From memorization to improvisation

I have heard learners say:

  • “I’d like to speak in English with the same freedom that I have in my own language.”
  • “I’d like to be able to improvise, and just say whatever I want anytime.”
  • “I want to speak without having to stop to look for alternative ways to say something because I don’t remember some vocabulary or whatever.”

In other words, people want to speak English in a spontaneous way, just like they do in their native language.

But what does “spontaneous” really mean in language learning? And in music? The two share common features.

Jazz is all about improvisation, right?

Well, that is what it looks like from the audience’s seat.

If you happen to be a jazz player, you know how that works. Before improvisation comes a ton of memorization. Scales, structure, chord progressions etc.

Just like any human language, Jazz music also has its own “grammar and lexis”. Learning it will enable players to become spontaneous later, using those previously memorized elements, combining them into new improvised variations “freely”.

When we are spontaneous in speaking a language, it means we have the freedom that allows us to talk about a wide range of topics, jumping from one idea to another, moving between tenses like the past, the future and the present, and usually respond instantly to other people’s questions or comments.

We can usually do this in our first language easily, but it is much harder to get to this level in a foreign language.

1-Minute Tip ⏳

In our first language (native language), even though we think we speak in a spontaneous way and we improvise, in reality we speak using a lot of “ready-made” expressions that we have been using over time, for many years. We have memorised them.

Memorize to improvise.

These expressions and patterns (patches) allow us to speak more fluently because we can quickly apply them to whatever topic area we need to talk about.

Just like when jazz musicians improvise, using a great number of previously learnt and memorised musical elements.

Do you want more spontaneous fluency when speaking English? Consider making memorisation part of your study routine if you are not doing it yet.

How to memorise in fun ways?

Well, that is a topic for another article.

This content is authentic and it is not AI generated.

I write these weekly tips for you because I enjoy sharing techniques that I have seen work for my students through my 20+ years of teaching experience.


👋 Hi, I’m Gábor

I specialize in helping Spanish speakers develop confident speaking clarity in English for professional and business success.

Do you need help? You can contact me on LinkedIn through a DM, or by email at

I’ll be happy to discuss with you what you personally need to work on for your business goals in English.

Talk to you next time 🙂

Connect | Gábor Légrádi | MA, RSA/CTEFLA

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