entire sentences or at least half-sentences so the whole structure and collocations will be stored in your brain.

Culture Hack #7: Use handwriting to remember every English phrase. Don’t be afraid to copy out English sentences in your own handwriting. It works like magic. Always make sure to write down entire or half-sentences, not individual words.

Was this chapter useful and interesting to you? It will help you a great deal. Just be consistent. Start using one of the above techniques and do it regularly and consistently.

“Big doors swing on small hinges,” philanthropist Clement Stone once said.

Chapter 5 – The Communication Secret I Discovered After Eight Years Of Research

So far we have focused mostly on collocations, words and phrases. I’ve shown you powerful ways to understand the culture behind a language and to expand your English vocabulary quickly and efficiently.

But I didn’t tell you about one very important piece of the puzzle. In fact, this missing piece is so essential that if you don’t have it, your chances of speaking truly fluent English are measly at best.

Surprisingly, I haven’t met any English teachers, courses or books that teach this principle. Yet, without it you will get into misunderstandings so quickly you won’t even notice it. Not even your fluent English will be able to help you to get out of trouble. Worse yet, people you offend won’t even tell you their real opinion.

I’m talking about Cultural Scripts, a foundational element of the Culture Hacking method. Cultural Scripts are the least talked about and most neglected part of language learning and teaching.

A Cultural Script is an expected way of speaking and behaving in a particular situation. An example from English culture (applicable most of the time) is when you make a phone call to your friend and ask how he’s doing, even if it’s not really relevant to the conversation.

Let me share with you a personal story.

If you live in an English-speaking country, you might know that it’s not always easy to communicate with Anglo-Saxon people because they tend NOT to say what they really think.

I have many great, great friends in England, the US and Canada but every once in a while, it might happen that I offend them because of cultural differences.

This story happened a few years back. A Canadian friend of mine was staying in Budapest and we planned to meet up to chat a bit about the big and small things of life. It was a boiling, hot summer day and we agreed to meet at Margaret Island (the famous island of Budapest) for a walk.

Sometimes I spend so much time sitting and working in front of a computer that I just get totally fed up with it. That’s why — if possible — I prefer to meet someone not for a coffee but for a walk so I can finally get much-needed fresh air and feel life slowly come back to my bones and muscles.

Anyway, we agreed to meet at 3 in the afternoon. It was already 3:10 p.m. and he was still nowhere. “Maybe he got lost or maybe he forgot about it?” I was wondering as I was standing there in the sweltering heat.

So, I thought I’d give him a call to make sure he hadn’t forgotten about it. When he picked up the phone, I simply said: Hey, I’ve arrived. Shall I meet you somewhere else or are you on the way?

That’s not what he expected me to say. There was an awkward pause on the other end of the line. What do you think I should’ve said first?

Voilà: “How are you doing?” To tell the truth, it didn’t seem logical to me as we just talked yesterday over the phone and we were going to meet for a long conversation, so why would I start asking him how he is doing when we were going to talk in 5 minutes anyway?

But cultural scripts are not always logical. That’s how it is.

Cultural Scripts are guidelines about behavior in everyday situations. The Cultural Script for phone conversations in Anglo-Saxon cultures goes like this: Whenever you call a friend or acquaintance in the U.S., U.K., Canada or Australia, start the conversation with “How are you?” If you don’t do it, you might come across as rude or inconsiderate.

Every culture has its own Cultural Scripts that are unique to its history and mentality.

There are acceptable ways of speaking in each situation. You speak differently with a government official than with your close friend. You talk differently with your parents than with your cousins. In some situations, you need to use official words, and you need to speak politely, while in other situations you can be easy-going and use slang.

Everything is said in a context. Maybe you’re talking to a friend, writing an official letter, making a toast at a wedding or telling a joke to your colleagues. These are all different situations having their own special rules and norms.

These rules and norms are unwritten. They are naturally learned by children through socializing with others. They are not written rules you need to follow or else be fined. In some way, though, they are much more serious than that. If you forget to pay for parking, you might get a fine and that’s bad enough. But if you really offend someone and come across as uneducated and rude, that’s a completely different matter. There’s a “social fine” you need to pay for that.

