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Hi, I’m Oli. Welcome to Oxford Online English! In this lesson, you can learn how to speak
more fluently in English.
How long have you been studying English? Do you find that sometimes that even though you
study hard, you can’t speak fluently? Do you learn lots of grammar and vocabulary,
but you find it difficult to make sentences when you speak.
In this lesson, we’re going to talk about fluency and what you can do to change this
situation and improve your English fluency.
Part one: what is fluency?
Sometimes, when people talk about fluency, they just mean speaking a language well. For
some people, speaking English fluently just means having a good general level of English.
However, fluency is more specific than that. Fluency means you can speak smoothly, without
stopping or hesitating.
There are two sides to fluency. One side is physical: your mouth needs to produce and
connect English sounds and words in a fast, smooth way.
The other side of fluency is mental: your brain needs to find the right words and build
English sentences quickly and smoothly.
To improve your fluency, you need to work on both sides: physical and mental.
But first…
Part two: rule number one: get out there!
There are many things you can do to improve your English fluency.
However, if you want to become more fluent, there’s really one thing you have to do.
Get out there and speak English. Talk to people and have conversations regularly. Nothing
else you can do is as important as this.
Reading English will improve your reading. Practicing listening will improve your listening.
But what about speaking? Nothing will help your speaking except speaking.
Speaking English is a practical skill. It’s not an academic subject; it’s not something
you can learn from a book.
It’s more like doing a sport or playing a musical instrument: you need to practice
regularly to make any progress.
How regularly? As often as you can!
There’s no maximum, but I’d recommend you need to spend at least 2-3 hours a week
speaking English if you want to improve.
So, how can you do this?
Go to classes, talk to expats in your city, join groups or activities with English-speakers,
find a conversation partner online, do a language exchange; there are many possibilities!
By the way, what you do doesn’t have to be language-focused. You can go to English
classes to practice your speaking, but anything you do which is in English and which will
make you speak English is just as good.
I’m going to take a guess here about what many of you are thinking right now: “But
I don’t have people to talk to”; “But I’m shy”; “But it’s too difficult.”
Let’s talk about that quickly.
Part three: get used to pressure.
Speaking a foreign language is hard. Situations which would be easy in your language can feel
difficult in another language. Situations which would feel difficult in your language
can feel almost impossible when you have to do them in a foreign language.
That’s how it is. It’s easy to imagine when you start learning another language that
you will reach a point where everything is easy and comfortable.
But unless you live in a foreign country and live completely inside that culture, that
won’t happen. Trust me—I’ve studied several languages at this point in my life,
and speak them quite well, but it never feels easy or comfortable.
Why are we talking about this? I’m trying to motivate you to go out and speak more,
practice more. To do that, you have to accept that it will feel difficult, uncomfortable
and intimidating a lot of the time.
That’s how it is—don’t let it stop you! You can still practice, you can still communicate,
and you can still improve.
I’ll give you an example of this from my own experience. I hate making phone calls
in another language. I don’t know why, but I find it particularly intimidating. I guess
because I can’t use context or facial expressions or anything like that to help me understand
or communicate.
I lived in Russia and I studied Russian. I hated making phone calls in Russian. Then
I lived in China and I studied Chinese. I hated making phone calls in Chinese. Now I’m
studying Greek. Guess what? I hate making phone calls in Greek, too.
It still feels just as difficult and just as intimidating. I haven’t learned any tricks
to make it easier. All I’ve done is that I accept that this is how it feels. That’s
it. I still do it, because I have to sometimes.
I just accept that I’m going to feel nervous or uncomfortable, and I have to speak and
communicate anyway.
And I do! It doesn't stop you. Feeling nervous does not stop you communicating.
This will be the same for you sometimes. It might be phone calls; it might be something
The key point? You have to accept and learn to deal with that pressure. Don’t think:
it feels scary, so I won’t do it. It won’t feel less scary in the future. The only way
to make it easier is to go out and do it.
If you do that, you'll feel more confident. It will get a little bit easier with time.
Okay, so you know the most important point about fluency, but is there anything else
you can do to practice? Yes, there is!
Part four: speed reading.
Find a text in English. It can be something from a textbook, from a newspaper, from a
blog, or anywhere.
