Have you ever been in a room full of native English speakers and think “wow, I wish I could speak like that”? Furthermore, have you ever really even thought that you, a non-native English speaker could achieve fluency? I’m here to tell you that you can. I’m here to tell you tips on how to speak fluent English. It may not be easy, but the route you take, and the time it takes you all up to you. You are the driver here. You are in control. If you want to be fluent in English, then set that goal and start driving towards it.
What does fluency in English mean?
Now, I want you to think about a child, age 3-4 years old. Would you consider them fluent? By definition, maybe not. However, in their own capacity, they are, indeed, considered fluent. Fluent English speaking isn’t just based on how much you know, age plays a part in that as well, as odd as that may sound. Children have a unique way of absorbing languages. That’s why most pediatricians encourage bilingualism within the first 5 years of a child’s life. Now, think about that same child. Think about how long it took them to learn how to speak, learning literally everyday, all day. Learning a new language, and becoming fluent in that language will not be an easy task. It will take time and dedication, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be fluent in English right away.
Technically speaking, being fluent means that you can speak easily, quickly, and with little to no pauses. Being fluent can also be described as being error free. However, personally, I do not like that definition because everyone, even native English speakers, make mistakes. So, the question still stands, and you’re left searching “how to be fluent in English” and “how to increase fluency in English” because, well, you’re desperate for answers. Let’s try to agree on just this one simple, Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English definition, of “to be able to speak a language very well.” That’s what fluency really means, just speaking well.
How much time does it take to develop English fluency?
I suppose this is students’ most frequently asked question: “How long until I’m fluent?” Ask any teacher on this planet, and I’m sure the majority of them will all give the same answer: “it depends” because, well, it really does depend.
Let me ask you this. What are your fluency in English goals? What time frame are you working with? What is your day to day schedule like? How much time are you able to invest in learning English? Will you be able to stay motivated? All these factor into how long it will take you to reach fluency, which is why the majority of teachers out there will give you the basic answer of “it depends.”
Now, how can you learn fluent English? Although the time frame for achieving English fluency is unique to each and everyone, learning to use your time efficiently can change the way you think. English can open so many doors for your career, travel, social life, and much more. So, thinking about how it will better your life may impact how motivated you are to learn, and thus alter your timeline to fluency.
Guide to speaking English fluently
Set goals and milestones
- Setting goals is so important for everything in life. If you have a goal, no matter how big or small, it is easier to achieve rather than just going in blindly. For example, let’s say I’m going diving for a very expensive item that was lost in the ocean. If I was told the item was a necklace, then that’s my goal, retrieve said necklace from the ocean. However, If I’m not told anything, and I just decide to go and and dive anyway, what am I even doing? I’m getting practice, yes, I may find a few things a long the way, yes, but I have no goal. Nothing to look forward to. Setting small goals, whether that be weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or whatever, is an excellent way to stay motivated. No one likes to feel overwhelmed and defeated, but if you do not set goals for yourself, you will be headed straight down that path of defeat. So, if you’re wondering how to talk fluently in English, setting goals should be the number one thing on your list of things to do.
Consume as much English content as possible
- Studying doesn’t have to be all about the books. Try to get out there and consume as much of the English language as you can. Start listening to English music, meeting native English speaking friends, or watching English dramas. Try to immerse yourself in as much of an English environment as possible, and speaking fluently will be a much more achievable goal.
Analyze your mistakes
- Have you ever heard the saying “learn from your mistakes?” Well, we are going to take this one step further and have you analyze your mistakes. This is how to develop fluency in English. When you study your mistakes, and really learn what went wrong, subconsciously, you should remember not to make that mistake again. Most people, after receiving a bad grade on their test, they go back and study the whole chapter or everything that was on the test. When in reality, it would be better for them to just analyze their mistakes and really study on how to improve them because we do not want repeated mistakes to become habits.
