Today we wanted to interview one of our English Conversation Partners, Sophie and answer the very important question: “How to be fluent in English Speaking”.
Learning grammar and vocabulary is only the start. Fluency comes from Immersion.
If you want to be truly fluent in Spoken English you must practice speaking with Native speakers.
This is the ONLY way you can master English speaking in a natural way and become an advanced English speaker.
Sophia shares her unique perspective as someone who spends a lot of time of English language learners from around the globe.
And most importantly give ESL students a glimpse of how Spoken English Practice approaches teaching English Speaking. So here we go:
I try to keep my English lessons as natural as possible, initiating a conversation as I might with anyone I want to get to know, as opposed to thinking of it as a formal Spoken English lesson.
To this end, I always start off sessions asking my conversation partner how they are doing, if anything notable has happened since we last spoke, that kind of thing. In this way, I am both modeling standard conversation flow as well as getting to know the individual.
The main difference is that I am more aware of my pronunciation and the speed of my speech.
Some of my students will come to our English speaking class with particular questions about the language, such as the nuances of particular word meanings, while others will spend the session talking about their lives and asking me questions about my own life.
In my view, lack of confidence is the biggest challenge that most English leaners face.
I would address this by introducing a wide variety of topics we could speak about, including travel, business, lifestyles, cultural differences and topics/terms, etc.
I would be gentle and kind and correct any incorrect pronunciation or grammar in the moment and introduce new vocabulary.
My students are all very busy and hard-working, so we often end up talking about their work lives. Other common topics are family members, comparing holidays and traditions between the US and their native culture, and current events. I have also done ‘role play’ conversations with a few people who want to practice their spoken English in a particular setting, such as a surgeon talking to one of his patients.
We also talk about the weather in almost every session. This has been especially true because of all the snow that Massachusetts has been getting, which is where I live. Several of my students have yet to ever experience snow, so they often ask me about it.
In my Spoken English classes, I will encourage the individual to talk as much as possible…this is what will build their confidence!
And as they talk, I will point out their strengths and their weaknesses.
The goal will be to simply talk, talk, TALK! And I will also encourage our conversations to focus on a variety of English Speaking topics.
A person might feel comfortable talking in a foreign language about their work, but if you ask them about weather, or about another random subject, they might feel less confident!
We want to constantly be challenging them! That’s how I learn languages. We need to be forced to speak them!
In my experience so far, a lack of vocabulary has been the more significant challenge. Grammar mistakes can usually be interpreted and/or clarified, but students with smaller vocabularies tend to feel less confident and less able to express themselves effectively.
In general, if the student is willing to risk sounding a bit silly, then we can usually find a way to understand each other. I consider it one of my primary roles as a English conversation partner to encourage them to take that risk and to know that I am not judging them.
Most English learners have tried for years t be fluent in English speaking.
They have studied English for years.
Their ability to read and write overwhelmingly exceeds their ability to speak or understand.
Grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary lay at the core of all language learning. However, but knowing the rules and their exceptions does not make for interesting conversation.
To be fluent in English speaking, you must learn how to think in English.
I establish a comfortable and casual atmosphere from the beginning and I remind my students that I know they are smart, capable people even when they make a linguistic mistake. I also occasionally mention my own struggles with learning foreign languages as well as with English, because it can be a tricky language even for a native speaker! Everyone responds well to positive reinforcement, so I affirm my students when they say something correctly and sound uncertain about it, or when they correct themselves.
Most of the time I can understand what my students are saying even if they are going about it in a less than efficient or imperfect way, and I let them know that I understand them. Communication is an imperfect science, the primary goal of which is to get ones idea across. From there, we can work on making corrections and improvements as we go.
If you want to be fluent in English speaking in a short time, you must be willing to make mistakes. You can’t become fluent in English if you don’t speak. Speaking is the only way to develop confidence.
I had the pleasure of traveling quite a bit in my teens and early twenties through school, scholarships and a few vacations with friends. I’ve spent time in Prague, Rome, Florence, Valencia, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Montreal and parts of northern Mexico, to name a few.
I lived in Germany for a year before going to college through the Bundestag-Congress fellowship, which was a truly life-changing experience. I’ve been back to Germany a handful of times since, and I plan to return this August to celebrate the marriage of two of my good friends.
Chili and Guatemala are two countries I would love to visit, for their geography, the history and to immerse myself in Spanish, a language I’ve wanted to learn for many years now, but have yet to make it past the basics. I would also love to visit Scotland someday because of family heritage. I could go on, but those are at the top of the list at the moment. This might be a good place to note that traveling is a significant privilege and is best done conscientiously; with an awareness of your impact on the communities you visit.