Going abroad isn’t always a realistic option for becoming fluent in a language, so here are some tips to improve your English speaking, and increase your fluency at home.
1. Completely surround yourself with English
Forget about learning a language from 1-2 hours of reading a book. Is it possible? Maybe. Is it realistic? NO. Getting yourself used to the language is a must for improving your speaking fluency. How can you surround yourself?
- Listen and read the news in English. There are plenty of online resources from different countries. (BBC, CNN, ABC)
- Play English music at home or in your car. Get a music player licensed in your country for more options (ie: Spotify)
- Read lyrics while listening. If you’re not sure of English music, check out: The Billboard Hot 100 list
- Translate your favorite songs into English!
- English podcasts
- Expand your TV and movie choices to more English (use English subtitles). Think: Netflix.
- Watch fun YouTube videos, or from another video source. (Vsauce is a very interesting channel)
- Follow English blogs. Google (your interest) + blog. For example: rock music blog.
- Explore the English section at your local library.
- Join English clubs/groups, (locally or virtually) Check out local newspapers, magazines, or online: International MeetUp.
- Use social media to connect with English speakers across the world. Don’t forget to status update, tweet, and comment in English!
- Hobbies in English! Cook using an English recipe, craft or build with English instructions.
- Going to the store? Things to do? Practice writing all your lists in English!
- Listen to English audio while you sleep!
2. Stop thinking that only speaking will improve your English speaking fluency
Being able to speak does not happen overnight, and it definitely doesn’t happen without knowing some grammar. Reading exposes you to new vocabulary, proper word order, sentences construction, and can introduce you to new grammar naturally. Writing is a way for you to give more attention to making your own correct sentences, and using correct English grammar. Studying all skills in English is extremely important for speaking fluency.
3. Don’t be shy and start making connections!
Don’t be shy to use your language. Try asking the worker you are speaking with in public if they speak English. Most likely, they will be just as excited as you to practice!
4. Practice listening to different accents
Try not to just watch/listen to British English, or only American English. Being familiar with a variety of accents and especially, vocabulary and collocations will help you improve your English speaking and understanding. Netflix has a variety of TV shows and movies from all over the world, or expose yourself to accents through international news.
5. Self-practice - Yes, talk to yourself
If you’re not comfortable speaking alone, how will you do it in a group? Think out loud in English or sing. You can also try saying out loud what you’re doing, as you’re doing it. If you find it difficult to explain, this is an idea of language to look up. For example: As you’re cooking breakfast, do you know the related vocabulary for the food and utensils? Can you use different verbs to explain your actions? This would be especially useful at work if you want to utilize English most while at work.
6. Read out loud
Similar to number 5, Self-Practice, reading texts out loud is another way to “train” yourself how to speak. Reading accurate and well-written texts out loud will help you make the connections of what your English sentences should sound like, and you’ll probably build some vocabulary, too!
7. Record native speakers, and practice recording yourself too!
If you are not sure how the text should sound when you read (# 6 above), a great way to practice sounding like a native is to listen to one, and try to mimic. After all, this is more or less how children learn to speak. Use a recording device to record a TV show, movie, interview, etc, and listen to the accents, pronunciation, and intonation. After listening, record yourself trying to use the same style of speaking. When you compare it to the native, what is different? There will definitely be differences that are expected between a native speaker and learner; however, is your intonation and ‘flow’ similar, how is the speed of your speaking, and are you articulating (saying clearly) the same letters and sounds?
8. Don’t forget pronunciation practice!
Every language has their unique sets of sounds, Identify the sounds you have difficulties with and practice these with tongue twisters, minimal pair lists, or various online sites dedicated to these (easy to find in Google). The best way to practice is repetition.
9. Try teaching someone else English
Trying to teach someone else the language will get you talking as well. Even if it’s basic words, sentences, or phrases, the more you teach someone…the more opportunities you’ll have to practice with them.
…and finally, very important…
10. Stop translating all the time!
These disadvantages are so much bigger than the positives. Is it necessary sometimes? Yes. But when you learn to “need” and “rely on” the translator, you are creating a serious problem for your fluency, blocking your ability, and making it almost impossible. It is important to understand that fluency is being able to speak clearly, easily, and smoothly. If you are consistently translating, then your speech will be slowed, as well as your response time. Another issue is that you’re not practicing the skills needed to explain yourself nor the various ways to describe words. You’re simply, not practicing English. Languages also use different word orders and structures, and words in different ways. Even British and American English use different words for the same object, so translating may not always find you the best words.
Through all of this English practice, please remember to never be afraid or nervous to make a mistake. Mistakes are important for learning, and everyone makes them (even native speakers)!