One of the most common struggles of every English learner is the struggle to speak fluent English. We all strive to speak confidently and naturally and fluency plays a major role in achieving this. Many times learners of English even prefer fluency to accuracy. Students often don’t mind making a few errors while speaking as long as they can maintain a fluent flow of speech. Accuracy versus fluency have been fighting an eternal battle in ESL classrooms for a long time and we will deal with our take on this in another article. Today, we are going to talk about fluency and how to achieve it.
So what does it mean to be fluent in English?
According to English Teaching professional, fluency refers to the measurement of the ability one has to speak smoothly and freely without the need to pause and think about the grammar, vocabulary, or pronunciation one needs to communicate.
I would like to emphasize the ability to speak smoothly and freely without the need to pause. How important are grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation if we want to achieve this? One might argue that it is necessary.
But is it?
If the speaker constantly worries about the right grammar, colloquial expressions or pronunciation, or even accent, do they have time to maintain fluency? Of course, this might not be a problem for more advanced learners, but what about those who have yet to achieve that level of accuracy? Are they doomed to aim for accuracy before they can become fluent?
I believe fluency comes before accuracy. I think it gives the learners confidence to speak and express their ideas and opinions without worrying about grammatical errors. So how can you improve fluency and at the same time expand your vocabulary and improve grammar without even trying?
Let’s have a look at these tips on how speak fluent English.
1. Whatever you watch, watch it in English
Binge-watching favorite TV shows? Looking for a new recipe on Youtube? Watching news? Watch it in English with English subtitles. Make it a habit. Do it now. I can’t emphasize this enough. Even if you don’t do anything else from this list, do this. And #2 as well.
2. Find a speaking partner
Practice, practice, practice. You can practice speaking best by speaking. Shocking, I know. The good news, you don’t need a native speaker for that. It can be your classmate, a friend, colleague. Nowadays, you can easily practice online. There are plenty of platforms where you can find English-speaking partners. Most of them are paid, but you can also find some that are free. For example, Speak Peak offers a free and a premium subscription. The free subscription limits the conversation time to 40 minutes, which I think is still enough. The premium version offers unlimited conversation time and some statistics and your partner’s feedback. The registration takes 10 seconds and you can choose your speaking partner’s level of English, from A1 to C2, which is a great feature. If you’re not sure what to talk about, try these conversation starters.
3. Read in English
It may sound counterintuitive, but reading can help your speaking. How? By learning new vocabulary and getting certain phrases and expressions under your skin. After some time, you will use phrasal verbs, colloquial expressions, and certain grammar structures automatically. Of course, if you want to achieve this you have to read the right books. Contemporary fiction books with lots of dialogues are perfect. Books such as Elements of the Nature and Properties of Soils, not so much. Extra tip: Combine books with their audio versions. Read and listen at the same time, you don’t have to do it all the time, but doing so occasionally can benefit you immensely.
4. Google in English
Around 50%-70% of the Internet is written in English. If you’re not looking for specific information that is only available in your native language, google it in English. From now on, whatever information you need, look it up in English.
5. Self study
While watching anything and everything in English helps, sometimes you have to work a bit harder to improve your fluency. Video lessons are great for this. Watch shorter clips on topics you like and then study vocabulary and even discuss the video with a partner. There are plenty of video lessons online, if you have Netflix, you can try this resource ESL Video Lesson Based on Netflix Docuseries “The Mind, Explained” or you can try lessons based on TedTalks.
6. Improve your vocabulary
While you will improve your vocabulary when watching and reading content in English, you will also need to supplement it with more targeted approach. This depends on your goals. Why are you learning English? What do you want to achieve? What subjects do you expect to be talking about? Choose your reading material and watching content accordingly. Do yu want to improve your presentation skills? Watch TedTalk videos. Do you want to be able to negotiate? Practice negotiating. If you are a visual learner, you could try Visuwords a visual dictionary which shows a visual map of connected words. If you prefer a more classical approach you could try vocabulary quizzes, for example Englishclub has quizzes on many different topics.
What do you think about these tips on how to speak fluent English? Have you tried any of them? Have you tried any other methods that worked for you? Let us know in the comments.