By Paola Pascual on Jun 20, 2022 11:46:24 AM
Learning how to speak fluent English is one of the main goals for most English learners. Fluency is the ability to speak smoothly and freely. It’s that moment when things ‘click’ and you don’t need to pause and think about the pronunciation, grammar, or vocabulary to communicate effectively.
If you still don’t feel confident after months (or years) of study, don’t worry! English fluency takes effort, but with the right approach, you achieve it. We’ve collected the most effective strategies to help you feel fully confident speaking in English. These are the best 15 tips.
How can I improve my English speaking fluency?
- 1 - Learn what it means to be fluent in English
- 2 - Speak English with confidence
- 3 - Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
- 4 - Listen to people speaking English in podcasts
- 5 - Record your own English-language audiobook
- 6 - Learn and study phrases
- 7 - Practice speaking English word by word
- 8 - Practice speaking English one sentence at a time
- 9 - Don’t study grammar (too much)
- 10 - Use it or lose it
- 11 - Learn synonyms
- 12 - Improve your English fluency with a teacher
- 13 - Stop being a student and start thinking in English
- 14 - Accept that English is a weird language
- 15 - Join a free email course
1 - Learn What It Means to Be Fluent in English
English fluency is one of the most common goals among English learners. Job ads often require applicants to be “fluent in English”. But what does it actually mean to be fluent in a language? If we check the definition in the Merriam-Webster, we see that fluent means “capable of using a language easily and accurately”.
Fluency refers to that moment when you are able to speak easily, at a regular pace, and without needing to pause to think about the grammar or pronunciation.
Now, being fluent does not mean not making mistakes, ever. It is about communicating your message across smoothly, even if you may make mistakes. You realize that you are fluent when things ‘click’ and words flow. Again, even if you still make grammar or pronunciation mistakes, you may already be fluent in English!
Do we speak English or talk English?
Speak and talk have similar meanings and are often equally appropriate: I’m going to speak/talk to my teacher about it after the lesson. / I enjoyed speaking/talking to Max and I enjoyed talking to Max.
They both indicate that someone is to use your voice to convey information or to express a feeling. However, there are some small differences in how and when they are used.
- More formal. We usually use speak, not talk, for formal speeches and situations, when a person in authority is addressing an audience, or when the people involved don’t know each other very well. ✓ Before the election, the President spoke to the nation on television. / X The Prime Minister talked to Parliament this morning.
- Focus on the speaker. We use speak when we want to give more focus to the person who is producing the words. ✓ In the presentation, they spoke about the importance of a healthy diet.
- Languages. Languages: We use speak when we refer to languages. ✓How many languages do you speak? X How many languages do you talk? / ✓He speaks English very well. X He talks English very well.
- Telephone: We use speak on the telephone. → It’s Anna here. Who’s speaking? X Who’s talking?
- Focus on the conversation. Indicates that there is at least one listener and that there is potentially a conversation. ✓ I’d like to meet you to talk about my proposal. Not: I hope I can meet you to speak about my proposal. / Can we talk about our upcoming meeting?
- Other expressions with talk: I’d like to talk about our new sales strategy. (= explain/discuss). / You’re talking nonsense. (I strongly disagree with what you are saying).
2 - Speak English with Confidence
Believe it or not, being a confident speaker has little to do with your actual ability to speak in English.
You may know the right words and expressions to describe something. You may be exceptionally good at grammar. And yet, you still hesitate when you want to give your opinion in a meeting, or share your thoughts with a group of friends. You get nervous, you stutter, and your mind might even go blank when you want to say something in English. That is because knowing how to say something and actually having the confidence to do it are two different things. You may lack the confidence to speak up, even when you have all the tools you need.
If you are wondering, how can I speak fluent English without hesitation? Pause for a moment and think -do I need to improve my vocabulary, grammar, or pronunciation, or is it more of a confidence issue? Perhaps you just need to learn how to speak English confidently. Understanding your strengths and limitations will help you be more strategic about what you need to focus on next.
Additional tips to improve your confidence speaking English
Confidence is interesting. Some people seem to have it, even when they are not particularly great at something. If you are not naturally confident, don’t worry. It is something you can work on and improve.
Being fluent often starts with figuring out how to learn to speak in english. It involves knowing how to express ideas in English effectively, but there’s more than that. There are other non-language related tips that will help you speak English fluently.
- Visualize success. This is a trick used by many athletes and high-achieving professionals. Instead of thinking, ‘I will make mistakes’, ‘They won’t understand me’, switch your mentality to ‘I am confident and capable’. Imagine yourself speaking clearly and fluently. Visualizing that positive situation will give your the confidence you need.
- Congratulate yourself. Celebrate your wins and strengths. Think about the things you can already do well in English and be proud of them. It is easy to look at how much you still have to learn, but you should instead look back and see how far you have come.
