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.
• Fluency in English is a lifestyle choice
• Don’t look for a quick fix – there isn’t one!
• Make English relevant and interesting to you
• Build your other English skills to help with your spoken fluency
• Avoid focusing too much on grammar (at the expense of speaking)
• Use modern English content produced by native speakers
• Use it or lose it!
• Make use of available technology and apps
• Improve your spoken fluency by copying a native English model
• Network with other English speakers
• Travel and communicate with others abroad
• Invite English speakers to visit you
• Take English lessons with a native speaker
• Never ignore the elephant in the room!
• Stay motivated, build confidence and achieve your goals
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:
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.
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:
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”:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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