When trying to learn how to speak and understand fluent English, repetition, exposure to the language and practice is imperative. Everyone has a different learning style, so each person will have more or less success than average with any of the following tips and tricks to learning English:
- Make a friend that speaks English as their native language. This friendship may be formed in person, over the phone or text or even online. There are numerous chat forums, blogs and social media outlets that can help assist in meeting new people. Take advantage of readily available resources, and don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with a stranger.
- Choose a dialect to learn and stick with it. There are many different dialects of English, including but not limited to: Australian, British, American, Scottish, Irish, etc. Each of these dialects has its own sub-language, called slang, which is used in everyday situations. Learning more than one dialect at once is inadvisable, as it can lead to confusion and hampered communications. Take an English course that is focuses on one dialect, such as American English classes.
- Compile a list of conversation topics. Study vocabulary word lists that are related to these topics. Practice these words at home in front of a mirror. Bring up the topic during regular conversation with new English speaking friends. Religion, politics and other controversial topics should be avoided until fluency is accomplished, or the meaning of certain statements may be misunderstood or lost in translation.
- Watch American movies. Though Hollywood sensationalizes all television and movies, the plotlines are often very entertaining. Watch movies that closely match personal preferences. If possible, watch the movie without subtitles first. Write down all information gleaned from the film. Re-watch the movie with subtitles, or a translated version that is easy to understand. Compare notes and gauge any changes in English comprehension. We recommend that you take specific note of the time frame of when the movie is supposed to take place. As time changes, so does linguistics.
- Learn English language jokes. Who does not like to laugh? Jokes are interesting, and can keeps topic light and fun. When those who are practicing conversational English have fun, it is motivational and easier to learn.
- Read books that are written in both the native and English languages. Intermediate learners should be able to read and understand about 60 percent of what they read, and the more one reads, the better they become at speed, comprehension and accomplishing goals. Books are a great way to boost speaking skills and transition from intermediacy into fluency.
- Begin by speaking in short sentences. Hone the accent, or take a special class to help develop a more authentic accent.
Sample Conversation Topics
Food – Most English speakers, especially Americans, love food. It is a very common conversation topic. Because America is a melting pot of different cultures, religions, races, nationalities and backgrounds, an amalgam of different recipes have been brought into the country. Nearly every type of food from every nation can be found and eaten in America. In fact, most local colleges offer cooking classes where new friends can be made. Striking up a conversation about food is easy.
Try a few of these lines:
- “What is your favorite food?”
- “Where is the best place to find food from ________(insert nation here)_________?”
- “What is American comfort food?”
- “What are the most famous restaurant chains in America?”
- “What is the word for this food?”
- “Have you ever eaten any foods from my country?”
Teach each other about different foods from respective countries. Different or alternative cooking methods are usually appreciated by home cooks. Sometimes simple conversations about food turn into an ethnic lunch and the formation of long-lasting friendships.
Winning the lottery – There are plenty of people in English speaking countries that love to play the lottery and dream about how the money should be spent.
- “What would you do if you won the lottery?”
- “Would you invest any of it?”
- “Would you save some of it?”
- “Would you donate any of your money?”
Travel experiences – Travel is something most people want to do. Nearly everyone dreams of faraway lands and imagines the landscape, cities, language and culture. Ask others what their top five travel destinations are and why. Often times, these conversations can be quite enjoyable.
Discuss stereotypes – Every nation has some sort of stereotypical label thrust upon them. An open and honest conversation about how the rest of the world views their nation is a great way to open up lines of communication, interest others and hold their attention and get great conversational English practice.
Fashion – Fashions are different in every country. Many factors influence which styles are in or out at any given time. Exposure to other cultures, availability and variety of styles, price, environment, cultural influences, religion, seasons, occupation, age and more affect which fashions are worn by English speakers in their countries. Discuss how styles are different, explain traditional clothing items and show new friends photos of clothes that are popular at home.
Games – The world is full of different games from different countries. Teach new friends how to play games that are completely foreign to them. Instructing others in their own language is a challenge, but also a wonderful opportunity to learn new English phrases and slang. As an added bonus, playing games is fun and can even encourage new friends to commit to regular get-togethers.
Artistic masterpieces – Art has no language. It is unique in its ability to reach deep within the viewer and affect the soul. Discussing works of art can be a short and simple conversation, or it could develop into a comprehensive analysis. New vocabulary words are bound to be learned while conversing in English.
Books – Comic book heroes are very popular in the western world. It is very easy to strike up a conversation with a friend or acquaintance about favorite superheroes, such as Batman, Captain America, Iron Man or Thor. Discussing super villains can be just as interesting. Of course, any type of literature is fun to discuss in English. Many Americans are very interested in the humanities and arts, so it is not difficult to find someone who shares a common interest in reading.
Learning to speak English as an adult can be exceptionally difficult for several reasons. As adults, untrained ears must work very hard to pick up nuances in the intonation and inflection of spoken words. Americans have very expressive voices, and the language has a certain cadence to it, especially when spoken quickly and fluently on a light-hearted manner.
Forming new muscles and learning how to use the diaphragm, lungs, throat, tongue and lips different takes time, practice and patience. Native English speakers do appreciate the efforts and hard work expended in order to communicate with them. Most Americans will be happy to sit down with a cup of coffee and talk about their personal interests. They are very curious by nature, and like to learn new things about people from other countries and the nations they originated from.
Reach out to the native English speakers whenever possible. Not only are the conversations bound to be light-hearted and fun, foreign speakers can walk away from the English conversation with a good understanding of areas needing improvement. When conversations are successful, engaging and entertaining, it is easier to learn, fun to practice and very motivational. Join an English fluency class and reach out to the English speaking community to maintain motivation, gain a sense of accomplishment and open up a whole new world of possibilities.