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In English, the word "bottleneck" describes something that slows down a process.

Think about the shape of a wine bottle. The bottom part is wider, but in order for the wine to pour out, it has to pass through the narrow "neck" of the bottle. This limits how quickly you can pour it.

We use the term "bottleneck" to talk about things like business processes. Whenever one specific part of a system is slowing down the entire system, it's a bottleneck.

Where are your bottlenecks?

It can be really useful to consider where the bottlenecks in your English learning are.

For example, imagine someone who never learns the English alphabet. Even if this person lives in an English-speaking country, surrounded by English signs, books, magazines, and so on, they will never learn to read. All of those...

What's funny to you in English?


When I was in college, I studied the plays of William Shakespeare. Shakespeare is probably the greatest writer in the English language, but he wrote several hundred years ago. So some of his plays can be hard to understand for modern English speakers.

The comedies were especially hard to understand. I remember the professor explaining some of the jokes in class. Eventually I understood Shakespeare's jokes. But even after understanding them, I still didn't laugh much. Shakespeare's jokes just aren't funny any more.

It can be the same thing across languages and cultures. Some of the things that are really funny to people in one country can seem boring, dumb, or odd to people in another country. If I say something using a funny choice of words, some native speakers might laugh. But if...

What's next for PhraseMix?

What should I do next?

I recently finished the project that I've been working on for a long time, the updated Phrase Mixer. Now I have some time to sit back and think about what's next. What else can I add to PhraseMix to make it more useful and effective?

I thought it would be good to ask you, the readers and subscribers. Here are a few of my ideas. Tell me if any of these seem good.

Idea #1: New PhraseMix Premium levels

A lot of websites offer different subscription levels. The lowest level is the cheapest but doesn't include as many features. Higher levels cost more but offer more.

Recently, one PhraseMix reader suggested adding a cheaper level for PhraseMix Premium. With this level, you would get to listen to just the recent lessons, not all of the 1,600+ lessons that I've already published.

This would...

The Phrase Mixer is awesome.

The Phrase Mixer

I hope you don't mind me bragging.

I've recently updated the Phrase Mixer, the tool that lets PhraseMix Premium subscribers review PhraseMix English lessons. If you've never used it, try out the limited Phrase Mixer sample version for free.

The Phrase Mixer is something I thought of many years ago when I started building PhraseMix: a simple tool that plays short audio lessons and keeps track of what you've studied so that you can review it later. I've finally created that tool, and I'm happy to share it with you.

How does it work?

Each PhraseMix lesson has an audio recording. When you visit a lesson page and listen to it, that lesson gets automatically added to your "review list". The review list tells the Phrase Mixer which lessons to play for you.

The Phrase Mixer also tries to...

Don't just learn. Overlearn.

If you're just reading each PhraseMix lesson, you're doing it wrong.

A story

I used to teach at an English conversation school in Japan. The students were mostly Japanese housewives and businessmen who came in two or three times a week.

There was one student who had been coming to the school for years: Mr. Haneda. He was an older man, very quiet and friendly. Most of the teachers like him, but we also dreaded having him in our class. That's because it took so long for Mr. Haneda to finish his sentences. He would start a sentence and then search for the words to finish his thoughts.

The funny thing about Mr. Haneda is that he had a huge vocabulary. Whenever I tried to introduce a new word to him, he already knew it. He could talk about a wide variety of topics, but just... very......

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