How To Speak English Fluently: 12 Tips To Improve Fluency
Learning English as a second language can be challenging. A writer once humorously suggested that English isn’t a single language. Instead, it’s three languages stacked on top of each other in a trenchcoat.
English borrows many words and terms from other languages. While English is a Germanic language, it also includes words derived from Greek and Latin. It draws some inspiration from Celtic and Norweigian languages, too. This combination of vocabulary and speech pattern makes English pronunciation a little more tricky than other languages. Still, there’s no need for ESL speakers to feel self-conscious about their language skills. With practice, anyone can learn to speak English like a pro.
Last Updated June 2020
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Ready to improve your English? Take a look at the following tips to learn how to speak English fluently.
1. Accept imperfections
There’s no doubt about it: English is a strange language. Even native speakers can have trouble pronouncing certain words. Children in English-speaking nations have to work hard to learn the correct spelling. It also takes time to learn to conjugate verbs. English has a lot of irregular verbs, and speakers must memorize the rules for each one. That takes time to master. Spelling and conjugation mistakes are common, even among native speakers.
If your spoken English isn’t perfect, that’s okay. It’s normal for English speakers to struggle from time to time. Correct pronunciation can be a challenge for native speakers too. As you work on your English, don’t try to avoid every possible mistake. Instead, focus on clarity and meaning. A few pronunciation errors are unavoidable. Most native speakers can overlook these errors as long as they understand your core meaning.
Remember that you’ll learn to self-correct as you gain exposure to the English language. The more you practice speaking, the fewer errors you’ll make. Accept mistakes as part of the learning process.
2. Practice several times a day
Practice is the key to learning any language. Unfortunately, many ESL speakers put off practice. They prefer to study out of a book or listen to English television programs in private. Speech practice can seem scary. You might feel embarrassed or ashamed when you make mistakes.
Remember Tip #1 and learn to embrace your mistakes. Look for opportunities to practice your English. Try not to become frustrated if you make mistakes. Each time you practice English, you sharpen your skills.
Practicing with a native speaker is ideal. A native English speaker can introduce you to new speech patterns, slang, and regionalisms. These tips and tricks can help you learn to speak English fluently. Practice with your fellow ESL speakers when you can, but look for opportunities to practice with a native speaker too.
3. Ask questions
If you don’t understand a word or phrase, speak up! Ask your teacher or conversational partner for help. Learning new words takes time and plenty of exposure.
English has one of the largest vocabularies in the world, with over one million words. You can’t expect to learn them all overnight. Remember that native speakers also run into unfamiliar words or phrases. Don’t be afraid to ask your conversational partner to define a new word or explain a slang term. You can also ask your partner to slow down their speech or repeat a sentence.
Most people are happy to share their language with others. Imagine that an English speaker asked for your help learning your native language. You would probably be excited to share your knowledge. English speakers are often eager to help, too.
Remember that everyone wants to be understood. Your conversational partner doesn’t want to create confusion or miscommunications. They would rather repeat themselves than create a misunderstanding. Ask for help or clarification when you need it.
4. Use the internet
Learning a language was a lot harder before the internet. Decades ago, ESL speakers had limited resources for language study. Often, they were stuck learning out of textbooks or weekly courses. These programs didn’t offer many opportunities for practice. They also offered limited exposure to native speakers.
Today, you can use the internet to speed up the learning process. YouTube videos are great resources. In YouTube videos, you encounter many native English speakers from across the globe. Each YouTuber has their own accent and speech patterns. They might use different expressions or figurative language.
It might be difficult to understand these unfamiliar expressions at first. You may also have a little trouble understanding new accents. But watching videos on a regular basis can develop your English skills. You can pick up new accents, idioms, and slang terms. Online videos offer a window into different languages and cultures.
Remember that online videos often include closed captioning. If you have trouble understanding the speaker, try turning on the captions. You can also slow the pace of the video or replay certain sections. These tricks make it easier to keep track of the dialogue.
5. Take notes
As you practice English, keep a record of new words or unfamiliar expressions. Write down any questions you might have, like, “What is the plural of octopus?” At the end of each day, use a search engine to find the answers to these questions. Write the answers in a notebook or record them on your cell phone.
During quiet moments, like when you’re waiting for the bus, review your notes. Practice pronouncing new words or phrases. Solo practice can help reinforce new concepts.
Many ESL speakers also find it helpful to keep a journal. Record your daily activities in English or write out a to-do list for tomorrow. Remember: the more you practice, the better your English will get.