- Slow down. If you listen to the most effective public speakers, you will notice that they speak slowly. When we get nervous, we tend to speak faster and speak with a higher pitch. This makes you look insecure. Speaking slower, on the other hand, makes you sound more confident and reliable. Plus, it also gives you time to think about what you are going to say next.
3 - Don't Be Afraid to Make Mistakes
We all make mistakes. Even native-English speakers. Accept that mistakes are normal and don’t stress too much about them. If you’re not afraid to make mistakes, your confidence will increase and your fluency will be much smoother. Over prepare, but don’t obsess over details or small mistakes.
Remember, your goal is to be fluent, not perfect.
Keep Notes on Your Mistakes
However, do keep notes on your mistakes when you speak in English. Write down the mistakes you make often and write examples of how to say them correctly. Review those sentences every now and then and repeat them out loud.
For example, if you say “I am driving to work every day”, write it down, and next to it add → “I drive to work every day”. Repeat the second sentence over and over again until it becomes natural. This exposure and repetition of the correct sentence will make the incorrect sentence sound odd to your ears.
4 - Listen to People Speaking English in Podcasts
Podcasts are a fantastic way of learning communication and pronunciation patterns. Plus, you can listen to them while you are doing other things, such as cooking, doing the laundry, or driving. If you wonder how to learn to speak English, well, mimic others. Get yourself used to listening to people speaking in English. Pay attention to the expressions they use, how they pronounce words, their intonation…
Podcasts are extremely popular these days, so you’ll be able to find one that you love. Not sure where to start? Talaera Talks is a fun way to learn new vocabulary and improve your communication skills.
Pro tip: Use shadowing to improve your fluency
Shadowing is an effective technique that consists of repeating right after someone else. Don’t let the speaker finish the sentence and try to speak almost at the same time.
You should repeat after the speaker as soon as possible. Don’t let the speaker finish the sentence, and try to speak almost at the same time. It’s similar to when you sing along to your favorite song!
It’s much easier to practice shadowing if you have the script, as you can read it at the same time you listen. Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything you’re saying, this is just about imitating a native English pronunciation. This will help you improve your pronunciation, rhythm, and intonation, as well as your listening skills. Once you’ve mastered this, confidence will go up and up.
5 - Record Your Own English-language Audiobook
When it comes to English fluency, the most effective strategy is to actually use the language. Speak to English-speaking coworkers as much as possible, join meetups with international people, and interact in English as much as you can. However, sometimes we don’t have the option to practice English with other people.
Here’s a tip! Think of a book or a story that you enjoy reading and record yourself reading it. Try to pronounce all the words clearly and slowly. This will take time –it’s not as easy as it may sound–, but we promise, it’s effective and fun. It’s a great way to practice your English pronunciation and pay attention to words and phrases.
You can easily record audio with QuickTime Player, Audacity, or even on your phone! Play around with it and have fun. And who knows, you may even end up getting paid to read books aloud.
6 - Learn and Study Phrases
Create your own vocabulary list, but add them in phrases, not isolated. Regularly write down new words, expressions, and idioms and include their meanings and relevant examples. And more importantly - give them context! Use new words and phrases in sentences that are true to you, and associate them with things you already know, like a picture or a funny story.
Make sure this list is easily accessible (a note on your phone, a notebook you always carry in your bag, or a file on your desktop) and check it often. If you find it hard to remember new English words, use the power of repetition.
Read your new phrase today and use it in a sentence. Then do that again in three days, then in a week, then in a month, and then in six months, until it becomes part of your long-term memory and your active vocabulary.
Speaking of English idioms, make sure you check out our Talaera Bits -shorter Talaera Talks podcast episodes with great idioms and expressions.
7 - Practice Speaking English Word by Word
If you are starting your English learning journey and you don’t feel fluent at all, start practicing word by word. Use a dictionary or a tool to hear how a word is pronounced and then say it out loud. Listen to how it is pronounced, record yourself, and compare your pronunciation with the native speaker’s.
An interesting tool to practice speaking word by word is https://www.yarn.co/. Type in the word you’d like to hear and find clips in movies, TV shows, and songs where it appears.
8 - Practice Speaking English One Sentence at a Time
Don’t worry if you are not able to give presentations masterfully in English… just yet! Start practicing with one sentence at a time. Write down the most common sentences that you use at work and in your daily life and read them out loud.
Pro tip: Record yourself!
When you practice reading those sentences out loud, record yourself and listen to your own voice later. This will help you identify areas of improvement and get better at them.
Once you master individual sentences, try grouping them together and create a short story. Tell an anecdote or explain a project you are working on. You can start by writing them down and reading them. Once you feel confident with that, try to say them off the top of your head, without any visual support. You will soon realize how little by little, you are able to put a few sentences together and create a story.
Where can I talk in English for free?
