The Only English Speaking Practice That WILL Get You to Fluency
“I passed the highest level of the official Japanese test of English, and studied in the U.S.”
That’s what the politician’s brochure said…
I was playing with my family at a park in Nagasaki, Japan when a local Japanese politician came over and greeted us. There were a few families at the park that day, about twelve people in total.
He proudly introduced himself, and even said he wants to make our area “more international.”
The odd thing is he didn’t say a word to me in English, even though he overheard me speaking English with my children. And English was important enough for him to highlight it on his brochure.
I couldn’t help but feel like he had just missed an opportunity to shine, and demonstrate how well he could speak English.
Unfortunately, he’s not alone. Many English students know a lot of English, but when it comes time to SPEAK — they struggle.
Today, I’ll show you how to practice your English the same way native speakers do. So when you have a conversation, you’ll feel much more confident.
The Biggest Mistake Most English Learners Make With Speaking Practice
When I wrote about how to speak English fluently, I covered some of the most common myths getting in your way.
One of the biggest myths is that you need to practice speaking a LOT if you want to become fluent.
You might approach it like practicing an instrument, repeating phrases to yourself or others again and again until you can say them perfectly, the way you’d practice notes on a piano.
But language is different from learning an instrument or sport.
Your ability to speak fluently depends on:
a) How well you understand what’s being said
b) How you react to the other person in conversation
Communication is dynamic. You’re not reciting words off a list in a conversation. So memorizing translations and repeating words won’t help you become a better speaker.
Instead, to get better at speaking English, remember the golden rule:
Practice comes from input (that helps you understand English like a native). Not output (speaking).
This sounds backward, I know.
But research has found that native children often go through a silent period before they speak. Basically, speaking is the result of understanding the language well, and communication flows naturally when the learner feels ready.
When you understand what the other person is saying, and feel confident about what you want to say, you respond quickly and easily.
Forcing yourself to speak before you’re ready causes anxiety. And language researchers also proved that anxiety is a barrier to speaking fluently.
Nervousness causes you to hesitate, forget words, and lose confidence.
If you’ve ever had to speak in an English class before you felt ready, you know how painful and awkward this can be.
How to Practice English if You Don’t Feel Ready to Speak
You now know that you really practice by getting more input, rather than opening your mouth.
To do this, focus on DEPTH. Many English learners have a shallow and limited understanding of words and grammar, which is why they can have a large vocabulary, but not speak. So the real secret to fluency is to understand English deeply.
Depth is not measured by how many words you know…
Depth measures HOW WELL you can understand and USE a language.
Let’s look at the word “coat” as an example.
A basic translation will tell you it’s a thick jacket — some type of heavy garment that you wear when it’s cold. You might even see a picture of one on a flashcard in a typical lesson.
This is where most language learning methods STOP.
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But if you’re a part of the EnglishAnyone community, this is where the real fluency development STARTS!
You need many – and varied – examples to understand things DEEPLY.
So we might talk about a fresh coat of paint, which could describe covering a wall, home, car, or something else.
An animal can also have a beautiful coat of fur (like a fox or rabbit).
Jewelry can be gold-coated, like if it’s dipped in gold.
In the wintertime, the windows can be coated in a layer of frost or ice.
But notice how your understanding of the word deepens with each example of the word “coat.” We come to understand that the word can mean much more than “heavy jacket.” “Coat” can mean covering something fully.
Let’s go even deeper…
Medicine is sometimes sugar-coated, making it easier to swallow.
So, sometimes in English, we say, “Don’t sugar-coat it for me.” This might be when we’re referring to hearing bad news. We might want someone to be direct and tell us what we need to hear — not what we want to hear. So we ask to hear the truth, without the sugar-coating.
That’s DEPTH. And it’s how native speakers learn.
Fluent speakers can express themselves because they have a deep understanding of English phrases and grammar. And this explains why native children can speak well, even with a limited vocabulary.
Again, fluency measures how well you know the language, and has little to do with how many words you know.
How much depth do you have with your vocabulary??
English Speaking Practice: 6 Effective Methods
If you do feel comfortable speaking, the best way to practice is with native speakers — not other students.
But remember that even in conversations, most of your practice still comes from the input of other people, not your output.
The value you get from having a conversation is more from the native speech you hear, than what you say.
So, you should listen carefully for:
- The natural flow of English
- How native speakers blend words together
- What vocabulary and phrases natives use to describe feelings, situations, etc.
With this in mind, let’s look at six different techniques that can quickly improve your speaking skills.
