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  • How to be Fluent in English as an Adult without Re-learning Grammar

    Why is it so hard to be fluent in English once you become an adult?

    Why it is so hard to improve your accent and pronunciation even when you can speak some English?

    Why is it so hard to speak English naturally without losing confidence?

    These are all real problems that adults face when they try to be fluent in English as adults.

    Traditional approaches to learning a foreign language involve constantly reviewing lists of vocabulary words and memorizing endless conventions (i.e. grammar, punctuation, etc.).

    Students of another language will pay hundreds of dollars for textbooks that contain more information than could possibly be gleaned.

    This learning style works for some learners. However, unless you are planning to participate in formal writing, there are other methods for learning a foreign language that require very little grammar memorization.


    Think of it this way….

    Most children can speak a native language by the age of five.

    However, ask any toddler what the difference between a noun and a verb is and they’ll give you a perplexed look. This is evidence that one need not memorize conventions to formulate coherent sentences.

    There are three keys to becoming conversational in a target language without spending hours grinding through textbooks.


    Speak Regularly with Native Speakers

    There is no replacement for immersing oneself in a language by conversing with a native speaker regularly.

    Being prompted to communicate in a certain language to articulate one’s thoughts necessitates rapid learning. In fact, this technique is similar to that used by toddlers. If a new learner wants to express something, they must formulate a sentence in their target language to do so.

    Speaking is also the fastest way to learn what is considered acceptable in specific cultures and languages. Oftentimes, writing and speaking have vastly different rules and norms. By speaking with a native speaker, the learner will pick up on subtle tone changes, accents, and intonations that aren’t apparent in any textbook.

    Furthermore, it is much easier to hone one’s vocabulary and sentence structuring skills when hearing the language used by a speaking partner. For this method to be successful, consistency is key. Meeting only one or two days a week may be beneficial for learning vocabulary or common phrases.

    However, to truly be fluent in English, learners must begin to think in their target language. It never hurts to plan ahead of a conversation session what you want to express and how you can do so. Ask your conversation partner about issues that arose during planning. Together, you can strengthen your grasp of the language and proficiency communicating without cracking a textbook or learning grammar rules.

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    Immersion through Media

    Another highly effective strategy for learning a language without memorizing grammar involves media. Music, television, podcasts, radio, and books are all beneficial tools for learners.

    It is not uncommon for language learners to quickly reach intermediate levels simply by watching their favorite TV show in another language. Initially, try to choose shows or audio that you are familiar with in your native language. You should be able to recognize certain scenes or phrases in your target language.

    Media also serves as a one-sided conversation partner in between sessions with a teacher. Learners may learn new phrases, slang, and cultural references by viewing media produced in or about countries that speak the target language. This method is also much less costly than purchasing textbooks. Anyone can stream or download audio files in their target language.


    Change Everyday Activities into Learning Opportunities

    There are many alternatives to learning from a teacher, but they require some initiative. The best part about the following strategies is that they require no grammar memorization!

    The key to be fluent in English is to begin thinking like a native speaker. Activities you do every day can become opportunities to learn new words and formulate correct phrases. Try things like writing words for different objects around the house and repeating them to yourself as you use them.

    Also, write entire sentences and post them in places you’ll see them. For instance, while learning Spanish, I posted a paper in the hallway that read:

    “¿Dónde está el baño?”

    “Aquí está el baño.”

    Reading that sign every day on the way to the restroom helped familiarize me with simple vocabulary and sentence structure. Additionally, if the learner’s goal is to become conversational, memorizing common phrases is not a bad approach.


    To be fluent in English as an adult with no grammar memorization is possible. You just have to practice!

    The common theme throughout all these approaches is consistency. I took four semesters of Spanish in college. On a recent visit to Spain, I found practical application for almost nothing I learned in class.

    Furthermore, when speaking in a foreign language, the last thing that comes to one’s mind is what was read in a textbook. Constant exposure to new phrases and words is crucial to being able to communicate effectively.

    Learning English is like learning to bike

    Never forget  the basics!

    What is the English language and why do we speak it the way we do?

    There are 26 letters in the English alphabet which are made up of consonants and vowels. These letters are divided into vowels (a, e, i, o, u and y) with all the remaining letters being consonants. These letters make up about 40 different sounds and it is important to learn these sounds. Learning how to say these sounds correctly is critical if you want to be fluent in English.

