So you want to be able to speak better English, to improve your English communication skills, you want to be – say it – you want to be fluent. Fluency is the ability to speak a language comfortably, quickly and expertly and without stuttering or searching for terms. Then there is proficiency, which is taking fluency, mixing it with accuracy and throwing in a variety of communication strategies. We can be fluent without being proficient, but we can’t be proficient without being fluent. Which is all good news for a second language learner. While there is no fast track to being proficient, you can be fluent without having an advanced vocabulary or a myriad of idioms. Fluency comes with practice and it is more important than accuracy for communications.
So how do you start to improve your communication fluency?
This is an obvious one. Reading goes in, speaking and writing come out. Read from a variety of sources and styles, you gain experience with countless writing styles giving you confidence to express yourself in your own way. Reading also builds vocabulary and syntax padding the road for proficiency too.
Read out loud One of our best tips. You will feel quite silly doing this at first, and we recommend doing it at home, not on the train home, but read out loud, not just in your head. The perfect sentences and sentence structure are all there for you so listen to what you sound like speaking perfect English. Reading out loud helps you gradually speak more quickly, it helps you adjust your pronunciation and you get to hear yourself speaking English so when you have to speak in public you automatically feel more confident!
Another obvious one. Listening goes in, speaking and writing come out. Listen to everything, turn it all on in English, podcasts, movies, YouTube videos, the news, mix it up, turn it on in the car, while you’re cooking, forget playing Eros Ramazzotti in the background, and go for a little Snoop Dog, well maybe not Snoop Dog, but you get my drift.
People who are good listeners are more observant, thoughtful, and so naturally understand and learn more. Act interested in and focus on who you are listening to, absorb what they are saying with an open mind, it’s amazing how much more you will understand and retain for future use.
There’s speed reading – not recommended for fluency acquisition – and speed listening that is. Most of what someone has to communicate comes at the beginning and the end of what they are saying. So if your comprehension skills are still shaky but know you will have to respond, listen out for the first sentence, some random words in between and always listen to the last sentence, ask for repetition on the last sentence if you didn’t catch it, it’s more than likely what you need to respond to.
Here’s another one that can make you feel a little silly. Listen and repeat, out loud. It is really effective yet totally underrated. Listen to a section of audio and repeat it, once, twice, thrice… try to reproduce the inflection, tone, then the gist, then the words. It’s not only great for understanding all different types of speakers, but it’s amazing for your pronunciation and speed and awesome for your vocabulary development, a big confidence booster.
Keep a journal; reproducing language in a “safe” environment helps overall proficiency and confidence.
Ahh, you say, obvious. It is, but how many of us feel embarrassed to speak when we are stuttering, looking for vocabulary words and just can’t match our mother tongue skills. Who cares, speaking helps us naturally adjust our language.
Speak to yourself
We spend most of our time on internal narratives with ourselves, so a good place to start to improve any language communications is to think and talk to yourself in English.
Speak to a person
A friend, someone you meet on the internet, from any country in the world, or perhaps easier, an english teacher, find someone that won’t judge you, will help you practice and will help point you in the right direction to further communications fluency
Tell a story
We naturally think in narratives, when you tell a story you activate the language processing parts of your brain and stimulate the frontal cortex of the listener. It activates a cognitive-emotional mechanism for both the speaker and the listener. If you’ve ever tried to tell a story in a foreign language you know how hard it can be, you start off well – “when I was in Singapore, I met a…” – only to be slowed down trying to order the facts and fetch vocabulary words to convey the image you see in your own mind. Start by telling short stories, and stick with it, story telling is an incredible tool to build fluency and you can see a marked improvement in a short time, it teaches you to be more persuasive and does wonders when transferred for presentation skills, giving you a higher level of speaking sophistication and literacy, fluency…and proficiency.
Nothing helps language acquisition, and confidence in communication like context. Travel has been made easy, so get on that plane, speak to the taxi driver, talk to the locals, and ask for directions.
“Smile and the world smiles with you” they say, if you feel positive about the way you communicate, people are more likely to respond to you positively giving you more time to practice your storytelling, and helps any mistakes go unnoticed.
Fast track to fluency with a maka communications course.
maka language consulting