Written and spoken English. The geek learner problem.

The following problem is common not just among people working with computers, but also among those of you who can read and write but find it difficult to hold a normal conversation.

This is mainly because they have spent long hours reading and studying textbooks, manuals, online articles and replying to emails at work, but spent very little time talking with native speakers, traveling, making friends, watching films, or having any real life experience in the language.

Getting these bad habits leads to bad habits like not using some very common verb tenses.

Common tenses in written English

Those textbooks, manuals, online articles I mentioned above are mainly written in Present Simple and Past Simple. Present Simple is used here to tell us about things that don't change over time, such as habits, descriptions, science, law or languages. Past Simple is used for events that happened in the past and have finished, such as the history of sciences, discoveries, products or industries.

But written English hardly ever contains verb tenses that explain what's happening here and now, right before of right after, as we do in conversations.

Common tenses in spoken English

Stop using so many don'ts, didn'ts and do-you's and start using the right tenses instead.

Announcements, breaking news: Present Perfect.
Not "I passed the test" but "I've passed the test" (news, not saying exactly when).
Not "We talked with the client" but "We've talked with the client" (news, not saying exactly when).
Not "They released a new version" but "They've released a new version" (news, not saying exactly when).

Right here, right now: Present Continuous.
Not "I wait at the entrance " but "I'm waiting at the entrance" (on the phone, now).
Not "Who plays " but "Who's playing?" (a football match, now, on the telly).
Not "Do you have fun" but "Are you having fun?" (here at a party or on a trip).

Decisions for the future: Will.
Not "I'm busy. I call you later" but "I'm busy. I'll call you later" (it wasn't planned, you're deciding at he moment).
Not "I leave work when I finish the report" bit "I'll leave work when I finish the report".
Not "We make a decision tomorrow" but "We'll make a decision tomorrow".

Plans in the future: Present Continuous or Going To.
Not "I have dinner at Tony's" but "I'm going to have dinner at Tony's" (this evening).
Not "I leave in five minutes" but "I'm leaving in five minutes" (planned).
Not "Do you come to the meeting?" but "Are you coming to the meeting?" (you already knew about the meeting).

Imagine you are in a meeting, reporting what you've done/you're doing/you'll do.

We've found a provider that offers an interesting deal (news).
We're comparing it with our current provider (now, these days).
They're going to call in a week or so (planned).
OK, I'll  send you a report with all the details (decision).

Can you think of an example like this? Please post it in a comment, and get a lesson on Skype for free!

Related post: main English verb tenses.