    Words can be broken down into syllables or parts. By dividing these words into syllables, this will enable you to correctly pronunce longer words. Say each syllable on its own and then say the word as a whole. Here are some examples of dividing words into syllables:


    Word:             Eating

    Syllables:      There are 2 syllables ‘eat’ and ‘ing’

    Word:             Teacher

    Syllables:      There are 2 syllables ‘teach’ and ‘er’

    Word:             Animal

    Syllables:      There are 3 syllables ‘an’, ‘im’ and ‘al’

    Word:             Afternoon

    Syllables:      There are 3 syllables ‘aft’, ‘er’ and ‘noon’

    Word:             Continue

    Syllables:      There are 3 syllables ‘con’, ‘tin’ and ‘ue’

    Word:             Ability

    Syllables:      There are 4 syllables ‘ab’, ‘il’, ‘it’ and ‘y’

    Word:             Delivery

    Syllables:      There are 4 syllables ‘de’, ‘liv’, ‘er’ and ‘y’

    Word:             Accommodation

    Syllables:      There are 5 syllables ‘acc’, ‘om’, ‘mod’, ‘a’ and ‘tion’

    Word:             Individual

    Syllables:      There are 5 syllables ‘in’, ‘div’, ‘id’, ‘u’ and ‘al’


    Be fluent in English with daily improvements

    To be fluent in English, you need to improve everyday. It is like brushing teeth or doing to the gym. You can’t become fluent in English if you are not consistent.

    Practice English every day for 15 minutes and this can include speaking, listening or reading together with writing especially if you need to write English for business purposes.

    Learn to think in English every day. Learn the English words for all the activities you do on a daily basis. Keep a note of all these new words and learn them together with their meanings.

    Start by learning vocabulary on topics that are of interest or topics which you want to use on a regular basis.


    Learn correct phrases

    Learn how to use correct phrases on a number of subjects. Learning these basic phrases will help build your confidence.

    Correct phrases can include phrasal verbs (for example to look up, make sure of, hand in, run out of, look up, pick up, throw away, try on) and idioms (for example raining cats and dogs, turn a blind eye, once in a blue moon, know the ropes) and collocations (for example take a break, densely populated, break a leg, break the ice, come into view, from dawn to dusk, lay off staff). Knowing these meanings will help you understand native English speakers and the way they talk in their daily lives.


    Listen to the question

    When you are asked a question, it is important to remember that the correct answer can be found in the question. Think about which words are used in each question and use these words in your answer.

    For example:

    Question:      Do they come here often?

    Answer:          Yes, they do come here often.

    Question:      Can he see us tomorrow?

    Answer:          Yes, he can see us tomorrow.

    Question:      Is the weather forecast good for next weekend?

    Answer:          Yes, the weather forecast is good for next weekend.

    Question:      Can we go for a walk in 30 minutes?

    Answer:          Yes, we can go for a walk in 30 minutes.

    Question:      Shall we see you next week?

    Answer:          No, you will not see me next week as I am away.

    Question:      Will you come with me to the meeting?

    Answer:          Yes, I will come with you to the meeting.

    Question:      Are you invited to their wedding?

    Answer:          Yes, I am invited to their wedding.


    Listen, listen, listen

    Listen as often as you can to native English speakers. Listen to their intonation, pitch, rhythm and vocabulary. This will help you learn correct word order and correct tense helping you to be fluent in English when you speak. Listen to the radio or clips on YouTube or listen to the words of your favorite songs.



    Read, including reading out loud, on a regular basis. Start with simple sentences from easy books and then progress to longer and more complicated sentences from intermediate and advanced books. Choose books which you are interested in reading and perhaps even those books which you have read before. Read articles from newspapers or magazines – many of which can be downloaded onto a tablet for convenience so we can read out loud at home or read on the train to work or whilst travelling.


    Watch films

    Watch films, series, documentaries, travel, historical programs and nature programs in English. There are many programs on a vast number of topics which you can choose to watch. We all have access to televisions and computers to watch these interesting and varied programs

    Netflix and Amazon Prime can be downloaded onto the television or computers so we can watch these programs anywhere in the world at times to suit our busy lives.


    Making mistakes

    Do not worry about making mistakes. This is the way you learn. Speaking with native English speakers will mean that they can correct your mistakes and help you improve your fluency.


    Work out the best time of day to practice speaking English. Practice on your own or with others. Join English speaking clubs or learn to talk in English with other English-speaking learners. Start with easily achievable goats and then progress further once these goals are met.


    Practise tongue twisters

    Tongue twisters will help you improve your pronunciation. There are many tongue twisters so start with easier ones and then progress to harder tongue twisters. Here are some examples of tongue twisters for you to practice:

    She sells seashells by the seashore.

    I have got a date at a quarter to eight. I’ll see you by the gate so don’t be late.

    If a dog chews shoes, which shoes does he choose?

    A big black bear sat on a big brown rug.

    He threw three free throws.

    We shall surely see the sun shine soon.

    Eve eating eagerly elegant Easter eggs.

    Six sleek swans swim swiftly southwards.

    All I want is a proper cup of coffee made in a proper copper coffee pot.

    Three thin thinkers thinking thick thoughtful thoughts.


    Recap – How to be fluent in English as an adult

    To recap, speak regularly with a native English speaker. This is the best way to be fluent in English as an adult or even as child. Expose yourself to movies, books, and other media that is presented in your target language. This low-stress method will help you become comfortable hearing the language spoken.

    Finally, speak the language you are learning to yourself and in reference to your surroundings. Even speaking a language quietly to oneself will help build the confidence needed to speak with a native. Following these methods, anyone may become a proficient speaker of a foreign language without opening a textbook.

    26 July 2018,
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