The online world offers endless opportunities for you to improve your English for free. At Talaera, you can explore our free English resources and download free guides, join a free email course to improve your English for work, read our blog, and listen to our podcast.
You can also join a language exchange. A language exchange (also called tandem) is when you practice the language you are learning with someone who is proficient in the language and then spend time in your native language to give your partner a chance to practice your language. The goal is to practice 50% in each language. It’s free and it’s a great way to meet new people.
Another excellent tip to improve your English for free is to use your social media time to get better at English. Here are some great ways to make the most of the time you spend on social media to learn English.
Apps to practice speaking English
Elsa - Elsa is an artificial intelligence pronunciation coach that helps you improve your English speaking and pronunciation. You learn how to speak short, fun dialogues and can get instant feedback.
Apps4speaking - Have an interactive conversation with video characters with the latest speech recognition technology.
HelloTalk - A very popular app to practice languages. It includes a lot of features for language exchanges and also short English courses, translation tools, and moments that are something like an Instagram story.
Talaera Self-Study - We will soon release self-paced courses for you to improve your business English at your own paced. Stay tuned by joining our newsletter - all our subscribers will get early access.
9- Don't Study Grammar (Too Much)
Grammar is important, but not as much as you may think. Many schools teach languages backward - they start with the grammar basics and they build it up from there. But think about how you learned your mother tongue. It was really the other way around - you first learned to get your message across, and it was only then when you were taught about verbs, adverbs, and all the other grammatical concepts.
Start by focusing on learning phrases and structures. Grammar should be a supporting tool to help you understand certain aspects of the language and to help you reach an advanced level.
10 - Use It or Lose It
You can’t learn to cook just by reading a recipe. To learn to cook, you need to cook. The only way to get better at English (or any other language) is to use it. Learning a language is not just memorizing words and grammar rules. Learning a language is learning how to communicate with others in that language. Skills are improved through practice. But, once learned, you need to keep practicing. Otherwise, you may forget what you learned (aka “use it or lose it”).
How can I speak English at home?
Here are some quick ideas for you to speak English at home:
- Chat with friends online
- Schedule a virtual coffee date with one of our colleagues from overseas
- Make an audio blog
- Start your own podcast
- Host webinars on a topic you’re passionate about
- Read out loud
- Encourage your family to host an English night dinner (if they can at least say some words in English)
- Join an online class (to improve your English or any other skill)
- Start your own English club
- Set up virtual calls to speak with English-speaking friends
11 - Learn Synonyms
Learning synonyms and different phrases to say the same thing. This will give you the confidence you need to express your ideas effectively –even in stressful situations. If you know more than one way to express the same concept, your mind will go blank much less than if you only know one. This is called paraphrasing, and it will help you communicate clearly and become fluent in English.
For example, you can say “Let’s start” in many different ways: Let’s begin, Let’s kick things off, Let’s get the ball rolling, Shall we start?...
12 - Improve Your English Fluency With a Teacher
Find a teacher that is able to assess your English level and needs and creates a program just for you. This personalized approach will speed up your learning process and help you feel confident in English more quickly.
Look for the program that works best for you (one-on-one lessons, small group courses, workshops…) and prioritize what you would like to work on first. What’s important is that you click with your teacher. It should be fun and interesting. Otherwise, it will become a chore and your chances of dropping out will increase.
At Talaera, we help professionals around the world improve their English communication skills for work. We pay special attention to the learners’ needs and carefully match them with teachers that fit their interests and learning styles.
13 - Stop Being a Student and Start Thinking in English
Thinking in English might be that ‘aha’ moment we’re all hoping for. Real fluency happens when you stop translating sentences in your head. To reach that moment stop seeing yourself as an English learner and start thinking in English. It may look insignificant, but that mentality change will help you get to full English proficiency.
An effective exercise to stop translating words in your head is to associate new words with images, not with words in your native language. This small habit will help you retrieve words much quicker. If it’s hard at the beginning, keep practicing. It’ll become easier!
14 - Accept that English is a Weird Language
English is a great language to learn. It opens up new horizons -in terms of business, relationships, travel, and art (with music and literature). But it can also be a mystery to many of us. From its bizarre spelling rules to its grammar loopholes. No wonder people are turning to emojis to express their thoughts.
If you still get confused with English pronunciation, check out The Chaos by Gerard Nolst Trenité - a classic English poem containing about 800 of the worst irregularities in English spelling and pronunciation.
Learn some easy-to-apply tips to feel more confident when you need to express work-related ideas in English. We've condensed our learners' most common concerns into 8 bitesize lessons. Sign up here for free and receive one email every Tuesday for the next two months with tips, vocabulary, and exercises to practice.
Keep Improving Your Communication Skills for the Workplace
If you are ready to take your professional English communication skills to the next level, get in touch with Talaera. Continue improving your communication skills for professional situations with our free resources.
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