How to speak English well: 50 tips to improve your fluency
Do you want to know how to speak English more fluently? Do you lack confidence with your spoken English? In this comprehensive guide to fluent English we provide 50 tips to help you improve your language skills and speak English better each day by adopting the right approaches and creating a suitable learning environment.
If you want to understand how to speak fluent English, you need to consider how fluency is gained by native speakers of the language in countries like the UK or USA. Brits and Americans grow up in an environment dominated by English and learn the language through constant contact and social interaction. They use English as a highly practical tool to form relationships with others, study, work and gain or exchange information for a variety of purposes. Life for them would not be possible without fluent English as this forms the basis of almost everything they do. This is certainly the same for your native language and country, but do YOU really NEED English? If the answer is “yes” and you have a strong desire to become fluent, then you need to make more time for English in your daily routine. In other words, you have to introduce some changes to your current lifestyle in order to speak more fluent English through regular contact with the language. Here are 5 tips to help you get started:
Set time aside for your English each day and make it a priority Any time you spend on your English should be seen as an investment in your future fluency. Many small steps will help you travel a long distance over time. Having a clear idea of exactly why you need English and what you will gain as a result of being fluent is important in order to see it as a priority in your busy life. The amount of time you choose to invest in your English is up to you, but this should be a regular commitment and it will directly affect the speed at which you gain fluency.
Actively introduce more English into your daily routine Make a conscious effort to inject more English into your typical day. Try the following: read one BBC news article on your iPad while you’re having breakfast each morning, listen to an English audiobook or radio station on your way to work, do a 10-word vocabulary test during your lunch break using a mobile app, write an email to a foreign colleague or friend, watch a 5-minute Youtube video from a learning English channel, study a little grammar from a textbook some evenings, attend a Skype English class a couple of times a week, organise an English film night at home once a month with a friend, etc.
Use your native language less If you spend 99% of your time speaking your mother tongue and only 1% is left for English, improving your fluency is always going to be an uphill struggle. Are there situations in which you could use English instead of your native language? This technique is called “replacement” and examples might include: changing the language on your mobile phone to English, watching TV in English 50% of the time or choosing to read a book in English instead of in your native language.
Stop thinking of English as just a “textbook subject” Try to view English more as a way of life and less as a school subject. Any contact with the language will help you to speak English more fluently over time so why limit yourself to just traditional classrooms and textbooks? Taking a broader perspective is likely to make the learning process far more interesting. Native English speakers have regular contact with the language in a wide range of contexts – so should you!
Find some study buddies! Involve those around you in your efforts to become more fluent in English; ask them to help you practise, to test your vocabulary or to correct your writing. Those who are close to you can play an important role in supporting and maintaining your new “English lifestyle”. However, also be aware that some could resent your time being spent on English so may try to prevent this positive change.
Don’t look for a quick fix – there isn’t one!
We are living in a world where advertising teaches us to believe everything can be gained quickly and easily with a minimum of effort. In reality, the best things in life are often gained by working consistently to achieve a goal over time. This is certainly the case when learning how to speak English fluently. If you go online, you’ll find lots of books and websites with catchphrases like: “how to learn English fast”, “speak great English in just 3 weeks” or “the easy way to learn English”. However, achieving fluent English is never easy or fast and learners who fail to acquire good English are usually those who a) look for a quick fix solution, or b) do not make enough of a personal investment in their studies in terms of time, effort and money. If you really want to know how to speak English fluently, avoid the gimmicks, take responsibility for your own progress and follow the practical advice in this guide.
Set realistic goals and allow adequate time for improvement Many learners set unrealistic targets for themselves, fail to follow their own study timetable and are then disappointed by the end result. Do not let yourself fall into this trap!
Start by setting a series of small and achievable goals in the short-term (e.g. next 3 months). Write down your current commitments and decide how much time you have each week to dedicate to your English. Then compare your list of study goals with your availability and create a realistic plan.