Learn phrases instead of words
- If you’re trying to speak English fluently, you’re going to need to dig deep and not just learn vocabulary words here and there. You will need to get down and learn the expressions, and even slang, that native speakers use on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong, vocabulary is a great way to start, but going beyond, and learning phrase by phrase, is definitely a better way to achieve your English fluency faster. So, you want to know how to get fluent in English, where maybe even a native speaker couldn’t tell English is your second language, definitely work on learning phrases, not just words.
Focus on listening
- There is a reason why your listening skills are most likely better than your speaking skills. It is because the majority of people are auditory learners; they learn by listening. By listening intently to English conversations, you can pick up on new words, phrases, and even slang that you may not be able to learn from a book.
Make English a priority
- Remember what you’re doing this for. There is obviously a reason why you chose to become fluent in English, right? So, make English a priority in your life. Just like your work, or doing dishes, or that dirty laundry you have sitting on your bathroom floor, prioritize English into your everyday life.
Practice building sentences
- The best way to do this, in my experience, is to download an English dictionary app on your phone, and sign up for “daily vocabulary notifications.” Once you receive that English vocabulary word each day, make it a goal of yours to create three sentences using that word. This will not only help you learn new words, but also help you in building sentences, and send your fluency in English speaking levels up to the moon, trust me.
Try thinking in English
- I know this sounds weird, but it works. Part of becoming fluent in English is thinking in English. You don’t want to have to quickly translate everything you need to say when you’re speaking to someone in English, right? So, practice thinking in English as much as possible. Even if it’s little thoughts like ” I need to pick up my package today.” or ” I wonder what I should eat for dinner.” Anything will help increase your fluency in English.
Practice with friends or speaking partners
- As we say here in the States, “practice makes perfect.” This basically means, the more you practice, the better you will become. You can only learn so much from an English book. Go out there, socialize, and make friends who you can converse with in English! There are even language exchange apps these days that can place you with someone who is a native speaker. Just be bold and text them “hi, I want to speak fluent English, could you help?”
Find topics that are interesting to you
- I remember being in high school and writing current events for my English class. My English teacher would make us read the newspaper and find things we thought were important to write about. I absolutely hated this. I had no passion to read or write about this. That is why now, as an adult, I strongly encourage my students to try to read or study things they like in English. For example, if you like soccer, why not try watching the game in English? If you like cooking, I know there are plenty of recipes you can find in English that will really challenge you. You just have to find what interests you.
How can I know if I have mastered speaking English fluently?
You spend less time choosing words
- When giving English tests to children, the kids are graded on their accuracy and their fluency. Yes, they may get everything correct and you make think “wow, my child is a genius,” but if they took too long to respond, they are not fluent. You will know you’re getting more fluent when it takes little to no time for you to respond or form a sentence in English.
You make fewer mistakes
- This is a given, right? The fewer mistakes you make, the better you are. This goes for pretty much everything in life, and that’s no exception here. However, remember that no one is perfect. Don’t become too obsessed with being correct, and know that even native English speakers make mistakes too!
You have improved pronunciation
- This is where recording yourself becomes very helpful. I always encourage my students to record videos of themselves speaking English because it is a great way to measure just how far their fluency has come. If you can go back and watch videos of when you first started speaking, versus now, and see a considerable difference, odds are you’re on your way to fluency!
You use more phrasal verbs, idioms, and slang
- So basically, if you are out of the “speaking like a robot phase” of learning English, and can now understand and use slang, idioms, and phrasal verbs. Then yes, you have definitely learned a lot and deserve a pat on the back. Well done on mastering speaking in English fluently!
You speak faster
- Again, this is where recording yourself is helpful too. Everyone knows that, typically, new English language learners do not speak quickly, and that’s okay; they are still learning. However, if you notice yourself speaking faster and faster, the odds are you’re becoming fluent! Congratulations!
All in all, speaking English fluently will come in time, but that time is completely and entirely up to you. You are the driver here. You are the one that embarked on this journey to English fluency. You can either take the straight-away path, or you may have to take a path with a few more ups and downs, but if you don’t lose motivation, set goals, and stay focused, I’m sure you will reach fluency in a timely manner. However, I do wish you the best and hope that you have both learned and enjoyed these tips to speak fluent English, that I have given.