If you speak English to an acceptable level, native speakers will expect you to understand the unwritten rules of various situations, even if you’re not a native speaker.

My friend expected me to know the phone call script. Actually, English native speakers often think that their Cultural Scripts are universal and communication works everywhere like it does in the U.S. or the U.K.

That’s another reason why it is a big advantage for you that I am NOT a native speaker. I know what’s weird and strange for a non-native, so I can understand it from a foreigner’s perspective and teach it to others.

The next example I’m going to share with you is from the beginnings of the 20th century. Abraham Rihbany (1869 — 1944) was an American scholar born and raised in Syria (now Lebanon). He emigrated to the U.S. at the age of 22.

Rihbany was the author of several works and he’s widely quoted in Sociolinguistics for his insights. He wrote several books in the fields of theology, philology and history. His writings are fascinating from a linguistics perspective. He contrasts the American way of thinking with the Syrian, and he also shows how these differences are visible through everyday conversations.

He died more than a half century ago but his exciting observations about language and culture are still true today. Here’s how he described a visit to Syria, his homeland:

“While on a visit to Syria, after having spent several years in the West, I was very strongly impressed by the decidedly sharp contrast between the Syrian and the Anglo-Saxon modes of thought. The years had worked many changes in me, and I had become addicted to the more compact phraseology of the Western social code.

In welcoming me to his house, an old friend of mine spoke with impressive cheerfulness as follows: “You have extremely honoured me by coming into my abode [menzel]. I am not worthy of it. This house is yours; you can burn it if you wish. My children are also at your disposal; I would sacrifice them all for your pleasure. What a blessed day this is, now that the light of your countenance has shone upon us,” and so forth, and so on.

I understood my friend fully and most agreeably, although it was not easy for me to translate his words to my American wife without causing her to be greatly alarmed at the possibility that the house would be set on fire and the children slain for our pleasure. What my friend really meant in his effusive welcome was no more or less than what a gracious host means when he says, “I am delighted to see you, please make yourself at home.”

American culture has changed quite a lot over the last century but it is still radically different from Arabic cultures. By American standards, a greeting like “This house is yours; you can burn it if you wish” or “My children are at your disposal; I would sacrifice them all for your pleasure” would be considered just as wildly extreme today as it would have been 100 years ago. Of course, this greeting is not meant literally. It’s just a figurative expression, displaying the affection of the speaker.

As Rihbany wrote,“It is unpleasant to an Anglo-Saxon to note how many things an Oriental says but does not mean. And it is distressing to an Oriental to note how many things the Anglo-Saxon means but does not say.”

It’s very true, especially in British culture where people often don’t say exactly what they mean. Some people go so far as to say that English people engage in hypocrisy. When they say “Let’s meet for coffee sometime,” that might mean nothing more than just saying good-bye without much genuine interest in seeing the person again.

I talk a lot about this in my course, The Metaphor English Mastery System because it’s a really important topic. English people sometimes tend to say the complete opposite of what they really mean and you need to be able to read between the lines.

I remember once accidentally offending one of my English friends. I criticized one of the societies he belonged to, although I didn’t know he was a member at the time. As a response, he simply said: “Yeah, that’s very true.”

I realized a few weeks later that he was actually offended. You really need to read between the lines as they often don’t say it openly.

Anglo-Saxon culture values politeness and tactfulness very much. Normally, they’d rather not say something than to hurt anyone’s feelings. This can cause confusion among foreigners whose culture might express criticism much more openly.

Another great example of Cultural Script-related misunderstandings comes from one of my Ukrainian students. Let me quote his words:

“At my workplace, I have a Scottish colleague. He prefers to discuss our tasks by Skype. As for me, it is not the most efficient way to discuss our work. So I said to my colleague many times to use email instead of Skype. He didn’t seem to get it so I was irritated and said to him, “Are you afraid to send emails?”

Oh. You should’ve seen his face. For him it was the worse professional conversation ever. But for me it was completely normal to communicate that way. In Russian, we don’t have problems with discussing our fears. So for me it was one of my main lessons about the indirect English way of speaking.

