Speak English Fluently

Fluency is the stage of learning a language when things just “click.”

You’re not translating sentences in your head, or hesitating. English stops being a collection of vocabulary lists and textbook puzzles and just starts to flow. You can joke around and complain and flirt in English — maybe even dream.  

It takes substantial time and effort for a new language to take root in your brain to this extent. But hundreds of thousands of people manage it every year, and with enough determination, you can too! Here are some tips to help you along the way. 

Check out our ultimate guide on learning how to speak English.


The 12 keys to speaking English fluently

  1. Consider a big lifestyle change 

It almost goes without saying: the fastest way to become fluent in English is to move to an English speaking country. If you are absolutely determined to speak fluent English, and are able to relocate for a few months, this will save a lot of time. 

For most people however, this tip is about as helpful as suggesting that you move to Mars! There might be other big lifestyle changes you can make to boost your access to English. 

  • Get a job or intensive hobby which involves speaking English. (You could always teach English speakers your native language on Preply!)  
  • Clean out your spare room and use it to host English-speaking travellers, via a service like couch-surfing.
  • If others in your household are learning English, create times when you only speak English together — perhaps at mealtimes / on Monday evenings / in the car. 
  • Fall in love with a native English speaker. Of course, this is easier said than done, and something you absolutely cannot plan, but this is a guaranteed way to learn fast! Read our stories of people who have learned a language for love.

All of these are big changes, but they’re about building the language into your life. If you’re speaking your native language 99% of the time, then of course, it’s going to take a long time for English to feel natural. If there are English-speaking situations in your routine, then progress will seriously speed up. 


2. Start speaking English as much as possible 

two women speaking

The one thing you absolutely have to do to speak English fluently: get more speaking practice. Almost all advice on achieving your fluency goals will eventually come down to this. Nothing else you can do is as effective, or as important. 

If you’re living in a country where English is not commonly spoken, finding opportunities to practice can be difficult. Try some of these tips: 

  • Buddy up with an English speaker who is learning your native language! Try language exchange sites like Tandem, Speaky or HelloTalk.
  • Schedule online 1-on-1 classes with an English tutor on Preply to get expert help on your speaking skills. 
  • Use language learning apps with speech recognition software. Mondly has a great feature where you can ask (basic!) questions to an English speaking-robot, and get a response. 
  • When you have reached an intermediate level, attend webinars or online classes that are conducted in English.
  • Find another English learner to practice with. 
  • Narrate your own life. Speak out loud to yourself in English describing what you’re doing. For a fuller explanation of how to do this, check out YouTube English teaching star, Bob the Canadian’s, advice here.  

If you can find some creative ways to fit regular English speaking opportunities into your life, things will start to “click” faster than you think. 


3. Interact with English every single day 

It’s vital to get as much exposure to English as possible. You should be doing something in English every single day, even if you’re not actively studying. There are simple changes you can make to your environment to help with this:  

  • Change your phone / social media / tablet settings to English.
  • Set your radio to play an English station by default.
  • Listen to English music.
  • Read the news in English.
  • Commit to watching half of your TV shows and movies in English. 

This technique is called “language immersion.” It’s a great way to get used to the sounds of a new language, and to reinforce what you have learned.

If you’re interested in getting as much English into your daily life as you can, you might want to check out our articles on learning English with podcasts, with TV shows or stories.

4. Accept that you will feel uncomfortable speaking English  

For almost everyone, speaking any new language means fighting through a fear barrier. This is completely normal! Your native language is a very precise tool for describing concepts. You are completely aware of subtle implications your words carry, how to use irony and humour, and how word stress can slightly change the meaning of what you’re saying. By comparison, speaking in any new language feels like using a big blunt axe. You can’t say exactly what you mean. You might offend someone, or make a fool of yourself. You certainly won’t seem as smart as you really are. It’s intimidating! Few language learners talk about how much it sucks! 

However, all people who have mastered many languages have had to get comfortable with this uncomfortable feeling. It might help to find an online forum of language learners on Facebook or Twitter to joke about this with! Real progress comes when you get over the embarrassment of putting yourself in English-speaking situations, and allow yourself to make mistakes.


5. Get a personal tutor 

get a personal tutor

If you are serious about achieving fluency, invest in a personal language tutor. Talking to an expert English tutor even just once per week can dramatically boost your progress. You’ll be able to ask any questions that have arisen that week, discuss vocabulary relevant to your own life, and will receive constructive feedback on your English conversation skills in real-time. It’s a highly efficient path to fluency. 

With Preply, 1-on-1 English lessons have never been more convenient or affordable. You can talk to a native English speaker from your kitchen table, your balcony or even your bed. Since we have tutors in different time zones, there will be someone great available at any time of the day or night. Our unique search filter also allows you to choose what you can afford to pay — prices start from as low as $5 per hour.

Finally, it’s much easier to stick to a regular learning routine when you feel accountable to one person in particular. Study with a tutor and you won’t just have a guide — you’ll also have a cheerleader to motivate you to improve! 


