English fluency seems unattainable to almost everyone who is new to the language.
You drill down your grammar rules and vocabulary, yet you seem unable to speak coherently when a bank teller asks you a simple question regarding your checking account or when a waiter asks you whether you want any of the daily special items. You listen to English TV or radio programs and you wonder how on earth you will ever be able to discern that confusing speech.
But don’t worry. Fluency is very much attainable. What’s important is how you approach it. The key thing is to realize that even though there is no quick fix, there is a list of steps that you can take in order to achieve the results that you want.
Below, we have put together a comprehensive guide to make your journey to fluency as easy and organized as possible.
1. Start with the Basics
What many students don’t understand about speaking fluently is that you don’t have to know everything perfectly in order to articulate your ideas clearly and confidently. Instead, students strive for perfection, and perfection is paralyzing.
One simple secret to speaking fluent English is the Pareto Principle – a rule that can be applied to many areas of life, including language learning.
Otherwise known as the 80/20 rule, the Pareto Principle says that 20 percent of the input into a project yields 80 percent of the output. In other words, when it comes to English, by learning 20 percent of the most common words, you will be able to understand 80% of the spoken and written English, including tricky academic texts.
This is all to say that you don’t have to know everything in order to speak fluent English. Harness the power of the 80/20 rule – start off by learning the most common words and you will be well on your way to fluency.
2. Learn Phrases, not Words
In the previous step, the recommendation was to learn the most commonly used English vocabulary words. But to take this a step further and make it even more effective, you should study phrases, not just individual words.
Although this is a very common learning method in traditional English classrooms, it is not very effective, and here is why. First off, studying 1:1 words and their translations is boring. When words aren’t embedded in context, it makes it that much more difficult for your brain to tie them together and recall them when needed.
The reason speaking English is difficult for students is that they have to do a lot of thinking in order to combine words into meaningful and grammatically correct clauses.
Studying phrases automatically gives them context and makes it easier for them to put together sentences when the situation asks for it.
3. Do not Overlook Listening
When most students think of speaking fluent English, they often underestimate the importance of listening. However, listening is our most used communication skill. Studies show that when it comes to communication, we spend around 9 percent of the time writing, 16 percent reading, 30 percent speaking, and 45 percent listening. This is why, in order to become a fluent speaker, you must also be an effective listener.
There are many fun ways for you to improve your listening skills.
Watch videos with subtitles. YouTube gives us a great opportunity to watch almost any video with subtitles. They serve you really well during the parts which you don’t understand.
Listen to English at different speeds. You can do this again on YouTube or even on your phone. Simply download your English listening materials and play around with the playback speeds. If the material seems easy to understand, speed it up, and vice versa.
Make a habit of listening to English in the background. The more you immerse yourself into English, the more proficient you will become. This is why you should make a habit of listening to as much English language audio as possible. Turn on the radio or download podcasts on topics that interest you and have them on in your car or in your headphones when you walk or exercise.
4. Read as much English as you can
If you want to become fluent in English, you have to take a balanced approach to learning. Reading is a great catalyst to improving fluency in any language, even your native one. If you want to build on your English vocabulary, learn more phrases and idioms, become more familiar with an academic style of writing or speaking, there is no better way than reading.
5. Practice Speaking by Yourself.
You may think that speaking English to yourself is a silly idea, but in fact it is one of the most effective ways of improving your speaking skills.
First off, speaking to yourself will free you of the fear of making mistakes and feeling tense as you probably would when speaking with another person. You don’t even have to speak loudly. Yet, this will help you get used to the sound of your own voice when speaking English, which you may find strange at first.
If you are wondering what there is to speak about, you can always start by expressing the thoughts you are having at the moment. What you say isn’t important, it’s important that you simply keep talking. Another thing you can try is imagining that someone is asking you questions so that you can answer them. This is an excellent way of practicing to think in English.
Reading out loud to yourself is also a great way of improving speaking. For new English speakers, it is an excellent way of improving diction, pronunciation, and expression, which students can then transfer to their speaking voice. Not to mention, reading aloud improves visual memory, spelling, vocabulary, and sharpens your ear so that you are better able to understand native dialog.
Perfect your talking-to-yourself technique by using a mirror to make short 2-3 minute impromptu speeches. Pick any topic you like, and speak about that topic for several minutes straight, without stopping. It’s important that you don’t stop speaking even if you feel that you have nothing else to say or that you can’t find the right word. Go around and express your ideas in a different way. In time, you will realize how helpful this exercise really is.
6. Try the Imitation Technique
Another trick to improving English fluency is by listening and repeating. This can be done with any audio or video files. Listen to the speaker and hit the pause button after each phrase. Then repeat after the speaker using not only his or her wording, but also speed, accent, and intonation.
Once you feel that you have become more proficient, you can start listening and repeating longer chunks of speech. After a while, you can also start hitting the pause button and instead of repeating the utterance, retelling it in your own words. This is an excellent exercise that will help you sound more and more like a native speaker.
7. Practice Speaking Vigorously
The absolute best way to become fluent in English is through regular practice. Find a conversation partner who can help you hone your conversation skills and speak with them as much as possible.
If you live in a non-English speaking country, you can still find people with whom you can practice your English. Search social media platform for groups of local English speaking enthusiasts and join in. These sorts of groups tend to have regular speaking practices, meetings, movie sessions, and more.
8. Try English Ninjas
If you are looking for expert help in achieving fluency, then English Ninjas is the best way to go. We will help you achieve the confidence and fluency you need. Learning English with Ninjas is great on so many levels.
Through our platform, you will gain access to a professional tutor and speaking partner, with whom you can practice as much and as often as you like. Our tutors are available 24/7, 365 days a year. It doesn’t get any more convenient than that.
Another great advantage we offer to our students is that our tutors are not only skilled English instructors, they also come from different academic backgrounds. You are sure to find a tutor that matches your interests, so that your conversations are as stimulating and memorable as possible.
You will also be able to go back and review any of the sessions that you have had. We keep a record of all your conversations so that you are able to review them, learn from your mistakes, and keep track of your progress.
When it comes to achieving fluency in English, there are unfortunately no shortcuts. There are, however, shortcuts in terms of efficiency and a number of effective methods of getting there. The key is to keep up the motivation and consistency and let this guide serve you in achieving your desired results.