After reading about Culture Hacking, I understood that I was rude and discussed this with the Scottish colleague. So thank you for improving my work relationship!”

How can I discover Cultural Scripts?

You can discover Cultural Scripts by observing conversations. Simple, everyday conversations hold amazing insights into the mentality of another culture.

For example, if you live in the U.K. and you want to know how English people ask questions about your workplace, you can observe their conversations. In England, a so-called guessing game is often played. It means you pretend not to be interested in the other person’s life but you just ask questions as if it were a side-thought. For example:

Alex: Traffic was quite bad this morning. I thought I’d be stuck in a jam all day.

Betty: Oh yes, it’s a nightmare, and the rush hour is even worse. So you drive to work?

Now, Betty asks if Alex drives to work to try to find out where he works without asking it directly. British people often play a game foreigners don’t understand.

They ask indirect questions, almost pretending they’re not interested in the other person’s life. Politeness and etiquette (one of the main cornerstones of English culture) require people not to be too much interested in others’ private life as it is considered nosey or prying.

So instead of directly asking Alex, Betty confirms that the traffic is indeed a nightmare. She also adds a comment that the rush hour is even worse, and then she asks Alex to confirm how he gets to work. She expects that this will invite him to talk more about the subject if he chooses.

Alex gets the intention of Betty as he is also English. He replies in the direction she has opened.

Alex: Yes, but I work at the hospital so at least I don’t have to go through the town centre.

Alex understands that Betty doesn’t really care if he cycles to work, or walks to his workplace. He doesn’t simply say: “Yes, I drive to work.” He says: “Yes, but I work at the hospital so at least I don’t have to get into the town centre.”

Betty is now allowed to make a direct guess: “Oh, the hospital – you’re a doctor, then?”

If you try to guess someone’s profession, it’s always more polite to name the highest-status one as a first guess.

Alex: Yes, I’m a doctor.

When the occupation of the other person is revealed, it’s common to express surprise – “Oh, really?” –as if the occupation were both fascinating and unexpected.

It’s very rude not to help the other person with “clues” or small pieces of information about you. If you talk to someone and you can see he’s interested in your work, help him with “clues” so he can guess it more easily. But to reveal your profession right away is usually not the way to go in English conversations.

Now we just looked at a simple conversation but there’s so much you can observe. You can see that British people tend to be more indirect, not asking too many direct questions about someone else’s life. You can also see their common guessing game in which they try to guess someone else’s occupation from “clues” like traffic.

Whenever you take part in a conversation in an English-speaking country, you can listen to your conversation partner with “different ears.” Ask many questions in yourself and observe how they communicate, praise, compliment, ask questions, express their opinions and emotions, criticize, get angry, moan, complain or talk about their personal life.

This kind of observation also requires linguistics skill. That’s why I do it for my students in my courses. But if you’re attentive, you can also practice it yourself to some degree. Try it and you’ll see how many new “conversation patterns” and Cultural Scripts you’ll pick up.

The time has come to formulate the next Culture Hack.

Culture Hack #8: Mastering a language is much more than just knowing words and grammar. It’s a journey into another culture’s way of speaking and behaving in everyday situations. When mastering English, you also need to understand the power of Cultural Scripts and use them in conversations.

Chapter 6 – How Metaphors Can Make Your English Interesting And Persuasive

Metaphors are the secret sauce for mastering English. You need them more than anything else if you want to speak English like a native speaker. That’s why our language school is called Metaphor English and our flagship language course is Metaphor English Mastery System.

Let’s go from the fundamentals. What exactly is a metaphor?

A metaphor is a figurative expression. It means to talk about something in terms of another similar thing. For example, when you say, “I can’t win this argument” or “I’ll attack his arguments,” you talk about argumentation in terms of war.

Often, we speak of concepts, emotions and the world around us in metaphors. Let’s take a look at one of the deepest experiences of human life: love relationships.

We often think of our relationships in terms of a journey: They start somewhere, they go smoothly or they can be a roller coaster ride.

