Improving Speaking Fluency

So, here you are. You’ve finished your study abroad program, maybe you haven’t gone yet, or perhaps there could be no near possibility of even traveling to the land with your target language. Does this mean you can’t practice speaking fluency? Absolutely not! I think it’s obvious that one of the best ways to learn a language is to submerge (completely surround) yourself with your target language. Clearly, the best way to do this is go to that country, and study, study! However, that isn’t realistic for most people, and that doesn’t mean someone can’t become a better language speaker in their home country. My suggestion for you all today, are tips to practicing more English speaking, and increasing English fluency. English not your target language? That’s okay, modify this information as best you can to your desired language, and the information is basically the same!

1. Completely surround yourself with English, as best you can.  Forget the idea that you can learn a language from 1-2 hours of reading a book, some nights a week. Is it possible? Yes. Is it realistic? NO. Getting yourself used to the language is a must for fluency. How can you surround yourself? Easy, here are some ways:

  • Turn on the news in English, there are plenty of online resources. (BBC, CNN, ABC)
  • Read English newspapers or magazines. Again, online has so many options.
  • Play English speaking music in the background of your home or in your car. Some of my favorites: The Beatles, Band of Horses, The Lumineers, Haim. Some great connections to music are: Spotify, Pandora (in the U.S.), & some countries have access to Last.fm
  • Read English lyrics while listening to your favorite songs. If you’re not sure of English music, check out The Billboard Hot 100 list
  • Translate your favorite native language songs into English!
  • English podcasts (RadioLab,  This&[email protected])
  • Expand your TV and movie choices to more that include English (USE SUBTITLES!). Think: Netflix
  • Watch fun YouTube videos, or from another video source. (Vsauce is a very interesting channel)
  • Go on English blogs (hey, you’re doing something now!) It’s as simple as Googling : ________ (interest) blog. For example: rock music blog.
  • Explore the English (or foreign language) section at your local library.
  • Join English clubs or groups, whether locally or virtually to practice both speaking and writing. Check out local newspapers or magazines, or online: MeetUp, EnglishClub Chats, or iTalki
  • Use social media to connect with English speakers across the world. You can find me by clicking the following links, and connect with some of my other followers, too! (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest) Don’t forget to status update, tweet, and comment in English!
  • Do hobbies you like in English. Cook using an English recipe, write  (stories, poetry, etc) in English, craft or build something with English instructions.
  • Going to the store? Got things to do?  Practice writing all your lists in English!
  • English audio while you sleep!

2. Stop thinking that only speaking will improve your speaking fluency. Being able to speak does not happen overnight, and it definitely doesn’t happen without knowing grammar and vocabulary. Reading is an excellent way to learn new vocabulary, see proper word order, and understand  how sentences are constructed. Reading will introduce you to new grammar and show you how to use it. How would you expect to tell a story in the past without understanding the various past tenses? How could you express your hopes for the future without knowing the different future tenses? Writing is a way for you to give more attention to making your own correct sentences, and using correct English grammar. Studying all skills in English is extremely important for speaking fluency.

3. Don’t be shy and start making connections! Don’t be shy to use your language when you can. In your home country, try asking the worker you are speaking in public with if they speak English. Most likely, they will be just as excited as you are to practice! Don’t be shy to follow English speakers on the various social media sites you have, and don’t just follow them, post comments. I’ll be thrilled to talk with anyone who wants some practice on my various social media sites (listed above). That also means to not just read my suggestion above about joining a club, it means doing it! 🙂

4. Practice listening to different accents.  Try not to just watch/listen to British English, or only American English. Being familiar with a variety of accents and especially, vocabulary and collocations will help you expand your language and understanding. Netflix has a variety of TV shows and movies from all over the world, and you could use the links above that connect to a British, American, and Australian news site to expose yourself to these accents.

5. Self-practice. Yes, talking by yourself. If you’re not comfortable speaking out loud when you’re alone, how do you expect to be ready in a group of people? Thinking out loud in English or singing is a way to do this. You can also try saying out loud what you’re doing, as you’re doing it. If you find it difficult to explain, then you will have an idea of some vocabulary or language to look up. For example: As you’re cooking breakfast, do you know the related vocabulary for the food, tools, and utensils? Can you use different verbs to explain your actions? This would be especially useful at work if you want to utilize English most while at work.

6. Reading written texts out loud. Similar to number 5 and speaking to yourself, reading texts out loud is another way to “train” yourself how to talk. This is especially useful if you read real English texts, articles, stories, etc.. Reading accurate and well-written texts out loud will help you make the connections of what your English sentences should sound like, and you’ll probably build some vocabulary too!

7. Recording native speakers, and practice recording yourself too! If you are not very sure how the text should sound when you read (# 6 above), a great way to practice sounding like a native is to listen to one, and try to mimic. After all, this is more or less how children learn to speak. Use a recording device to record a TV show, movie, interview, etc, and listen to the words, accents, pronunciation, and intonation a few times. After listening, record yourself trying to use the same style of speaking. When you listen to your own recording, and compare it to the native, what is different? There will of course be differences that are expected between a native speaker and learner; however, is your intonation and ‘flow’ similar, how is the speed of your speaking, and are you articulating (saying clearly) the same letters and sounds?