Remember that fluency in English is a “percentages game” Accept that you may never become a native English speaker, but that this is not the goal. Work towards improving your respective skills step-by-step over time. It is unlikely you will ever gain a 100% native English accent, but perhaps 90% would be enough. Keep your goals clear in your mind – e.g. with accent the main thing is to be understood by everyone and that means clear, standard pronunciation with minimal confusion between similar sounds. This principle also applies to your other English skills.
Visualise your progress to appreciate what you have achieved so far Motivation often comes from seeing the result of your efforts. Testing your skills from time to time can help you visualise your progress so you feel positive about your English. For example, try setting yourself a 20-word/phrase vocabulary test at the end of each week. A larger vocabulary makes understanding the language a lot easier and also helps you speak English more fluently.
Make English relevant and interesting to you
One of the biggest problems with traditional English classroom teaching, as you will have experienced at school or university, is that there tends to be a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Classes are taught in groups, confident students dominate while others receive little attention, and courses tend to be generic or textbook-based. This style of teaching has the potential to kill off any interest in the language and damage your motivation to study. If you want to know how to speak English fluently, the starting point should be YOU. Below are several tips to help you establish more of a personal connection with English and boost your motivation to acquire greater fluency:
Connect your existing hobbies and interests with English English is never boring if you study with material that is relevant and interesting to you. Take a piece of paper and write down a list of all the hobbies and interests that motivate and stimulate you in your daily life. Now think of ways to connect each of these with English. For example, if you love tennis and read about this sport in your native language each week, stop doing this and start reading in English. In many cases, you will find you have faster access to the latest news and information as you do not need to wait for translations to appear in your mother tongue.
Avoid using textbooks and materials that you find boring Motivation is vital when studying a language. Many learners fail to develop a love of English at school because they find the lessons and textbooks boring. Don’t make this mistake again! Try using a wide variety of different material and see what works best for you.
Make a list of interesting topics for discussion To gain more fluent English you need to speak the language regularly with other people. This could be with native or non-native friends, relatives, members of a local English conversation club, other students at a group class, a Skype English tutor, etc.
When you are engaged and interested, you gain fluency in English faster. Try making a list of topics you find intellectually and emotionally stimulating, then search on Google to find relevant articles, videos and other study materials for discussion and further study.
Join English internet forums that are related to your work or interests Even if you live outside a majority English speaking country, you can still gain fantastic access to native English “opportunities” via the internet. If you enjoy communicating with others online, you may wish to join internet forums where likeminded people correspond on subjects that are of interest to you. You can then learn from forum members by noting down commonly used expressions and constructions that you can use later when speaking about these topics. Another advantage of internet forums is that participants tend to use current jargon, phrases that are in common circulation and natural colloquial forms.
Build your other English skills to help with your spoken fluency
Fluent spoken English comes from having a broad vocabulary, good listening comprehension skills and a solid understanding of grammar. Therefore, it is a mistake to focus 100% on just speaking. Imagine you are building a house. You will need a range of different materials – bricks, timber, cement, slates for the roof, etc. This is also the case when you are “building fluency” in English. You need solid foundations on which to build, and these represent the other main skills in the language. Try the following tips to help you improve your “foundations for fluency”:
Always keep working to improve your vocabulary Having a large vocabulary gives you greater flexibility and power of expression in English. Therefore, it is important that you continually work to improve your vocabulary through a) conscious study, and b) passive exposure to the language. One of the biggest problems learners face when speaking English is that they lack the words to express what they wish to say or cannot construct sentences quickly enough to hold a fluent conversation. Working on your vocabulary can help with this immensely. However, you must be selective with the words and phrases you choose to learn if you want to remember them.
Only learn words and expressions that you are actually going to use regularly! Keep a personal dictionary or vocabulary notebook for new words and phrases. Set yourself mini tests each week on a selection of the most useful new terms you have found or perhaps use an app like Wordsteps to compile lists and test your vocabulary over time.
Remember that listening is half of the conversation If you want to know how to speak English fluently, then first learn how to be a good listener. Fluency is often gained by listening to and then copying the language used by others. English has a wide variety of accents and regional forms so it is vital you work on your listening comprehension skills if you wish to understand native speech. To do this, try the following: watch current English TV series, films with subtitles, Youtube channels, etc. If you enjoy music, pick some of your favourite tracks, print off the lyrics, translate the meaning into your language and perhaps even sing along! You could also try listening to audiobooks and transcribing them on paper, then compare the original printed version with your transcript to see where you went wrong. Note down any new words and phrases you find useful.
Be a bookworm! Reading more can help build your understanding of the language in terms of word order, grammatical constructions, idioms and other set phrases used by native speakers. If you read lots of articles about the same topic or books by the same author, you will find that words and phrases repeat themselves time after time. The more you read similar texts, the easier it will become to understand them as you familiarise yourself with the vocabulary used.
Avoid reading material that is too old or outdated. Stick to texts written in the last 30 years as these are more representative of the language used by native speakers today.
Analyse native English conversations and dialogues for more natural speech If you want to speak English more naturally, you need to examine how natives use the language in their everyday conversations. Try taking sample dialogues from textbooks or transcribing them from TV programmes (e.g. soap operas or sitcoms that reflect common usage). You’ll notice that native speakers have a tendency to use more phrasal verbs, contractions and simplified tense forms (especially in American English). This language is likely to differ from that found in traditional textbooks and will give you some valuable insights into how modern English is spoken today. You may wish to try role playing with a conversation partner to practise the common exchanges and situational English you are learning. You will find that many words and phrases are often repeated during everyday conversations in English so it is worth identifying these and knowing them well.
Avoid focusing too much on grammar (at the expense of speaking)
One of the most common problems among learners of English as a foreign language is that they have been taught in a traditional classroom environment by a non-native tutor who has focused more on grammar than speaking. This is entirely understandable because a) school programmes often emphasise structure over interaction, and b) non-native teachers may lack confidence in their own spoken fluency. However, the fact is that students cannot learn how to speak English fluently unless they are given regular opportunities to practise their speaking skills. This is a failing within our national education systems, but you can choose to make speaking a priority in your own studies and learn grammar more in context.
Grammar is not only learned through textbooks Most learners would agree that studying grammar is essential, but boring. However, this does not always have to be the case. You may be surprised to hear that English children are seldom taught grammar formally at UK primary and secondary schools and that they learn mostly through trial and error – by writing stories and other texts and having them corrected by their teacher. They also acquire an understanding of grammar through constant contact with the language and interaction with others. This proves that textbooks are not the only way to learn grammar. You can also acquire it by listening to native English on a regular basis and copying correct constructions and utterances. When working more on grammar through speaking, it is an advantage to have a native English teacher who can correct your mistakes.
Remember that natives often break the rules! If you want to know how to speak English fluently, you cannot afford to ignore the importance of non-standard forms, regional accents and dialects. According to the latest statistics, only around 2% of Brits speak RP (or The Queen’s English). This “posh” form of English is on the decline and is no longer seen by most as a desirable accent. Many BBC newsreaders now use Standard English, but with soft regional accent features – Welsh, Scottish, northern vs. southern English, etc. If you watch television or listen to music, you will hear a wide variety of accents (just pronunciation) and dialects (some different vocabulary and grammar too). While you may not wish to use these regional forms yourself, it is important that you make an effort to understand them because the majority of native speakers have at least some non-standard features.
Use modern English content produced by native speakers
In order to speak fluent English, you need a correct model to follow and this should be representative of the modern language as it is spoken today. Even if you live outside a majority English speaking country, the internet still provides fantastic access to learning opportunities: news websites, forums, social networks, Skype tutors, study websites, etc. There is no excuse for using outdated textbooks or focusing on material that does not reflect how natives speak the language today. However, there is still a place for literature and older work as long as you are able to distinguish between current versus outdated forms and make appropriate choices when speaking.
Choices, choices, choices… Most ESL learners struggle at times to select the correct words and phrases to match the context in which they are speaking. This is a difficult skill to acquire and mistakes often arise because the student is using outdated textbooks and other material that does not reflect modern usage. Another criticism often directed at non-natives is that they sound overly formal when speaking English. Again this is due to inappropriate word selection – e.g. non-natives might favour formal terms like “postpone” or “collect” where natives prefer phrasal verbs like “put off” or “pick up” in everyday conversation.
