20 February 2018
When you learn to speak English as a second language, it often seems that no matter how hard you study or how much you practice you still don’t get it quite right! There is a simple reason for this – the way we learn to speak English in an academic setting is not how native speakers actually talk!
There are subtle nuances such as accent, vocabulary and grammar which make a world of difference between a native English speaker and someone who has learned English as a second language. However, there are a few helpful tricks that you can use if you want to know how to speak English fluently if you are not a native speaker!
Why Put The Effort Into Perfecting Your English
Before we get started with learning how to speak English fluently if you are not a native speaker let’s talk about why it is worth making the effort. For some people, knowing that you can speak the language well is enough, so why put in more time trying to sound like you have always spoken English? There are a number of benefits that come from being fluent in English.
Native speakers will find it easier to understand you. If you use the same colloquialisms and accent as the local people it is going to make it much easier for them to understand you and there will be less likelihood of misunderstandings.
You will feel more confident at work. If you need to speak English in a professional environment you will feel more confident if you know that you sound just like a native speaker.
Get access to additional job opportunities. While we are on the topic of work, there are many jobs which require native-level English, so if you are able to master this skill you will find a whole new set of opportunities open to you. Often these jobs pay a little more too!
How to Speak English Fluently If You Are Not a Native Speaker
Now that we know some of the reasons why you might want to become as fluent as a native speaker, let’s get into how to achieve your goal. There are a number of great tips and tricks that you can use in your quest for how to speak English fluently if you are not a native speaker.
#1: Familiarize Yourself with a Variety of English Accents
There are so many different variations of English all over the world. In America, if you listen to a native New Yorker and someone from Texas they will sound completely different! In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking that they are speaking a different language! In the United Kingdom, the most well know accent is known as ‘Queen’s English’, but in reality, few native speakers actually sound like that! If you want to sound like a native English speaker you are going to need to choose an accent to work on!
Listen to as many English accents as you can and think about what one is going to be more suitable. You probably won’t want to choose one of the extremes, instead opt for something neutral. Think about where you are likely to work or travel to narrow down your options.
#2: Imitate Native Pronunciation
Once you have chosen the accent that you prefer the next step in learning how to speak English fluently if you are not a native speaker is mastering native pronunciation. Start by watching videos and television programs featuring native English speakers. This will not only allow you to listen and mimic the pronunciation, but you can also study the mouth and lip movements of the speakers since this can also impact your pronunciation.
Look on YouTube for videos which teach the lip and tongue positions for every letter and sound combination in the English language and practice in front of a mirror. We need to be honest here – this is a long and tedious process! However, it will be worth it! You need to practice repeatedly until it become muscle memory. Pay attention to sounds that don’t exist in your native tongue!
#3: Use Slang Phrases When Speaking English
Slang is the name given to informal words and phrases also known as colloquialisms. Native English speakers will use slang in speech, but not usually when writing. The type of slang used is going to vary by area, so think back to when choosing your accent – which area is it from? You will want to learn slang that matches your chosen accent. There are some types of slang that are universal and will be used in any area, others are more localized. Here are a few examples of common slang phrases that are quite universal:
“Do you wanna hang out?” – Means ‘do you want to spend time together?’“We had a blast at the carnival!” – Means ‘we had a great time at the carnival’
These are phrases you would not learn from formal language lessons, but rather from listening to how native speakers talk to one another. If you can master using slang you will immediately sound more like a native English speaker!
#4: Learn How to Use Idioms
As well as slang phrases, when listening to native English speakers you will also hear them use idioms. These are funny little phrases that probably don’t much sense to a non-native speaker. Some examples of commonly used idioms would be things like ‘in the blink of an eye’ meaning very fast or ‘it’s a piece of cake’ meaning its easy! These phrases should not be taken literally and like slang it takes learning the phrases and their meanings. It can be a good idea to keep a list of these in a notebook, so you can memorize them. Using idioms will make you sound much more natural and more like a native English speaker.
These tips will help you to learn how to speak English fluently if you are not a native speaker. You should first learn the language and then apply these tricks to master an appropriate accent, pronunciation and use of informal language to make your speech blend in with native speakers.
Useful samples and examples: