Today’s lesson is important, because MANY students write to me and ask how they can become fluent – so here are my top 10 tips for speaking fluent English.
1) Understand that there is no “magic bullet.”
That means there is NO secret and super-effective way to guarantee fluency very fast.
Yes, there are different methods, and some are more effective than others. For example, a good English course should balance all the areas of language (speaking, listening, vocabulary, grammar, reading, writing). If any of those elements are missing, then you will have difficulty becoming fluent.
Also, different methods will appeal to different people. I personally do very well with memorization; other people hate memorization. Some students can pick up English easily from informal conversations; other students prefer a more organized and structured method.
Still, becoming fluent in English – or any language – is a long-term process.
If anyone says they have “the secret” to instant fluency… don’t believe them!
2) Use English in your daily life as much as possible.
It’s more important to have frequent contact with English than to have hours and hours of study. Using English for 10 minutes a day, every day, is better than studying for 1 hour only once a week.
Even if you don’t live in an English-speaking country, there are still many ways to do this!
Here are just a few suggestions for making English part of your daily life:
- Listen to English as you drive to work.
- Read the news online in English instead of in your native language.
- Practice thinking in English while you are doing housework or exercise.
- Read articles, listen to podcasts, and watch videos in English about topics you enjoy (this is important! You will make much more progress if you are having fun during the process).
3) Balance the areas of language learning.
Many students make the error of focusing too much on one or two areas, and they end up being weak in the other areas. One tip is to dedicate one day per week to studying and practicing each area.
4) Get a regular speaking partner through a “conversation exchange” website.
You can’t just study English… you need to USE your English!
If you have nobody to speak with in daily life, you can find a speaking partner online through a “conversation exchange” website. On these websites, you can meet native English speakers who want to learn your native language – this way, you can both help each other learn and practice.
Here are some conversation exchange websites:
- LiveMocha’s conversation exchange
Try to speak with your partner at least once a week. This is so important for practicing as well as building your confidence!
5) Read, watch and listen to English in many different contexts.
If you only watch news programs in English, then you will be able to understand a more “formal” style of English, but not a typical conversation between two native speakers, which is often filled with idioms and slang.
On the other hand, if you only watch movies and listen to songs in English, then you might not be able to understand (or write) a more academic article. And if you only use English for work, then it will be hard to talk about other topics because you won’t have the vocabulary.
So make sure to diversify your English input:
- fiction and non-fiction
- formal and informal
- lectures and conversations
- serious subjects and comedy
6) Learn to think in English.
This is one of the biggest keys to English fluency – but how can you learn it?
There’s a step-by-step process you can follow:
- First, beginning to think with individual English words
- Then progressing to thinking in English sentences
- Finally imagining entire conversations and stories in your head in English
(Read this lesson for a more detailed explanation with examples).
This is one of the best ways to practice English, because if you make a “mistake,” nobody knows about it!
Also, you can practice thinking in English anytime, anywhere. No need for a textbook or classroom. The earlier you begin the habit of thinking in English, the easier it will be to speak fast.
7) Say things with different words – be creative!
Two big obstacles to English fluency are lack of vocabulary and pauses / hesitations. This usually happens because you have an idea, but you can’t express it in English. It can be really frustrating. However, if you don’t know a particular word, try to think of alternative ways to express your idea.
Here’s an example: in a conversation about cooking, my student didn’t know the word “onion,” so instead he said, “the white vegetable that when you cut it you cry” – it was a perfect description, and I understood exactly what he wanted to say!
This is also important for English sentences. Sometimes you want to say something a certain way because you are translating directly from your native language, but you don’t know how to construct the phrase in English.
Of course, learning to think directly in English will help you avoid this problem – but also try to be open-minded and flexible in thinking of different ways to say the same message.
Native English speakers also have many ways to say the same thing – just look at this list of different ways to say “hello” and “goodbye” in English.
8) Practice talking to yourself.
This is REALLY an excellent way to develop your fluency and build your confidence. There is no pressure to be perfect, and nobody else will hear your mistakes.
For speaking ideas, go to this website and choose a topic. Imagine somebody is asking you the question. Then practice answering it by talking to yourself out loud.
Yes… it feels a little bit silly. But you can do it alone where no one will hear you, and it’s a great step to putting your English into practice.
9) Don’t think too much about grammar, and don’t worry about mistakes.
One of the biggest “mental blocks” for English learners is being nervous or afraid to make a mistake – or embarrassed if they don’t speak perfectly. But remember: Communication is MUCH more important than perfection!
Here’s an example:
- Imagine someone says, “Yesterday I go to party in beach.”
- This sentence is incorrect; it should be:
“Yesterday I went to a party on the beach.”
However, even with the errors, it still communicates the message SUCCESSFULLY!
Of course with time you will want to correct your mistakes – but for everyday speaking in general, RELAX and remember that mistakes are not fatal; the important thing is to communicate.
10) Don’t give up… never stop learning!
I’ve had a lot of students who study for a few years, then stop… then start again, then stop for a long time, then re-start… maybe you have done this, too.
The problem is that you often lose the progress you made before, and then becoming fluent takes much, much longer.
But the good news is that you don’t need to be a genius to become fluent in English – you just need to have dedication and practice consistently.
If you do this, you WILL reach your goal of English fluency.
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