What is your own definition of fluency in speaking English?
What does it mean to be fluent in English? Are you actually more fluent than you think? What does fluency mean to you? Maybe each person will have each completely different answer.
For some people, fluency is being able to have a normal conversation with a native speaker in small talks, and general topics like work, where you’re from, your family – that kind of thing. But for others, fluency relates to tests and exams, a certain level that you need to achieve before you can enter a university or apply for a visa.
Every answer is acceptable! However, the most important question is that when you say “I want to be fluent in English”, what do you actually want to be able to do? Really think about your answer!
What should the definition of fluency be in speaking English?
Actually, fluency should be thought as a mix of ability: reading, writing, listening, speaking skills and confidence. Confidence is significant for you to stay in an English conversation. Sometimes, fluency doesn’t mean that you’re an advanced English user. It could but it doesn’t necessarily mean that.
Someone who is fluent in English can maintain a conversation and feel reasonably relaxed while they’re doing it. Their tone and their pace is comfortable. They don’t hesitate too often. They should be able to speak words and also express their feelings through their facial expression. And importantly, they should be able to talk themselves around their mistakes, correct themselves if they need to. The more confident that someone is speaking English, the more relaxed they are. They’re comfortable in the language even if it’s not a hundred per cent perfect. Therefore, even someone who is an intermediate level student, could be fluent in English because fluency is about having the skills that you need to communicate comfortably and effectively but not perfectly.
How can you increase your fluency in speaking English?
1, Worry less about accuracy.
Now for some of you, this might not be such a new idea. Maybe you don’t worry too much about your mistakes and that’s perfect.
But for most of you, this idea might seem a little crazy especially if you’ve studied English at school or at a university. Everything that we are taught there is about getting it right and if it’s not right, it’s wrong. You have to prove your ability by passing an exam. However, life is nothing like an exam so you need to forget all of that when you’re thinking about fluency. You need to change the way that you think about accuracy when you’re speaking in English.
If you make a mistake when you’re speaking, you just need to learn how to loop yourself around in that conversation and fix it. You don’t need to feel worried or ashamed, it happens to native speakers all the time too. All you need to do is feel confident that you can fix the mistakes that you make. If you’re too focused on the mistakes that you’re making and you’re constantly questioning yourself in your head during your conversation, this is going to hold you back because if you’re too afraid or you’re too worried to even start speaking, how are you supposed to get any practice?
So try to focus less on the mistakes that you’re making and focus more on communicating your message clearly. This is going to help you to relax and focus on the positives of your conversation.
Hence, all what you have to do first is change your mindset, change the way that you think about yourself.
You have to shift your mindset on accuracy because you need to start exposing yourself to English in real situations so that you can get comfortable being flexible with the language.
It’s what native speakers do all the time. They make up words to express our ideas, they twist the tenses a little if they make a mistake but it doesn’t really affect the meaning of the sentence. Sometimes, they might not bother to fix it, if they are speaking to their friends and family. Therefore, the advice here is that don’t get too caught up on accuracy.
2, Focus on the English that you need to use.
There are two different ways to think about this:
The first way is to think really broadly about English as a language.
The reality of English or any language is that there are thousands and thousands of words, yet, only a percentage of those are used frequently in daily conversation of native English speakers.
An average native English speaker actively uses around ten to twelve per cent of English words. That’s their active vocabulary, which are words that they use to express themselves when they write and they speak.
Now, this same average native speaker also keeps about twenty-three to twenty-four per cent of English words in their passive vocabulary, which are words that they read, they listen to, and they understand but they don’t really use them themselves.
As an English learner, there is a certain percentage of English words that you need to know and understand and we invite you to focus on more specific and useful parts of English rather than feeling completely overwhelmed by this really huge and complicated language.
To put it simply, if you know ten per cent of English words, you’ll be as good as a native English speaker. So, break that down for yourself. Focus on the first one thousand words then move on to the next three thousand, and then five thousand.
Here are some resources to help you focus on the most frequently used English words you really need to know:
The second way to think about this is to think more specifically about how you use English.
This means you should try to become fluent in one particular area of English, be an English expert in the space that you need to use it.
So if you’re a freelance graphic designer or a web developer and you want to work with international clients, you need to become fluent in that area, in your area of expertise. What are the conversations that you’re going to have with those clients? What topics do you need to discuss? What words do you need to express your ideas? Now this is exactly the English that you need to focus on and this translates directly into your interests and your hobbies as well.
If you’re passionate about photography or growing vegetables or flying drones, you want to be able to talk about those things in English too, right? You’ll want to meet other English speakers who are also interested in those things. So focus on the vocabulary and the expressions that you need to do this. You need to find your people, others who are as passionate as you are. You need to join online groups and communities or even meet up in person if you can.
If you really want to improve your fluency in a particular area, then find a tutor to work with you and specifically ask them to practise roleplays.
A roleplay is when you pretend that you’re in a particular situation. It’s like you’re acting, you pretend that you’re doing something, you’re speaking the English that you would need to use in that situation. You can apply this method to any area.
If you work at a hotel, you will need to be able to speak to customers who are staying at the hotel in English, to be fluent in a few very specific things, such as giving good directions, offering assistance, helping customers to pay their bill, etc. You don’t need to know a whole lot of vocabulary about economics and finance and farming. You only need to practice English in the area where you work.
It’s absolutely possible to be fluent in the English that you need!
So it is the end of our lesson today! Do you feel that shifting the way that you think about fluency can make it seem more achievable? We want you to share with us in the comments what specific areas do you want to be English fluent in? We make make some extra vocabulary lessons to help you in the next articles.
We really hope that this lesson was helpful for you. Hope that you kept your mind open and stayed curious through the lesson, allowing yourself to think of some of these different ideas, even if they sound a little different. It is highly recommended that you should keep these different ideas in mind if you want to increase your fluency in English or in any language, then you need to think specifically about what you need and take action.
“Practice makes perfect”, so let’s practice speaking English right now by applying all the above-mentioned tips. In order to get further explanation and practice your listening skills also, watch the video below. Thank you for reading and see you in the next writing!
Credit: Youtube Channel “mmmEnglish”