How do you become fluent in English?
If there is one question I frequently hear from English learners, it is: “How do I become fluent in English?” There is no simple answer but you can do a number of things to improve your fluency. Rather than being perfect fluency actually refers to the extent to which someone can speak smoothly and effectively on a range of topics in a second language. Here are 10 ideas that will be sure to help:
1. Accept that English grammar has a lot of exceptions
Knowing about the grammar exceptions in English will help you feel more at ease with the language. Sometimes we just need to accept that this is the case. Why is “mice” the plural of “mouse” and why is “houses” the plural of “house”. There are many exceptions to English rules. You are likely to get stuck if you try to find a reason for everything. Language is a strange thing! The best thing to do is memorise odd exceptions and keep going.
2. Focus on phrases instead of single words
By focusing on phrases rather than single words then it helps you speak English in full sentences. You’ll find that learning phrases can be really useful in everyday life. Think of a few phrases in your own language that you use regularly, translate them and repeat them back in English until they stick.
3. Talk yourself through every day activities
Think about all the things you do that have a beginning, middle and an end. For instance putting a piece of furniture together or cooking a meal. You can list a set of instructions for the procedure and repeat them back while you’re doing it. This can be a good way of pushing you to learn vocabulary you use in everyday life.
4. Read along with podcasts
Podcasts can be a great way to improve your speaking as well as your listening skills. Download the transcript and at first try reading it on your own. Then listen to the podcast and read out loud trying to imitate the speed and accent of the speaker. This technique is called shadowing and can really help with pronunciation and intonation.
5. Record your own English-language audio books
Choose an English language book you liked reading and record yourself reading it in English. This will take some time of course but it’s a way of practising your English every day. It can in fact be a really fun thing to and once you have done it then you can play it back. That way you can practise your listening skills too.
6. Record what you learn and listen to it throughout the day
This is a similar technique to number five although you’re concentrating on some specific things you’ve learnt. For instance, if you would like to remember and be able to use some phrases connected to hospitality then when you find the target language then simply record yourself saying it. This gives you quite a few opportunities to remember the subject matter. Reading it first, reading out loud and then later on when you listen to yourself reading it.
7. Set specific goals
Giving yourself small but measurable goals is really important. I would suggest writing them down in a notepad and once you achieve them cross them off your list. That way you can measure your progress and look back at completed tasks which will give you a sense of satisfaction. Think about incremental goals that are achievable and that will lead you to accomplish a bigger goal.
8. Figure out your ‘weak spots’
There are always specific difficulties that you may have with a language. These can be known as your ‘weak spots’. They could be anything from pronunciation to grammar usage or sentence formation. It’s important that you identify what they are and work on them. Focus on the aspects you’re having more difficulties with and dedicate more study time to them.
9. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
Your main aim should be to communicate effectively, not to be perfect. Make sure you don’t let the fear of making mistakes stop you from talking. If you make a mistake just keep going, the person you’re speaking to will probably still understand what you’re trying to say. The more you practise, the easier it is and the quicker words come to mind.
10. Practise, practise, practise
This seems like an obvious one but you really need to practise speaking and listening in real-life situations. If you are based in the UK then it will of course help to get exposure to as many different British dialects as you can. Taking opportunities when you can is key but don’t feel bad if you don’t, just think about the next occasion. Sometimes you won’t feel in the mood and that’s perfectly natural.
If you follow these ideas then you will certainly see yourself improve and won’t need to ask “How do I become fluent in English?” again!