How to Speak English Fluently: 7 Golden Tips (For FAST result)
Have you been learning English for years, but still cannot speak easily and fluently?
You are not alone!
Many people have no problem with reading or writing skills, but when it comes to English speaking, they just feel embarrassed and get stuck.
In this post, I would like to share with you 7 practical tips that will help you improve your English speaking fast.
1. Learn phrases, not single words
Learning separate words is a very common mistake learners usually have. And of course, it’s not an appropriate method to learn any language, not just English.
I’ll show you why.
Knowing the meanings of words is useful. But knowing how to use them in context is even more important. I mean the collocation in English.
Have you ever wondered why we say “take a picture”, not “do a picture” or “make a picture”?
It deals with the combination of words. Thinking about what goes before and after the keywords may take time. It interrupts your conversation as well.
Learning phrases seems like the smart way, since once you’re familiar with the word chain, you may speak naturally and automatically; so, your communication may go more smoothly.
It’ll take you less time to think if you learn phrases instead of words.
Let’s say we use English in thousands of daily-life situations, for example for greeting, suggesting, apologizing, thanking, inviting, complaining, complimenting, and so on.
Each English expression has its own language function. To suggest something, you may use “why don’t we…?” or “what about…?”, “Let’s…”, etc.
You will surely know “why”, “don’t”, “we”, but when they’re put together, the meaning is very different. How can you listen and speak well if you just learn individual words?
Learning phrases helps avoid mistranslating. It’s a bad habit that English learners usually think in their mother tongue and translate ideas into English.
But you know, languages mismatch. Mistranslation is possible to happen when learners just learn words and put them together following the order in their own language.
A very common mistake is instead of saying “a green house”, beginners in some countries tend to say “a house green” since they apply directly the grammar rules from their first language into English.
That’s to say learning phrases is somehow learning grammar.
It’s clear now that we should learn phrases, not single words. But HOW?
There are thousands of resources for you to pick up. Just make sure that they’re authentic, or they reflect real-life language.
In such an Internet era, seeking for these resources isn’t hard at all.
Some suggestions are podcasts, newspapers, stories, audio books, movies, or songs.
Taking notes of the phrases and sticking them somewhere in front of your eyes is also good for remembering. Seeing the phrases every day may improve memory a lot, even when you don’t intensely learn them.
When it comes to speaking, the phrases will automatically appear in your mind. The more input you have, the easier your communication will be.
So study every single word and it’ll lead you nowhere. Let’s study phrase, phrase and phrase.
2. Pay less attention to grammar
I mean focus on fluency, instead of grammar. Some experts even say you don’t need to study grammar in order to be able to speak English fluently.
Just look at the way kids learn to speak English. Even though they rarely learn any grammar rules, their English speaking can be considered fluent, natural like native speakers.
And the truth is kids acquire language; they don’t deliberately learn language at all.
Kids say whatever comes to their mind and they aren’t afraid of making mistakes.
This principle can be applied successfully to adults.
Grammar is just an aspect of English. There are other things, which are much more important in speaking.
Focusing too much on grammar stops you from opening your mouth to speak. The fear of losing face makes you nervous when it comes to speaking.
I’ve seen a lot of English learners who are very excellent at grammar, yet can’t say a word when it comes to speaking. So, studying grammar doesn’t help.
Why study grammar when you just use English as a tool to get your message across?
So let’s start with simple English, and then make it longer with more complicated words. And remember that your listener isn’t an IELTS examiner who is going to analyze your language. Your listener just wants to get your messages.
And you know, they aren’t patient enough to wait for you to go back and forth with all the grammar tenses in your mind.
There are too many rules to learn in grammar, which can cause obstacles for beginners. So, the key idea is put grammar aside; speaking will turn out to be less stressful and more joyful.
3. Listen to more English
The more input you have, the more output you can produce. Listening and reading are two channels of getting input.
If you want to improve your English speaking, focus more on listening rather than reading. Learn with your ears, not your eyes.
Listening helps to build up your vocabulary and grammar. Knowledge and understanding about some topics are also broadened if you often read and listen.
Once again, the materials for input should be authentic. Some easily-found resources I would recommend are TED talks, BBC English news, cartoons and movies, songs, audiobooks and thousands of others.
Listening alone doesn’t make you a fluent English speaker; BUT it’s an important stepping stone for you to move on.
Once you have enough input, speaking is just the last step in the process. When you listen to correct English sentences, they stay in your memory, and then you will be able to build similar sentences yourself easily.
4. Practice thinking in English
Are you translating from your mother tongue to English when you speak?
If yes, stop it right now. Start to think in English when you speak English.
Lots of people can listen and understand 99% what the English speaker says but fail to express a simple thought because they can’t find the right words.
That’s the reason why you have to think directly in English.
I know it may not be easy for beginners since you’re quite new to the language. But once you’re familiar with the process, everything will be all right.
Thinking directly in English reduces the time to think by half. It takes you double time when you generate ideas in your first language, and then seek for equivalent words in English.