The text should be fairly easy for you. Don’t choose something with a lot of new words or
something which is way above your current English level.
Sit down with a timer. Read the text aloud. Time yourself.
Now, read it again. Try to beat your previous time!
Keep going like this. See how fast you can read the text.
What’s this for?
Remember that part of fluency is physical. Your mouth needs to produce English sounds
and English words fast and smoothly.
Speed reading like this is a good way to practice that side of fluency.
This way of practicing is really useful because you can do it almost anywhere and you can
also do as much or as little as you have time for. You can do five minutes practice or fifteen
minutes, or half an hour. It’s all helpful!
Let’s see another good technique like this:
Part five: using songs.
Find a song in English. Choose something which you like.
Find the lyrics online. If you don’t know where to look, just put the song title and
the word ‘lyrics’ into Google. You’ll find them.
Play the song. Read the lyrics. Sing!
Like with speed reading, this is a good technique to practice the physical side of fluency.
When you sing a song, you have to go at the speed of the song.
Start with slower songs, then choose faster ones. Try to choose something that’s possible
but challenging, so you can sing the song, but it’s difficult to go fast enough.
Again, this will really help with your physical fluency. It’s also easy to do; you can do
one song a day, and I promise you that you will feel a difference quite quickly. I used
this technique a lot when I was learning Chinese, and it really helped.
Speed reading and singing songs are good for physical fluency, but what about the mental
side of fluency?
Let’s see what you can do to improve that.
Part six: learn language in chunks.
Here’s a question: how do you learn vocabulary?
When I see students learning vocabulary, often it looks like this.
People write down the English word, the translation in their own language, and then they try to
memorise it.
Okay, but what does that have to do with fluency?
Think about it: if you learn language like this, you’re making your brain do things
in a very unnatural and complicated way.
First of all, you’re learning each word individually. But, when you speak a language,
you don’t need individual words, you need phrases and sentences.
Secondly, if you do this, you’re learning English through your own language. You’re
not learning to speak English, you’re trying to learn to translate your language into English
in your head.
So, does this sound familiar? You have a sentence in your head in your own language. You move
through the sentence, translating each word into English.
If you don’t know the translation of a word, you get stuck, you feel bad about your English,
and you stop speaking.
You need to break this habit if you want to speak fluently. First of all, this way of
thinking and speaking is always slow. It will always be slow, because you’re trying to
do too many things at once.
You’re trying to think and remember things in two languages—it’s too difficult for
So what can you do?
We said before that you need phrases and sentences when you speak. So, learn language in phrases
and sentences.
For example, imagine that someone asks you:
"What are you doing this weekend?"
Look at three answers:
"I’m going to see some old friends." "I’m thinking of going for a bike ride."
"I might do some odd jobs around the house."
Now, make your own sentences:
"I’m going to ________." "I’m thinking of ________."
"I might ________."
Try to make two or three sentences for each one, so that you use different endings.
Now think: if someone asks you this question:
"What are you doing this weekend?"
If you remember language in big pieces, you only have to remember two things:
"(I’m going to) + (see some old friends)." "(I’m going to) + (have dinner with my family)."
"(I’m going to) + (watch some old movies)."
That makes it easy to respond to questions like this fluently.
On the other hand, if you make a sentence in your head in err... your language in your
head, and then translate each word into English, it’s much more complicated. You don’t
just have to remember two things; you have to remember many things.
So, try to learn vocabulary in this way. Take a sentence like:
"I went for a walk yesterday."
Keep the basic sentence form, but change part of it:
"I ________ yesterday."
Now, make 2-3 different sentences:
"I took an exam yesterday." "I was lazy all day yesterday."
"I cooked a spicy curry yesterday."
Now, practice and remember the sentences and phrases. This is a much more natural way to
learn vocabulary.
If you learn vocabulary like this, it will be much easier to respond fluently, because
you won’t need to think in your own language and translate. You’ll remember the whole
phrases and sentences that you need.
Okay, that’s the end of our lesson. I hope you learned something about spoken fluency
and how you can improve your fluency in English!
You can find more free English lessons on our website: Oxford Online English dot com.
Thanks for watching, see you next time!
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Speak English Fluently - How to Improve Your English Fluency

890 Folder Collection
Darren published on April 19, 2017
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