It is often best to avoid using textbooks or other resources written by non-native speakers because they are more likely to contain errors and old-fashioned language.
English is constantly evolving! To be a fluent English speaker, you must be prepared to adapt to the changing nature of the language and learn continuously. Native speakers never stop learning English as the language is constantly evolving under a variety of influences – mass media, trends, advertising, politics, foreign language contact, etc. If you want to keep your finger on the pulse, you need to expose yourself to current native English content on a regular basis. Live interaction with native speakers is a big advantage too.
Television is a window into modern English Watching reality shows, TV series and soap operas can give you valuable insights into the type of English being used today in majority English speaking countries. It is not all pretty, polite or in line with standard pronunciation and grammar, but it is a genuine illustration of modern usage and provides learners with valuable access to “raw English” as it is spoken today by Brits and Americans. Try watching some British TV programmes on a website like viewabroad.com or a Youtube channel like this and note down new phrases, slang and colloquial expressions to use later.
Use it or lose it!
To speak English well, you need to maintain a good active vocabulary. Most learners struggle to achieve this due to a lack of practice (which also means a lack of repetition). We might say that the human brain is like a computer and that active vocabulary is saved in a “temporary files folder”. If information is not used within a given period of time, it is simply deleted or forgotten. Therefore, if you want to speak English fluently, you need to ensure that a) you are learning vocabulary and grammar that you are actually going to use in practice, and b) you are getting regular contact with the language.
Repetition = retention Repetition has been proven to help us remember information for a longer period of time. In the context of English, the main focus should be on repetition of vocabulary and grammar. It is a good idea to keep a record of all your vocabulary tests and regularly look back through your notebooks to ensure this information does not go “in one ear and out the other”. Perhaps ask an English speaking friend to help test your skills from time to time or automate this process via a mobile app.
Use materials that cover the same topics repeatedly This is a good way of getting to know a certain set of vocabulary well through constant exposure to the same words, phrases and constructions. For example, after you have read 25 news articles about tennis you will be familiar with all the common set phrases associated with the sport. The same goes for any topic. Try this for yourself!
Make use of available technology and apps
Technology is changing the way we access and acquire knowledge. Learners across the world are using the internet to improve their fluency in English through study websites, social networks, webinars, Skype lessons and more. Mobile phone usage is on the increase and many choose to install apps for learning English on the move. This can be a great idea because it allows you to fit more English practice into your daily routine, without the need to carry bags of books around!
Try some apps for learning English Check out our list of the top-10 mobile apps for learning English. Some of the best focus on vocabulary and allow you to create your own lists by topic to practise anytime, anywhere. Download several apps and see which work best for you.
Computers cannot speak like us (yet!) Although great progress has been made over the last decade with artificial intelligence, computers still cannot understand and reproduce speech in the same way humans do. This means that apps focused on English speaking and correction are often of limited use. You need regular human interaction with native and non-native speakers.
Improve your spoken fluency by copying a native English model
In order to speak English well, you need a correct native model to follow. In the same way that children acquire language by imitating their parents and others around them, you can learner English through regular exposure to native English content (text, audio, video) and interaction with a tutor or friends. Before you choose a model to focus on, you may like to consider the tips provided below:
Choose ONE national branch of English There can be significant differences between British and American English in terms of vocabulary, pronunciation, and even grammar. Confusion often arises when learners mix different types of English together when speaking and writing the language. To avoid this, consider which national variety of English you prefer (or which suits your needs best) and make this the starting point for selecting a suitable model.
Find a native model or tutor to guide your learning Having your own native English tutor can be a great way of ensuring regular speaking practice and error correction. This tutor can act as your native model and point of reference, as well as boosting your motivation and interest in the language. You could also choose a model like a BBC newsreader, Youtube star or famous celebrity if you have access to enough video and audio material. This person should be a native speaker with Standard English, but also someone you like and perhaps admire.