Another reason why you should think in English is that there are many words in your language that you can’t find a translation for in English or the translation doesn’t fully transfer the sense you want to make.
Mistranslating happens sometimes as well.
These reasons easily lead to communication breakdown for sure.
Now perhaps you are eager to know how to think in English, aren’t you?
Everything needs training, you know.
Start small with common and simple phrases. Do a little English thinking every day and you’ll be surprised with your output one day. Start with some pieces like “let’s go”, “dinner’s ready, come and get it”, “good job. You did it”, “come on”, “come in”, and so on.
Limit translation as much as possible. Start using English - English dictionary. Try to explain English words using English. That’s a good habit for English learners.
Say them every day while grabbing some new phrases at the same time to see the progress.
In communicating, guessing what the speaker is going to say next may help. Keep your brain busy by processing information and preparing what to say when it comes to your turn.
This preparation gives you more data for the speaking output. This also helps avoid getting stuck when you can’t think of anything to say in a conversation.
5. Talk to yourself
Needless to say, self-practice plays an important role in learning a foreign language. You need to prepare yourself first before you happen to talk with others in a foreign language.
The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll feel when using the language. Just like your mother tongue, you were born with it, so speaking isn’t a big issue for you.
The idea is to just try to familiarize yourself with English.
HOW to talk to yourself?
There are a lot of ways. Choose the most common situations in your daily life so that you may have real contexts. You may talk about your hobbies, family, favorites, school, holidays, or jobs.
When you’re at home alone, stand in front of the mirror and practice. It’s better if you can use some body language along with the talk.
When you’re on train or bus, talk to yourself or just think of something to talk about when you’re in such situations.
When you’re doing some housework, talk to yourself. Try to maximize the amount of speaking every day.
In daily life, there may arise new situations that you haven’t experienced before. Think of something you may say in this case. Later when you encounter the situations again, you can find yourself ready to communicate.
Before bed, try to summarize what you have and haven’t done during the day and talk about the plan for tomorrow. That really helps.
6. Expose yourself to English speaking environments
Talking to yourself may be not enough.
Joining English-speaking clubs, speaking English with friends, making friends with foreigners, or getting involved in any place where English is used to communicate are recommended.
What you need for your speaking skills is a daily practice. Make it a habit. Your speaking won’t get better if you just take the input and leave it there without any output.
After all the preparing of self-practice, the environment for the language to be spoken out is necessary.
Just be aware that everything has its beginning. Speaking English as well.
If you don’t open your mouth to say a word, you’ll never be a good English speaker.
If you want to speak fluently, you have to force yourself to speak first. Gradually you’ll become more fluent.
Just remember “practice makes perfect”.
7. Learn deeply
You can’t speak English easily and fluently when you don’t remember words, phrases and sentence patterns instantly.
A common issue of English learners is that they only try to learn as many language items as they can, yet never review them later on.
A study has shown that people forget 40% of what they learned in 20 minutes, 77% of what they learned in six days and 90% after one month.
As you can see, our short-term memory can’t store things for so long. When you don’t spend time memorizing things, they will fade away from your memory easily.
What you need to do is to turn the language from short term to long term memory. So, when it comes to speaking English, you can recall what you have learned immediately and automatically. In other words, you can speak English fluently.
Have you ever heard a saying that repetition is the mother of learning? That means everything can be learned through training, and English speaking is not an exception.
What does that mean by learning deeply?
Well, learning deeply means you repeat something many, many times over again until you master it.
For example, today you learn a phrase: “work out”, which means to train the body by physical exercise. You have repeated the phrase a few times and made different sentences with the phrase. You think you’re done with this phrase and move on to the new one?
That repetition is not enough. Tomorrow you have to review the phrase, make sentences, use it in speaking or even writing all over again.
One week or two weeks later, you still do the same until you can use the phrase automatically without thinking. That’s when you’ve mastered it.
As a result, when you need to use this phrase, it just comes out automatically and instantly.
Learn Deeply With Shadowing Technique
Shadowing technique is a method that will help a lot when you learn English speaking. Trying this technique, you’ll have a chance to practice your pronunciation, rhythm, and intonation.
Learning something deeply or spending time on it will better your memory with the words. You can improve speaking very fast from shadowing for sure.
Why? Shadowing helps you not only memorize words, phrases, and sentence patterns, but also correct your pronunciation and use the words in context.
So, how does Shadowing technique work?
To “shadow” is to repeat what you hear as quickly as you hear it.
The very first thing you need is an audio with transcript.
Then, listen and follow the text once before shadowing. This step is to help you figure out hard words as well as to understand the context.
You may need to pay more attention to hard words.
And finally, listen to the audio while reading the text with a minimum delay. Repeat the process many times until you can read it at the same speed as the track.
Some suggested materials for shadowing include audio books, movies, podcasts, videos, news, etc., of course with transcripts.
I guess you may feel overwhelmed now since there are many things that need doing. That’s totally OK. Learning needs time and effort.But if you commit to put these 7 tips into practice and make it a daily routine gradually, you’ll soon see significant improvement in your English speaking skills.
What are your best tips to improve English speaking skills?