Last week, I wrote about the 3 main elements on the way to fluency (practice, knowledge and confidence). Here I want to talk about the practicalities of becoming fluent.
This issue of fluency was recently addressed on the BBC’s Learning English website. Susan Fearn gave a thorough and useful answer to the question of how to become fluent.
Conversation and listening
Included in her advice was the recommendation that the student takes as many opportunities as possible to converse with native speakers and other fluent English learners. The pressure on the student to raise their game to meet the level of the others is beneficial.
Imitation and conversation
Her second point was to mimic native speakers, particularly the stress and rhythm of words and sentences. This means the student has to pay attention to notice the patterns of other speakers and imitate those. Filler sounds and meaningless utterances are other ‘native tricks’ that are used to achieve fluency – things like ‘erm’, or even the over-used but often pointless ‘kind of’.
Conversational skills are another vital step on the road to fluency. Keep the other person involved with questions, summaries, and recognition. In other words, you need to:
- Have confidence
How to teach fluency
A suggested teaching method for students who don’t have much time/opportunity to converse with native speakers is the following:
- Set a listening task for homework (the BBC’s 6-minute English is ideal)
- The student must give an extemporaneous presentation of the material in the next lesson
- Ask comprehensive and reflective questions
- Read a small portion of the script together – check for stress and intonation
- Follow up with conversation on the subject of the audio-text
When you can have fun speaking English (despite mistakes) and really make it your own, then you’re well on the way to fluency.
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