Wondering how to speak English fluently?
This is a question that learners of English always ask.
But to answer this question, you first need to know what the concept of “fluency” involves.
Once you know that, you can then have a better idea of how to develop your fluency.
This is what you’ll learn in this post.
You’ll discover what fluency means and how to speak English fluently thanks to simple practice activities you can do independently in your own time.
Let’s dive into it.
How To Speak English Fluently: What Is Fluency?
There are many definitions of fluency and different linguists have defined fluency in different ways.
But let’s keep things simple. Let’s look at what fluent speakers do.
Fluent speakers are those who can express their ideas spontaneously, naturally, at length, and without pausing or hesitating too often.
If they pause or hesitate, this is normally because they need to think of what to say, not how to express their ideas.
How do you get there? Well, think about something you can do fluently. It could be driving, cooking a particular dish, or using a computer program.
At first, you weren’t so fluent, were you? Then – with practice – you became more so.
The same with English. The more you speak and the more you learn, the more you become fluent in speaking the language.
Here are 10 tips on how to speak English fluently.
1- Learn Phrases, Not Single Words
A large percentage of what we say is formed by groups of words that are often found together. We rarely speak “in single words”.
This can really help you increase your fluency.
Because when you speak, your won’t need to stop and think about how to combine individual words together.
You’ll hesitate less.
The phrases you’ve learned can come out of your mouth as if they were single units and this will make you sound more fluent.
A simple example: instead of learning the word “dog” as a single word, you can learn phrases that include this term.
Here are some of them:
- I’m a dog owner.
- I walk my dog every day.
- I’ve worked like a dog today.
- Are you a dog lover?
- I took the dog for a walk this morning.
You don’t need to recall the words “take” + “my” + “dog” + “for” + “a” + “walk” as five single words.
Instead, you just need to remember one phrase –“take my dog for a walk”– that you’ll use without wasting mental energy and time on thinking about how to form it.
The result? Your fluency will improve.
Learning phrases is not only useful when learning new vocabulary but also when learning grammar.
Let’s say you’re studying the present perfect continuous.
Instead of memorizing the formula:
subject + have / has + been + -ing form
…you can learn “present perfect continuous phrases” such as:
- I’ve been waiting for ……….. since………
- How long have you been……….?
- I’ve been meaning to…….
- I’ve been trying to…………..
- I’ve been looking for…………..since………
- What have you been reading / watching / studying recently?
There are many of these “fluency phrases” (phrases for agreeing and disagreeing, giving opinions, asking questions, ordering food, narrating events, and so on) and reading stories through the StoryLearning method is an excellent way to find them in context.
2 – Give A Short Talk Many Times
One of my colleagues did a fluency experiment with his learners of English.
Here’s what he did.
He gave them a list of topics such as:
- My biggest dream
- My job and what I like about it
- My best friend
…and asked them to record themselves talking about one of the topics.
He said to them, “Briefly prepare your talk. Then speak about the topic and record yourself. Speak for 3 minutes.”
After that, he asked them to listen to the recording and reflect on their performance.
He gave them a list of reflection questions such as:
- Were there any parts where you sounded natural and fluent?
- Do you feel that the recording flows?
- Were there parts where you paused or left long gaps?
Then he said, “Practice giving the same talk many times but don’t record yourself. When you feel ready to give the best version of your talk, press record and speak again.”
Finally, he asked them to compare the first recording with their second recording and discovered that in the second recording the students sounded more fluent than in the first one.
What does this tell us?
This tells us that one excellent activity you can do if you’d like to improve your fluency is to practice giving the same monologue many times.
Try it. You can use these conversational English topics with questions for speaking ideas that you can use.
3 – Do What Kids Would Do
It doesn’t matter what level of English you have, how many words you know, or how many mistakes you still make.
If you want to improve your fluency, you have to go out there and practice speaking no matter how imperfect or incomplete your English is.
Forget about language mistakes, ignore all the words you still need to learn and use whatever you have learned so far.
Do what kids would do.
Kids don’t wait to have conversations until they can speak perfectly, do they? Instead, they communicate using only a few words and phrases.
The more they speak, the more they learn to speak and the more fluent they become.
So have as many conversations as you can as often as you can.
I guarantee that you’ll be amazed by how much your fluency will improve.
4 – Start Your Own Podcast
It’s really easy to start a podcast these days. It’s free and you don’t need any special equipment.
But why should you do this?
Well, think about how much and how often you could talk if you host your own podcast show. You could speak English every single day for the rest of your life.
I already hear you saying, “But what can I talk about? I wouldn’t know what to say!”
The beautiful thing about podcasting is that you can talk about whatever you want.
Of course, you would get more podcast downloads if you talk about something that other people find useful, interesting, informative, or inspiring.
But you’re not doing this to become famous or get rich. You’re doing this to improve your fluency and communicate your ideas and stories with the world.
Even if you had a handful of listeners, that would be enough to keep you motivated.
Lucia Matuonto and Daniel Goodson – two learners of English – have been hosting their own podcast shows for a few years now.
Actually, Daniel has two podcasts. On one, he interviews language learners and teachers, while on the other he teaches the new words, expressions, and phrases he learned.
Lucia, on the other hand, interviews people from all walks of life and has interesting conversations with them.
5 – Start A YouTube Channel
This tip is similar to the podcast tip, except it might be more challenging because you’ll have to show your face.
Not everyone is comfortable with that but learning a language is all about getting into your discomfort zone, right? So why not give this a go?
Like I said before, you can talk about anything you want and you don’t need to worry about going viral. Most YouTubers would love to go viral and this might make them feel stressed because they don’t get enough views.
But you? No, you don’t have that pressure.
You just prepare to talk about a topic of your choice, press record, and publish. Job done, see you tomorrow for another video.
You can practice speaking any time you want for as long as you want.
And the great thing about starting a YouTube channel is that you can also create new connections with other learners of English and practice together.
6 – Organise A “Fluency Club” In Your Town
If you live in a country where English isn’t spoken as a first language, you may be thinking: How can I improve my fluency if I hardly ever get to speak in English?
No panic. As the quote goes, “When opportunities don’t happen, you create them.”
One way to create speaking opportunities is to organize an English-speaking club where you live.
This could be about anything. It could be a movie club, a reading club, a free conversation club, a cooking club – anything you want really.
The most important thing is that it’s in English, so you can practice speaking and develop your fluency.
Create a sign that explains what the club is about, add your contact information, pin it around town, and wait for someone to get in touch with you.
Then, if people are interested in taking part, make sure you have a plan of what you’re going to talk about.
The last thing you want is to have a room full of people that have nothing to say.
7 – Speak, Record, Count The Pauses, Repeat
This is a simple activity that can help you check why you’re not fluent so you can become more aware of what you need to improve.
Here are the steps:
Step 1: Speak for about one minute about a topic of your choice. Record or film yourself. Again, you can use these questions for ideas.
Step 2: Listen to the story you’ve just told and count the number of pauses you hear. Count all those erms, ums, and ers. Every time you hear one, mark it down on a piece of paper.
Step 3: Think. Why did I hesitate? Was it because I didn’t know a word? Was it because I was not sure about the grammar?
Step 4: Do some reparation work. If you didn’t know how to say something, for example, go find that word. If you were unsure about an expression you used, check it in a dictionary.
Step 5: Repeat all the steps giving the same talk until you’re happy with your fluency or don’t hear a single pause.
8 – Do A Language Exchange
A language exchange is a meeting between two or more people who speak different languages and want to practice speaking each other’s language.
Say, for example, that you’re first language is Italian and you want to practice speaking in English.
You join a language exchange where you’ll meet with people whose first language is English but they want to practice speaking Italian.
Language exchanges are amazing not only to develop spoken fluency but also to make friends.
You need to do them right though. Here's a guide on how to make language exchanges work.
9 – Activity: “Faster Faster Faster”
Here’s another fun activity for you.
Get a photo, an object, or something that you can tell a personal story about. Photos work best for this as they evoke memories and stories.
Set a time limit of 4 minutes.
Press start and speak for 4 minutes about your photo. What’s the story behind your picture?
When the time is up, stop speaking, have a glass of water, and pat yourself on the back because you’ve just spoken for quite a long period of time in the language you want to speak fluently.
Get ready to do the same thing again, but this time you have 2 minutes.
Set the timer and try to tell everything you said before in half the time.
When you’re done, get another glass of water and be proud of yourself because you’ve just taken one more step towards fluency.
Last round – the hardest.
Set a 1-minute time limit. You’ll have to be very quick. Tell the whole story in 60 seconds. Ready? Go!
Did you manage to do it? If so, it’s time to celebrate! If not, no worries. Just try again. Compete against yourself and try to tell the full story in only one minute.
This is a fantastic activity to develop fluency. The first time you tell your story, you might be hesitant and not very fluent.
The second time, you already kind of know what you want to say and how, so it’s likely that you’ll be quicker as you have less to think about.
The third time it’s highly likely that you’ll tell your story much more fluently than you did on the first attempt.
Try recording yourself and see if you can notice the difference between the first and third versions of your story.
Some variations you might want to try:
- Do it with a friend. You can help each other if you get stuck by asking each other questions to keep going (e.g., tell me more about…)
- Set different time limits (3 minutes – 1.5 minutes – 45 secs / 2 minutes – 1 min – 30 sec). The most important thing is that you halve the time at each step of the activity.
- Try to tell the full story in 30 seconds! Who cares if you can’t? Just have fun!
- At the last step of the activity (the shortest) record a video of yourself telling the story and post it on your social media channel.
10 – Join Groups On Meetup
Do you know what Meetup is?
Basically, this is a platform that allows you to create a free account and meet with other people who share the same interests and passions as you.
What does this have to do with fluency? You guessed it right, there are English-speaking groups that you can join both online and in person.
You can find events, meetings, and social gatherings where you can socialise and practice speaking English.
How To Speak English Fluently
So there you have it, 10 tips on how to speak English fluently. I hope you'll find them useful!
I didn’t mention reading books in English in my list of fluency tips because I wanted to focus all of them on the skill of speaking.
But language skills are interconnected. To become a fluent speaker, you’d also need to read, write and listen as much as you can.
The possibilities to improve your language skills are many but here at StoryLearning we can help you with reading and listening as we believe in the power of books and audiobooks.
Check out our free kit and good luck with your fluency development!