Try the “shadowing” method! Start by finding a short piece of audio or video clip by a native English speaker – this could be a 30-60 second passage from an audiobook or a very short comedy sketch from Youtube. Listen or watch this several times until you are familiar with it and clear on its meaning. Pay attention to how the speaker uses intonation, emphasis and pauses. Perhaps make some notes on paper and transcribe the passage so you have a visual text to work from too. Now try to “shadow” the speaker by repeating the passage in exactly the same manner and with the same pronunciation. You may like to record yourself doing this so you can then compare your version against the original to see where you can improve further at the next attempt.
Keep working TOWARDS native fluency Unless you have spent the formative part of your childhood living in a majority English speaking country, it is unlikely that you will ever become a 100% native speaker. Set realistic study goals for yourself and work towards these over time. Every learner is capable of achieving fluent English and some even reach near native proficiency.
If you are worried about your pronunciation at advanced level, consider hiring a speech therapist who specialises in accent reduction. Bear in mind that the majority of native English tutors will not have the specialist skills required to provide more than general pronunciation training and error correction.
Network with other English speakers
You must ensure regular speech practice if you want to speak English fluently. Live interaction with native and non-native speakers helps improve your listening skills and gives you a golden opportunity to bring your theoretical knowledge to life. This type of communication may be less formal and organised than English lessons and error correction may be limited, but having an “English social network” can be hugely beneficial for improving your confidence when speaking.
Join an English conversation club! English is the most popular foreign language studied in the world today. This is good news for learners because it means there are English conversation clubs and societies in almost every town and city. Try looking online via Google or Facebook for information on English groups near you. These will often be free, but some may charge a small membership fee. The idea of these clubs is to arrange weekly or monthly get-togethers where native and non-native speakers of English can socialise in an informal setting.
Speak English with non-natives too If native English speakers are in short supply in your town, you can still gain valuable experience by communicating in English with non-native study buddies. Ideally, these will be other learners of your level or higher. Just be aware that non-natives often make mistakes in English so try to avoid taking these on board.
Use the internet to connect with English speakers Do you have a Facebook account or enjoy online gaming? Social networks are full of English study groups you can join for free to practise your language skills with other learners from around the world. If you like online gaming, buy a microphone so you can chat with other participants in English while you are playing. You may find you share a lot in common with other gamers worldwide!
Travel and communicate with others abroad
One of the best reasons for improving your fluency in English is that it is currently the main international lingua franca (or common language). Travelling abroad can be an interesting and challenging way of enhancing your English speaking skills.
Today there are actually more non-native speakers of English in the world than there are Brits, Americans, Canadians and other native speakers combined! Countries like India even teach students their own unique national branch of English.
Leave your native language in your suitcase! Being abroad is a great way to practise your English, but if you are travelling with friends or relatives who speak your language, you may not make full use of this opportunity. Leave your native language in your suitcase and make a conscious effort to use English instead. You may want to consider some solo travel as this will force you to use English 24/7.
You will always be tempted to use your mother tongue if given the choice because this is easier and feels more natural – it is your dominant instinct. However, sometimes you must distance yourself from your native language in order to become more fluent in English.
Consider working abroad While this option may not be open to everyone, working overseas does offer several key advantages when it comes to improving your fluency in English. Full immersion within an English speaking workplace and wider social setting leads to faster progress and a better understanding of the language. If you are able to find work within your professional sphere abroad, then this is an ideal way of getting ahead, both with your English and with your career. If you are currently a university student, you may want to consider a programme like Work & Travel, which offers the chance to earn a basic salary in a service industry job, enjoy a little tourism and improve your English in the USA.
Think about an overseas study programme Studying abroad can be a great way of becoming more fluent in English while learning valuable skills for your professional career. Many of the world’s best universities are based in the UK or America and there are a wide variety of degree courses to choose from. You can find out more about higher education opportunities in the UK on the British Council website. If university isn’t right for you, then there are still plenty of other courses overseas to suit every budget and availability. These might be work-related or based around your personal interests. For example, if you like Yoga, perhaps consider a residential course in an English speaking country like Malta. If you work in marketing, why not attend a short course in London with a top agency?