We often think of our relationships in terms of a living organism as well: they are born, they grow, they need to be nurtured or they can easily die.

There are at least 10 more main metaphors we use to talk about love relationships or loving. These include images of heat, physical force, machines, investments, nutrients, sports, disease, games and others.

Our whole way of thinking is very deeply influenced by metaphors. No matter if we speak about work, love, society, economy, politics, private life or any other topic, we use hundreds of metaphors every single day to communicate with each other.

Some metaphors are the same across languages; however, you can find tons of metaphors that are different from language to language. If you really want to master English, you need to master metaphors the way English and American people use them.

If you don’t master metaphors, your English will be dry and even a little boring.

Every language is deeply metaphorical. When you first started to learn English, your main purpose was probably to start speaking. It was enough for you to know simple words and simple meanings, but as you progress through the enchanting maze of the English language, with all its twists and turns, you’ll realize this is no longer enough.

There are countless ways of saying one thing, and if you want to speak English like a native, you need to know about these. Metaphors play an especially important role in language because they make us feel and experience everything more colorfully and viscerally.

Metaphors can add life and power to your English. They can paint pictures, evoke powerful emotions, and even create new images. They can also help you express your personality and your deepest desires with grace, passion, and power. They make your speech interesting and colorful. Metaphors come in handy in almost any situation. Knowing them is like owning a toolbox full of the best tools.

If you’re a top-notch professional giving a presentation that will make or break your company, use metaphors to make your audience receive your message on an emotional level. Hook them with the single vivid image that conveys more than a thousand dry words.

If you’re just hanging out with a friend, enjoying a cup of warm coffee or a mug of cold beer and you want to share a sorrow or a joy of your life, just find the right metaphor to make him feel the same as you feel.

Metaphors can go a long way when sharing your ideas and personality. That’s the power of metaphors. They breathe life into your English.

As an example, I’ll show you in detail how the metaphor of life as an investment is used. In Anglo-Saxon culture, people often look at their time, activities and life as investment.

Look at the example dialogues below:

Dialogue #1

A: I think we should introduce a new course about programming at the university.

B: It looks like a huge expenditure of time and money without any guarantee of a return.

Dialogue #2:

A: I invested a lot of time and energy into learning this new skill. Now that the company is bankrupt, all my efforts seem to be a wasted.

B: Maybe you could transfer the skills and apply them in a different company.

Dialogue #3:

A: Jack is a huge asset to our company.

B: Yes, but also consider the emotional costs of managing his constant outbursts.

There’s one common theme running through the above dialogues: they contain metaphors, particularly one that compares life to a financial investment. Let me explain it in detail.

Examine the first dialogue:

Dialogue #1

A: I think we should introduce a new course about programming at the university.

B: It looks like a huge expenditure of time and money, without any guarantee of a return.

“Expenditure” can also refer to spending time with something, as opposed to many other languages where expenditure is only used for describing financial costs. In English, you spend your money, but you also “spend” your time.

In other languages, there are different words for spending time and spending money. But Anglo-Saxon culture considers time as money so they use the same word for both. In this way, English doesn’t make a distinction between spending money and spending time. In the English and American way of thinking, time is considered money. It also influences their Cultural Scripts. For example, you need to respect others’ time just like you don’t steal their money. You need to be punctual; otherwise you’re stealing their time. If you finish a talk at a seminar, you need to finish it at the agreed-upon time or you’re not considered punctual.

Cultural Scripts, metaphors, collocations and culture are all related. If you can observe something interesting about another culture, you can probably notice it in their Cultural Scripts, metaphors and collocations. In other words, everything is connected in the beautiful system of language, culture and mind.

Another example related to the metaphor of time as money is the phrase to pay attention. English people “pay” attention instead of “giving” attention. “To pay attention” is a collocation and a metaphor at the same time. “Attention” goes together with the verb to pay but if you examine why it happens, you’ll find a metaphor: “time is money.” For this reason, you need to look at language and culture as a whole.

The next dialogue will stress again the point that if you want to speak English like a native speaker, you need to talk about both time and energy as if they were money. In order to succeed with that, it’s essential to understand the mentality behind these expressions.