6. Use resources made for your level 

If you’re determined to reach fluency, it can be tempting to skip over resources made for intermediate-level English learners and jump straight into content made for fluent English speakers. Every ambitious language learner has done this at some point or another! However, the annoying reality is that you’ll get a lot more  from your study hours if you use resources made for your level. 

For instance, instead of watching the latest American blockbuster with the subtitles on in your own language, try watching an episode of an English-language children’s show without any subtitles. You will understand far more and will gain more new vocabulary from context.

Not sure what level of English you’re currently at? There’s a free test you can take when you sign up to learn on Preply.  


7. Work on your pronunciation

Working on your pronunciation is helpful for a few reasons. Firstly, if another English speaker finds your accent hard to understand, they might underestimate your level of fluency, which will be extremely frustrating! 

Secondly, some of the work in becoming fluent is physical. If your native language sounds very different to English, then you will need to practice moving your mouth and tongue in a new way. This is a matter of exercising those tiny muscles! Native Spanish speakers, for example, sometimes say that speaking English for long periods of time makes their jaw ache at first. 

For more practical exercises that you can bookmark and return to at any time, check out our English pronunciation guide.


8. Learn phrases, not words

question words

Fluency is being able to speak without hesitation. If you learn English one word at a time, it will be very hard not to hesitate before speaking. That’s because you’ll have to translate every sentence in your head from your native language into English, word by word. There is another way: learning new words as part of a common phrase, can ease mental strain when speaking.

To take a very basic example, if you are learning the word “tonight,” it would help to try and learn the whole phrase “tonight, I am going to.” This way, when you need to discuss your plans for the evening, your brain has half of the reply pre-prepared — there’s less pausing and thinking involved.  Learning lists of phrases in a new language is also known as “sentence mining”. Fans claim that it makes them able to use new vocabulary faster, and memorize its grammar more naturally. 

Not sure which sentences to start with? Try this free list complete with audio recordings or invest in an ebook like this one. Better yet, work with a Preply tutor to come up with some sentences which are relevant to your own life! 


9. Plan your conversations when you can 

This might seem like a silly tip for people who want to gain fluency. After all, fluency means being able to talk easily about anything you like! Well, that’s true — but if you aren’t there yet, then a bit of planning might boost your confidence. 

If you are heading to an event where you know you can practice your English skills, try planning the small-talk you are going to make ahead of time. Are you going to talk about your kids? Your knitting group? Your job? Whilst this may seem a bit silly, it can be helpful to have some conversation starters “ready to go” so that you can practice vocabulary that you have been studying. This way, you won’t feel under too much pressure to come up with something interesting in the moment. 


10. Try some karaoke  


There’s no “hack” to becoming fluent in English fast, but doing karaoke comes pretty close. Music is fantastic for learning languages, especially now that so many songs can be found on YouTube with free lyric videos. Learn how to sing a pop song or two from memory, and you will easily gain a bunch of new English vocabulary! Learning songs is also helpful for improving your listening skills, and absorbing grammatical rules in a more natural way.

Not sure where to start? Most songs by the Beatles have simple, catchy lyrics and are available on YouTube. For more on this, check out our how to learn English guide where we go over other music and song-based methods of English learning. 


11. Don’t focus too much on grammar

Native speakers disobey the rules of their own language all of the time. This is something you’ll know if you’ve ever had to type out a recording of a spoken conversation! In fact, English grammar is not even taught in British schools. Many British high school students don’t know what a phrasal verb is, even though they use them all the time. 

Grammar rules are useful to be aware of — they’re essential to study at some point. But they should be far lower down your list of priorities than getting speaking practice. Most of the time, you will be understood if your grammar isn’t perfect! Aim to be understandable, and after a while, grammatical rules will start to sink in naturally.


12. Make the most of technology

How many apps to learn English do you have on your phone right now? Probably at least two! The digital age has revolutionized language learning, and it’s easy to forget how lucky that makes us.

There’s a wealth of study technology available, so choose carefully. Make sure that you’re using the most effective resources for your own study habits, and that you’re not falling into the trap of relying too heavily on game-like apps. For more specific advice, check out our article reviewing the twelve best apps for learning English

It’s also easy to forget what a great resource YouTube is for language learners.  There are more hours of expert advice on YouTube than any student could watch in a single lifetime. Even better, almost every video can be watched with subtitles, played at slower speeds, paused and replayed until you understand every word. Check out our article on The top 10 YouTube channels for learning English. 


Good luck! 

Fluency is not a one-time destination to be conquered, but a continuous process of learning. Once you have achieved fluency, it will still take a degree of practice to keep your English skills at the front of your mind. The truth is that everyone who speaks any language at all is still learning. Research has shown that most people continue to learn an extra word in their native language every day until middle age

Try to find this fact motivating rather than offputting, and remember to celebrate your successes along the learning journey. If you’re reading this article, you’ve mastered an impressive amount of English already! 

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