Invite English speakers to visit you
If you cannot find the time to visit an English speaking country, why not invite a native speaker to visit you? Playing host, tour guide and translator to a visiting guest is one of the best ways to learn English by socialising and sharing information and experiences with another person. Independent travel is gaining popularity and the internet provides access to everything from individual home stays to adventure tourism with a local guide. If you do not have foreign friends, now is the time to make some!
Find a friendly foreigner! Overseas friends can be made through work, study or travel. However, if your address book is looking a bit empty when you get to “E” for English, you may want to consider looking online. Penpal websites are not as popular as they used to be, but a search like “penpals UK” via Google may still prove fruitful. Social networks are a good place to find travel and hobby pages – for example, check out this unusual Facebook group for travellers looking for others to accompany them on snorkelling trips around the world! You could also try looking up Facebook groups for foreigners interested in your country and language. These might be pages for expats or just for those interested in travel and culture. If you are outgoing and helpful, it should not be too difficult to find friends and extend an invitation to meet up sometime.
Clean out that spare room! Websites like Air B’n’B and Couchsurfing are extremely popular among open-minded Brits and Americans who like to travel and see the “real life” of a country. If you have a spare room and would like to host foreign tourists visiting your city, try registering on these sites. This could provide some good English practice, as well as a little extra cash.
Become a host family Many schools and universities worldwide have student exchange programmes to promote language learning and cultural activities. This can be a good option for families to improve their English skills together and build relationships with other families internationally. Try looking online or ask at your local school or university for details.
Take English lessons with a native speaker
Although many skills in English can be improved through self-study, spoken fluency is seldom achieved in isolation due to the need for regular interaction and error correction. Having a native English tutor can help provide a focal point for your day-to-day studies. This should be a qualified teacher with appropriate experience who can provide guidance and practical training a couple of times a week.
Look for a teacher closer to home There are several options when considering a face-to-face tutor. You can study in a group class at a private language school or take 1-to-1 lessons at home or at the teacher’s place. It may be best to find a tutor closer to home as this will make attending classes easier. Individual training is also preferable in most cases as it saves time and allows you to focus 100% on exact what you need, rather than what other students in a group may require.
Try online lessons with a native teacher In the last decade, e-learning has become a popular alternative to traditional classroom teaching as it offers greater flexibility and access to tutors. It is now possible to have lessons with a native English teacher via Skype (or another VoIP program) from any location with a good internet connection. This method of learning English gives students more choice, while saving them time and money.
Arrange a language exchange Search for English speaking expats living in your city. This can be done via Google or Facebook, as well as through the International Department of your local university. Find a native English speaker who is interested in learning your mother tongue and offer them a “language exchange”. Then meet at a cafe each week to practise 30-60 minutes in each language.
Never ignore the elephant in the room!
Linguists and teachers are divided on the issue of using the learner’s native language in the classroom. However, one thing is for sure – you cannot ignore the elephant in the room! Your mother tongue is equivalent to an instinct and the vast majority of mistakes you make when using English will come about through logical transfer (or interference). In effect, you are trying to navigate an “English landscape” using a map of your own native language. For example, Russian has no articles (a, an, the) so native speakers of this language may always struggle to use these words correctly in English. Native French speakers often find it hard to pronounce English “h”, so they are likely to pronounce the word “hen” as “en”. If you want to speak fluent English, you should try to correct your existing mistakes by first understanding where they originate.
Pay close attention to our differences! How does your native language differ from English in terms of structure and usage? If you improve your understanding of these differences, you can begin to eliminate some of the errors coming into your English as a result of your mother tongue (or language instinct). For instance, if you know that the standard word order in your language is “enough big”, but the correct order in English is “big enough”, then you can make an extra effort not to allow this mistake to occur in future. This requires a conscious intervention on your part until you stop making the given error, which is being automatically transferred from your mother tongue.
Choose to use English wherever possible You will face many situations in which you have a choice of either using English or your native language. If you choose to let your mother tongue dominate, your fluency in English will suffer as a result. Step outside your comfort zone and use your English whenever you have the opportunity! Even if you do not speak perfect English, everyone will appreciate your effort and you will improve with time.
Use translation to your advantage Some teachers discourage their students from translating to and from their native language. This can be because the tutor feels uncomfortable with a language they do not understand or it can be because they believe students should understand English through English. This approach fails to recognise the benefits of limited mother tongue usage when learning another language. Quick translation to and from the student’s native language can save a lot time and using a detailed bilingual dictionary often helps build a better understanding of what words mean in each language and how they may overlap or differ.
Learning a new language means learning a new culture Any linguist will tell you that language and culture are closely connected – you cannot learn one without also learning something about the other. By “culture” we mean: mentality, perspective, norms, etc. Our native language is full of colourful idioms, similes and expressions that reflect our values, beliefs and perception of the world around us. When learning English you will find that our “take on things” is similar to yours in places, but wildly different in others. Be open to the fact we do not all see the world in the same way and that there is no right or wrong. By embracing our cultural idiosyncrasies, you can truly appreciate the beautiful, weird and wonderful faces of our languages. As an illustration, let’s compare English and Russian: a Brit would say “the eye of a needle” where a Russian would say “ear”, a Brit would say “(I’m so hungry) I could eat a horse” where a Russian would say “elephant” and a Brit would say “drink (alcohol) like a fish” where a Russian would say “be quiet as a fish”. What do you say?
Stay motivated, build confidence and achieve your goals
If you are reading this guide, it is probably safe to assume you are not fully satisfied with your English and do not consider yourself fluent. It is also likely that you have studied English at school, college, university, perhaps at private language classes or online, as well as through self-study and your own lived experiences. So why are you not yet fluent? What have been your “barriers to study” in the past? What has caused you to lose motivation? What needs to change? These are all important questions to ask if you genuinely want to improve your English. Take responsibility for your own progress, set tangible and realistic targets, and have confidence in your ability to succeed.
First we understand, then we speak As young children we develop a good understanding of our parents’ language before we are actually able to speak or produce grammatical sentences ourselves. This is the same for adult learners of English as a foreign language; your understanding will always be ahead of your own practical ability to speak and use the language. Understanding is the basis for the spoken fluency that follows.
It is natural to make mistakes, but learn from them The only way to become fluent in a language is through trial and error. Therefore, making mistakes is both natural and necessary. Everyone will be expecting you to make mistakes so there is no need to be overly worried about this. The main thing is that you learn from these mistakes in order to improve next time. If you lack confidence when speaking, think of it this way: most Brits and Americans do not speak any foreign languages fluently because they expect everyone else to use English. You are already ahead of them and they should thank you for doing your best to learn their language! Thank you.
Be your own best critic Always be 100% honest with yourself about your progress in English. It is easy to blame your past classroom experiences or tutors, family commitments and busy working life for your current lack of fluency. However, making excuses will not help you improve. You must take control of and responsibility for your own progress – no one can learn English for you. Be your own best critic, but be constructive with your criticism.
Keep a detailed record of your own mistakes over a prolonged period of time. You can then see how frequently these occur, look up the correct forms and work on eliminating these errors. You may wish to study with a native English teacher while compiling your list of typical mistakes as this can be difficult to do alone.
Reward yourself for improved fluency Whenever you reach a milestone, achieve a personal goal or just have a good day with your spoken English give yourself a pat on back by rewarding this effort with a treat (e.g. a meal at your favourite restaurant, a trip to the cinema or a new pair of shoes). This reinforces the positive progress you are making. You deserve it.
English is not the final destination! Think of English as a “tool” that you can use to get something you want or need in life. Whether your goals are career-oriented, study-based or just social, fluent English in itself is NOT the final destination. Instead, it is the bridge that will help you cross the river and reach the other side. Your task is to build this bridge brick-by-brick and day-by-day. Let’s start building!
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