8. Don’t forget pronunciation practice! Every language has their unique sets of sounds, so learning a new language isn’t always so easy. Okay, it’s hardly ever, easy! Identify the sounds you have difficulties with and practice these with tongue twisters, minimal pair lists, or various online sites dedicated to these (easy to find in Google). Minimal pairs are words that are different by one single sound, and these sounds often confuse English learners. Some common errors that I’ve come across the most: “r/l”(rice/lice)   “t/th” (tree/three)   “p/b” (pay/bay)  “th/f” (three/free)  “b/v” (best/vest)  “f/v” (ferry/very) … and the best way to practice is repetition of these two sounds, making sure you hear and understand the difference.

9. Try and teach someone English. Trying to teach someone else the language will get you talking as well. Even if it’s basic words, sentences, or phrases, the more you teach someone…the more opportunities you’ll have to practice with them 🙂

…and finally, very important…

10. Stop translating all the time! As a language learner too, I understand the difficulty in this. However, the negatives/cons/drawbacks/disadvantages of translating are so much bigger than the positives. Is it necessary sometimes? Yes. I even recommended translating your favorite songs as a practice tip. But when you learn to “need” and “rely on” the translator, then you are creating a serious problem for your fluency, blocking your ability to become fluent, and making it almost impossible. It is important to understand: what is fluency? The ability to speak clearly, easily, and smoothly. If you are consistently translating in your head, then your speech will be slowed, as well as your response time (because you will need to think and translate before responding). Another issue with this is that when you use the translator, you’re not practicing the skills needed to explain yourself in English, not practicing various ways to describe words, and simply, not practicing English. Many other languages use different word orders and structures, and words in different ways. Even British and American English use different words for the same object, so translating may not always find you the best words.

 

Through all of this English practice, please remember to never be afraid or nervous to make a mistake. Mistakes are important for learning, and everyone makes them (even native speakers!). I am incredibly excited to hear how these practice tips go, and look forward to hearing about your experiences in the comment section. If you have another useful website, tip, a favorite book or movie, or anything related to English practice, again please share it in the comment section! Your comments will be visible to everyone and could help another English lover. I would also love to share these suggestions with anyone else interested, so remember, sharing is caring! Share the post with loved ones.  Happy learning, studying, and speaking! <3

 

 

 

10 Comments

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  3. Free Friday: #FBF | English Outside The Box on September 26, 2014 at 4:33 pm

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  4. […] related posts:        * Music Idioms       * Learning for your Style      * Improving Speaking Fluency  […]

  5. Kath on April 15, 2014 at 2:16 am

    Reblogged this on Katherine's study log.

  6. Kosala on April 14, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    I’m Kosala from English Club and this is a great article Jennifer, I’ve learned new things and I appreciate your efforts. I’d like to share one of my experiences with you. Recently I had a discussion with a Chinese friend and She sang a part of a Chinese song, I asked her to tell me the meaning in English, but she couldn’t and then I’ve sung a part of a Sinhala song, and then She’s asked the meaning, I tried to translate it in that moment, but I couldn’t translate it into English without reducing the quality of the Sinhala song, I could’ve translated it like a story but it doesn’t give the exact meaning. This particular song was written by me, but still I found it very hard to give the exact meaning with pleasant words and sentences, So I told her, I’ll send you the meaning after our discussion and after the discussion, I’ve thought a lot, how to deliver the same meaning and beauty of my song, after some time I able to translate it. But still Sinhala meaning is way better than English translation. This is what I’ve translated for my Chinese friend on that day.

    “warm love with each verse keeps me laughing within my heart..
    you’re the most enticing colorful drawing of all my thoughts…
    which only can see through my eyes forever..

    it’s made out of an enchanting sound of a song and
    winsome beauty of a flower…
    I’m singing this love song with one hope in mind and one hope
    in mind only, Oh.. my dearest one in my dreams.. I’m impatiently
    waiting to meet you in real.”

    • Jennifer on April 14, 2014 at 10:30 pm

      Kosala, these words are absolutely beautiful, and this is in English, so I can only imagine the power in Sinhala! Thank you so much for sharing with me, and everyone! Although the meaning isn’t the same, nor as beautiful as your native language~ this translation will still provide so much for anyone reading, and has definitely helped you. 🙂 I am happy I could enlighten you! Look forward to hearing more from you, too. Goodnight

  7. thehipalley on April 14, 2014 at 8:51 am

    There isn’t a method on your list which I haven’t tried before while learning English. I agree that surrounding yourself with the language to the point when you just begin to think in that language is the best possible method of learning 🙂

    • Jennifer on April 14, 2014 at 10:27 pm

      Hi Thehipalley! What’s your first language? Glad my readers can see these methods are proof of working! 😉

      • thehipalley on April 15, 2014 at 1:54 am

        Hi Jennifer, my first language is Polish, but I’m currently in the process of learning Dutch, so I think I will apply some of your tips to that. I would also like to master a scandinavian language in the future – they are such an amazing mixture of english pronounciation and german/ dutch grammar (besides Finnish of course) 😀

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