Dialogue #2:

A: I invested a lot of time and energy into learning this new skill. Now that the company is bankrupt, all my efforts seem to be a wasted.

B: Maybe you could transfer the skills and apply them in a different company.

In English, you can invest not just your money but also your time and energy into something. Often, even simple decisions, like attending a one-hour training are considered “investments” of your time that need to produce a “return” as if life were a kind of stock exchange where you invest your time into different activities and in order to gain a “return” from them.

For example, exercising is an “investment”, and the “return” is better productivity.

Anglo-Saxon culture tends to embrace the investment and return mentality and apply it to everyday activities. This way of thinking also comes from the metaphor, life is an investment.

Go through the next dialogue to note two more metaphorical expressions.

Dialogue #3:

A: Jack is a huge asset to our company.

B: Yes but also consider the emotional costs of managing his constant outbursts.

To put it simply, “asset” means “a useful or valuable thing.” This is one of those words that comes from accounting and is used so much in daily life. The origin of the word is that every company has assets and liabilities which represent “+” or “–“ items in their bookkeeping. Owning a building is an asset, while having a debt is a liability. The tricky thing, however, is that “asset” is quite often used figuratively or metaphorically.

If you learn to use words like “asset,” you can speak educated and intelligent English. I’ve met and worked with brilliant professionals from all walks of life who shared one problem: a lack of brilliant, professional English.

Maybe you’re really, really (I mean really) good at your job, but if you can’t express yourself in English professionally, it’ll be much more difficult for you to communicate in an intelligent and educated way and sell your skills.

Now we’re going to look at another important word using the metaphor of life as an investment. There’re several ways of using the term “asset,” two of which are discussed below:

1. A person can be an asset to a company. Let’s say that you have an employee called David and he works a lot for the company. You can say that he’s the most valuable asset of the company.

English has many metaphors from accounting and investing. They often apply these metaphors to people and many other aspects of life (even love). English and American culture is very “investment-minded” and you can see it often in the language, too.

You will never speak truly fluent English, if you don’t learn to use the tons of metaphors related to investment and accounting. And to use those expressions like a native speaker, you need to understand English and American mentality and way of thinking.

For now, just remember that if you want to compliment the contributions of a colleague, you can say:

David is a great asset to our company.

2. This word is also used to talk about your own strengths. Everybody has skills, strengths, abilities, knowledge and many other so-called “assets.”

You can say, for example:

One of my biggest assets is my business building skills.

Assets can also include financial or material things like your house, your car or your bank account.

To sum it up, “assets” are the “+” items in the bookkeeping of a company, but metaphorically speaking, they can also be people, skills or objects.

The second metaphorical word we’re going to examine is “cost.” At its simplest, “cost” refers to the money you spend. Look a bit more deeply, however, and you’ll discover new layers of meaning. In the example dialogue, managing Jack comes with emotional costs. It means people around him need to “spend” energy and time and suffer emotionally because of Jack’s behavior. Even though there’s no money involved, Jack is considered a “cost” to the company due to emotionally burdening others and sucking out their energy.

Similarly, “costs” can be political, environmental, personal, human or social. Financial costs are just one among the many possible costs.

As you can see, language is interwoven with metaphors. Speaking fluent English relies heavily on metaphors. Theoretically, metaphors are well-known among linguists but not yet deeply taught to students of English.

Culture Hack #9: Metaphors reflect the imagination and values of another culture. They appear in almost every conversation and they shape our way of thinking almost imperceptibly. Mastering English is incomplete without understanding metaphors that reveal the depths of Anglo-Saxon culture.

Summary – What To Do Next

At the end of the book, I’d like to say thank you for taking the time to read about Culture Hacking. I hope you enjoyed discovering a new philosophy of language teaching and learning.

There’re two more important things I want to tell you.

Firstly, I could write hundreds more pages and I’m planning to significantly expand this book. I’m full of more ideas, examples and techniques. Before writing more, however, I want to ask you for you feedback.