6. See yourself as an English speaker
Many ESL speakers define themselves as English students. But when you see yourself as a student, it can be hard to build confidence. You may hesitate to speak English outside of the classroom since you’re “just a beginner.” Try calling yourself an “English speaker” instead. Seeing yourself as an English speaker can help boost your confidence and build your courage.
7. Think in English
Most people think in their native language. So when you try to speak another language, you can run into difficulties. First, you have to translate your thoughts from your native language to English. This mental translation process can cause delays in your speech.
If you want to improve your English and speech rate, try to practice thinking in English. You may find it helpful to narrate your actions throughout the day. As you put on your shoes, think, “I am tying my shoelaces.” As you walk to the library, think, “I am going to do research for my engineering project.”
This type of self-talk lets you practice your English. You might be able to squeeze a lot of English practice into the day just by thinking to yourself.
8. Write reviews
You have opinions on books, movies, video games, and much more. Why not share these opinions with others? Write a book review and post it on Amazon. Discuss your thoughts about a popular television show on social media. If you’d rather not share your writing with strangers, record it in a journal instead. Ask an English-speaking friend to check your writing for errors.
Daily writing helps improve your English fluency. If you write on a computer, you can use spell checkers and text-to-speech software too. These tools let you edit your own writing. They help correct spelling, grammar, and pronunciation. Text-to-speech can be especially helpful if you’re unsure how to pronounce some words.
Get in the habit of checking your writing for mistakes. Each time you fix a misspelling or adjust your pronunciation, you improve your English. Most people tend to make the same mistakes many times, so don’t get discouraged. Sooner or later, you’ll memorize the correct spelling or pronunciation.
9. Try tongue twisters
English pronunciation can be tricky. Some ESL speakers have trouble keeping up with the speed of the average conversation. Tongue twisters can help if you practice for at least a few minutes each day. They train your lips and tongue to pronounce English words. Tongue twisters can also help you identify common errors or unfamiliar sounds.
Some English sounds might not exist in your native language. If you encounter a new sound, it takes a lot of practice to get it right. Set aside some time each day to practice new sounds. Look for tongue twisters that include these unfamiliar sounds.
For example, if you struggle with the “sh” sound, try the classic English tongue-twister, “She sells seashells by the seashore.” You might feel silly practicing these sentences, but they’re a popular practice trick even for native speakers.
10. Use body language
Body language and gestures can help you get your meaning across. Many native speakers use gestures to emphasize their meaning or clear up confusion. You can also use body language and gestures to pick up new words. If you can’t remember a word or phrase, try pointing or gesturing. The native speaker will likely respond with the right word.
For example, imagine that you need a pencil but you forgot the word for it. You might pretend to write on a piece of paper. Your conversational partner will probably say, “Do you need a pencil?”
Keep in mind that each culture has unique rules and customs when it comes to gestures. Gestures that are common in your native culture might be offensive in the English-speaking world. It’s a good idea to study common gestures in the US, Canada, England, or Australia. Make sure to avoid gestures that are insulting or obscene.
11. Focus on fluency
As an ESL speaker, your goal is fluency. Many people mistakenly believe that fluency means perfection. The truth is, it’s impossible to avoid every possible mistake. As we discussed in Tip #1, even native speakers make mistakes sometimes. Many English speakers misspell or mispronounce certain words.
Since English is a large language, you’ll always be discovering unfamiliar words. Native speakers have this experience, too. Try not to set a goal of mastering all one million words in the English language. Instead, focus on making yourself understood.
Fluent speakers are able to express their thoughts, feelings, plans, and goals. They can ask questions and understand the response. They speak quickly and write with confidence. Fluency focuses on meaning and coherence, not perfection.
Try to make sure your conversational partner can understand you. Work on understanding their response. If either of you makes mistakes, that’s okay. As long as these mistakes don’t interfere with communication, they aren’t a problem.
12. Don’t give up
Whatever you do, don’t give up on learning English. Picking up a new language always takes a lot of work. You can expect to struggle sometimes. You might feel discouraged or wonder if you’ll ever master English. Rest assured that fluency is possible. Each year, thousands of people master the English language. It only takes patience and conversational practice.
Remember that routine practice is essential. There’s a common phrase in English that expresses this concept: “If you don’t use it, you lose it!” If you don’t practice your English daily, you’ll soon forget everything you’ve learned. Try not to take long breaks from your English studies. Daily practice keeps your English skills fresh.
Practicing speaking even builds your self-confidence. With daily practice, you will notice improvements in your English ability. You might learn new words and conversational phrases. Your spelling will improve, and your pronunciation will become clearer. You’ll find it easier to understand native speakers. Celebrate these victories, and use them to motivate yourself.
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