1. Learn the Sound Rules of English
If you feel uncomfortable with your English pronunciation, I created an app called Frederick.
It will help you understand how to pronounce words better and develop a natural-sounding American English accent. The app also makes natives much easier to understand.
Learning sounds in the right order is critical because learning them in the wrong order can confuse you and hinder your progress.
Frederick takes you on a step-by-step guide through the process of pronunciation, beginning with the alphabet, and going all the way to advanced words like “hypothesis” and “apocalypse.” This is the same way native speakers learn to read, spell and pronounce English correctly.
You can also compare sounds as fast as possible with Frederick, which is essential for improving listening, and developing the perfect English voice for you.
Learning each letter’s sounds, and how they all work together, forms a strong and memorable connection in your mind between words and sounds.
You could use a personal pronunciation coach to help you with this, but Fredrick gives you unlimited access and help whenever you need it!
2. Listen to Different Examples of Native Speakers
Get depth by watching and listening to different kinds of content that help them review a topic.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say I’m interested in how to make an espresso.
The “trick” is to find many examples of different people making espresso.
By listening to different native speakers talk about the same topic, you gain DEPTH in words and phrases. Your ability to understand natives also improves.
You can do this on your own by:
- Picking a topic (that interests you)
- Finding three or more English YouTube videos that are made for native speakers
- Actively listening to the vocabulary and phrases
3. Sign Up for a Fluency Course
If you want to keep yourself accountable, and you prefer to follow a proven structure instead of doing it all on your own, check out Fluent For Life.
The course uses comprehensible input to help you learn and practice by yourself, correct your own mistakes, develop all of your communication skills, and guarantee fluency.
The program will also grow your understanding of your current vocabulary, so you can start speaking English confidently.
4. Think Like a Native Speaker
NEVER ask someone to “practice English” with you. It puts a lot of pressure on them, and might make them feel unqualified… or unwilling to teach you. Remember that natives often can’t explain why English works the way it does. So use conversations with natives as a way to get more natural input.
Find someone who shares your interests. Native speakers look for friends — and so should you.
Speak about a topic that interests both of you. Spend your time speaking in English to connect with them and build a relationship.
5. Shift Your Focus From Speaking to Listening
One summer, I read the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.“ I learned the value of listening. All summer, I focused on listening more than speaking.
And do you know what happened?
By speaking LESS, and listening MORE, people said they liked talking with me. They actually called me a better conversationalist! Interesting, right?
So how do you become a better listener?
First, ask more questions.
Instead of just waiting for your turn to talk — get interested in the people you’re speaking with.
Practice asking questions that get them to talk more, and you will build rapport with them.
Notice how this also creates potential for more DEPTH to improve your English!
If someone is talking about horses, for example, ask: What kind of horses? Or could the person describe the horses in more detail?
All of this will build your fluency automatically.
The second thing to do is repeat back what people say.
This technique is called Mirroring. It’s when you repeat the last three words of what someone just said to you.
It might feel weird at first, but it’s one of the best ways to build trust with someone. It signals to whomever you’re talking with that “we’re the same.”
Here’s an example:
Them: “I’m studying after work because I’m taking a programming course.”
You: “A programming course?”
See how I just turned that into a question (using a rising intonation at the end)? Simple, isn’t it?
Then, be silent. Just let them continue talking.
Shifting your focus from speaking to listening in conversations will make people like you more, AND improve your fluency, which will mean better relationships and even MORE speaking opportunities!
6. Speak With Many Native Speakers
Think about how you got fluent in your native language. How many different speakers did you hear?
- At school
- At home
- In sports
- In movies
- On the radio
You heard a variety of native speakers. And you STILL do, every day!
But most English learners only get examples from one or two teachers, who usually speak slowly, and often don’t use “real” English.
Just like when practicing alone, you want to hear a variety of different native speakers. The more native speakers you’re exposed to, the more you’ll hear vocabulary and phrases expressed in different ways, and in different accents.
This is one great example of what I call Naturally Varied Review.
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The Best Way to Practice Your English
Fluency develops from input — not output. Mouth muscle memory and other things you “practice” when speaking really are a tiny part of communication development.
So if you know a lot of vocabulary but still struggle to speak, DON’T force yourself to open your mouth.
All you need is more DEPTH in the language, which will naturally unlock your confidence and fluency.
If you’d like help, sign up for Fluent For Life. You’ll get a proven roadmap to English fluency that ensures you feel prepared for real conversations.