If you’re in any way interested to read more about Culture Hacking, please leave a review. Reviews will let me know that you want to read more about the topic so I’ll keep expanding the book. It’s enough if you just write a few sentences (or even one sentence) and tell the world what you liked about the book.

Secondly, I want to offer a Bonus Culture Hacking Gift Pack to you. The package includes the following:

- a free email test to see how good your English really is

- many articles, tips and techniques, delivered to your inbox every week free of charge
- a PDF edition of the book (in case your ereader doesn’t handle screenshots well)

You can sign up to receive your gift pack on the link below:


To summarize, review the Culture Hacks listed below and put them into practice.

Culture Hack #1: You can only master a language by understanding the culture and mentality behind it. Otherwise, you’re set up for sweating and struggling.

Culture Hack #2: Languages are not translations of each other because every language reflects a unique worldview. The Words + Grammar method is only good to reach an intermediate level but it will NEVER get you to an advanced level. Understand the mentality and the culture behind English and that’s how you’ll be able to speak English fluently and automatically.

Culture Hack #3: You need linguistics to truly master a language. Linguistics gives you the tools to understand the culture behind the language. A good language guide is an expert in linguistics so he can show you around the wonderful world of languages and cultures.

Culture Hack #4: Observe how words go together. Notice the collocations and chunks in every English sentence. Imagine them (example: a mind “wanders”). Compare them with those of your own language. You’ll notice they’re your best friends on the way to English fluency.

Culture Hack #5: Aim to learn words and phrases deeply. Collect as much information as you can. See how they are used in actual, real-life conversations. Write down example dialogues. Learn whole sentences instead of individual words.

Culture Hack #6: Use every new word and phrase at least five times in a conversation or in writing. Make sure to understand well the usage of the word before practicing it.

Culture Hack #7: Use handwriting to remember every English phrase. Don’t be afraid to copy out English sentences in your own handwriting. It works like magic. Always make sure to write down entire or half-sentences, not individual words.

Culture Hack #8: Mastering a language is much more than just knowing the words and grammar. It’s a journey into another culture’s way of speaking and behaving in everyday situations. When mastering English, you also need to understand the power of Cultural Scripts and use them in conversations.

Culture Hack #9: Metaphors reflect the imagination and values of another culture. They appear in almost every conversation and they shape our way of thinking almost imperceptibly. Mastering English is incomplete without understanding metaphors that reveal the depths of Anglo-Saxon culture.

Culture Hacking: How to Speak Fluent English and Succeed Anywhere in the World

How much time did you spend learning English in your life? Considering all the time you spent, how comfortable are you with your English now? The truth is that most students of English spend several years trying to master English. Yet, they can’t speak the language fluently and confidently, missing high-paying jobs and the best opportunities in their life. They feel shy and confused and can’t find the right words in an English conversation. Forget about struggling with your English. Balazs Csigi, a polyglot speaking 7 languages will show you the secrets of mastering English. He was featured on national TV shows as a guest expert and his articles were published in some of the biggest online magazines and language learning blogs. Among others, you can learn about the following in his new book: • The Powerful Connection Between Language and Culture and Why No-one Talks about it • Why You Will Never Master English with the “Words+Grammar” Method • What the Greatest Polyglots of History Know about Learning a Language Fast • How To Remember Every English Phrase Without Boring Memorization • Bestseller Writer, Dale Carnegie’s Little-Known Technique to Build English Words Into Your Active Vocabulary • What’s a “Cultural Script” and Why You Need Them for Fluent English • How to Use Metaphors to Make Your English Interesting and Persuasive And much, much more … Download the ebook to get the best English learning strategies that work here and now, in the 21st century. If you download the book, I also have a Bonus Culture Hacking Gift Pack for you: - a free email test to see how good your English really is - many articles, tips and techniques, delivered to your inbox every week free of charge - a PDF edition of the book (in case your ereader doesn’t handle screenshots well)

  • ISBN: 9781370907595
  • Author: Balazs Csigi
  • Published: 2016-09-01 19:40:32
  • Words: 16318
Culture Hacking: How to Speak Fluent English and Succeed Anywhere in the World Culture Hacking: How to Speak Fluent English and Succeed Anywhere in the World