You passed a grammar exam that tested your knowledge of past perfect progressive and other tenses, real and unreal conditionals, passive forms, and various complex clause structures – with flying colors. You aced a vocabulary quiz that contained words like “velocity”, “voracious” and “volatility”. You know that ‘to hit the nail on the head’ means to be ‘exactly right’, and not simply a phrase that refers to something a carpenter does on a daily basis. You can read English at a fairly high level. You may even like English literature. Your friends and colleagues tell you that you have ‘excellent English’, and commonly ask you to help them phrase a sentence correctly, or inquire how a word should be properly spelled.
But, alas. You enter a steakhouse and want to order a steak. The waiter brings you meat that is ‘well-done’, instead of ‘rare’. That’s because you pronounce ‘rare’ with such a strong accent that even Mr. Higgins from My Fair Lady would have trouble deciphering what you have said. You try to complain, but even though you know all of the vocabulary and grammar, somehow it just doesn’t come out right. Tongue tied. Not because you are not trying, but because you have all of the other language skills except for the speaking skill! Tongue tied. Not because you don’t know what it is that you want to say, but because your mouth and tongue and lips simply don’t know what they should be doing. Tongue tied. Not because you don’t ‘know’ what is a correct sentence, but because you can’t produce it ‘on demand’, ‘in performance’, ‘in real time’ – because there is a real lack of practice with effective pronunciation feedback for you to actually learn the speaking skill.
Don’t you wish you could untie your tongue? And eat the steak you want?