English Fluency For Advanced English Speaker (2015)
Chapter 3: Immerse Yourself in the English Language
Have you ever wondered what the difference is between an individual who seems to glide through learning the English language and someone who struggles with every word – perhaps even every syllable?
You may have assumed that’s it a matter of skill. You dismiss their success as a natural talent they possess for learning the spoken word. You may even credit them with being smarter than the average person.
Well, you may think all of that, but you’d be wrong. Those who learn how to speak English fluently are neither smarter than you nor do they necessarily have a gift for learning languages.
What separates those who learn the spoken word of English from those who don’t can be described in one word: immersion.
What? Those who seem to learn effortlessly simply immerse themselves into the language. They seek out opportunities to speak English at every turn. If they have to make a choice between speaking their native language or English, they choose English every chance they get.
Consider this for a moment. You’ll never improve at any activity – jogging, playing piano or even knitting – unless you practice. Practicing the English language is the only way to immerse yourself in the language.
The Only Way to Learn English
Believe it or not, you can be the person who others envy at your quick grasp of the English language. You can be the individual who speaks it with ease. And you can start right now. As long as you keep these guidelines in mind.
- Don’t spend a lot of time perfecting your grammar.
Believe it or not, this is probably the most important rule in learning how to speak English.
Your goal isn’t to write a paragraph in English with no grammatical mistakes. You goal is to speak it. So don’t obsess with grammar. If you listen closely to native speakers not everyone speaks English perfect all the time.
Let’s face it, at this point in your studies you already have a firm grasp of English grammar. You probably could even correct a native speaker when they don’t use proper grammar. So, if your goal is to become a better speaker you need to focus on using it as if it were your first language.
Actually, studying grammar will only hinder your development using the spoken word. If you analyze what you’re about to say and think about all the grammar rules before you speak, you’ll discover the precise moment to say what you wanted to.
When you’re thinking about this guideline you need to know that even most native speakers of the English language only know about 20 percent of all the hundreds (and hundreds) of the rules. A mere 20 percent. At this point in your studies, you probably already know more than that.
Don’t worry, the more frequently you speak English, you’ll undoubtedly get an ear for proper grammar. After a while, the sound of an improperly structured sentence or verbs that don’t agree with you subject will sound horrible. As long as you know what sounds right, you’ll be able to speak it well enough. I’m guessing that, as an advanced student, you already have a grasp of this aspect of your learning.
- Learn phrases, not words.
Think about it. You probably know many vocabulary words. And you undoubtedly know how to pronounce them. But what you really need to study at this point are phrases. While knowing the words are, indeed, important, languages are really a compilation of phrases.
I’m sure you know students of the language who have an impeccable grasp of vocabulary words but still can’t create a sentence if their life depended on it. Why? They failed to study English phrases.
When children learn how to talk, they’re definitely immersed in their native language. It’s usually the only language they hear from the moment they wake up until they’re tucked into bed at night. What they hear are not separate words, but sentences, phrases and everything in between.
If you already know about 1,000 words (and you probably know more than that right now), you could still find yourself stumbling over stringing more than two sentences together to engage yourself intelligently in conversation.
But all you really need to know is approximately 100 phrases and you’ll be able to string sentence after sentence with ease. In contrast you’ll be surprised how much more fluent you’ll be. If you know 1,000 separate words, you may be able to correctly create one sentence. Only one sentence.
If you learn 100 phrases you’ll be able to speak many more sentences. And if you get ambitious and learn 1,000 phrases (it’s not nearly as difficult as it seems) . . . well . . . you’ll be nearly as fluent as a native speaker.
Once you learn even a few of these phrases a week, your understanding of speaking this language with explode exponentially. The trick is to learn the phrase so well that you only have to exert a small amount effort on completing them.
Listed below are several of the most common phrases in the language. How many of them do you know? If you find there are some you’re stumbling over, then you may want to study those some.
- How often do you (plus verb)?
- Can I help you (plus verb or as a question by itself)?
- It’s too late for that
- You could have (plus a verb)
- If I were you I would have (add verb)
- It looks like (plus a noun)
- It’s time to (plus a verb)
- What if (plus a subject and verb)
- How was (plus a noun)
- Let’s say that ( plus subject and verb)
- I think I should (plus a verb)
- I’m sorry to (plus a verb)
- I was thinking about (plus a verb)
- I think I should (plus a verb)
- Thank you for (plus a verb)
- I don’t know what to do about (plus a noun)
- Have you ever thought about (plus a verb)?
Using just one of those phrases, you’re about to see how many different situations it’s suited for:
Have you ever thought about (plus a verb)?
- Have you ever thought about starting your business?
- Have you ever thought about changing jobs?
- Have you ever thought about learning how to swim?
- Have you ever thought about becoming a writer?
- Have you ever thought about having more children?
- Have you ever thought about selling your house?
- Have you ever thought about visiting South America?
- Have you ever thought about learning Russian?
- Have you ever thought about the meaning of life?
- Have you ever thought about joining a fitness center?
If you learned just this one phrase, you can immediately see how many ways you can use it in daily conversation. This phrase, in particular, is a great example, because when you ask it, you’re inviting someone into a conversation with you. That will spawn the use of even more sentences using phrases you’ve already learned.
Can you see how pointless it becomes to learn individual words when your ultimate aim is to speak more fluently? That’s not to say that learning more words isn’t important. But don’t forget to give a priority to learning phrases as well.
- Think in English
When you go to speak to someone, don’t think in your native language and then translate your sentence into English. Simply think in English. This is one of those guidelines that is easier said than done. You’re trying to break a habit – thinking in your native tongue – that has been with you all of your life. To be honest, you probably don’t know any other way to think.
Why is thinking in your native language not a particularly good idea? The ordering of the words in your native language is more than language not going to be the same as in the English language. Your natural tendency will be to repeat the English words in that order.
But more than that, in the process of translating your sentence, you’ll probably be trying to use grammar rules you’re not all that familiar with yet.
Thinking in English will, undoubtedly be difficult at first, but the more you force your mind to do it, easier it becomes. And the easier it becomes, the more fluent you’ll be at the English language. Give it a try the next time you go to speak English.
- Practice speaking English when you hear it.
Remember that reading and listening to the English word doesn’t make you a better speaker. It will give you more knowledge of reading the written word and understanding it when it is spoken to you. But learning to speak it yourself, requires you do more work. It requires that you truly become interactive with the language.
Without a doubt, reading and listening to the language are two of the most important aspects of learning English. But you’re missing the final piece of the puzzle if you don’t practice speaking it. This goes for any language, not just English.
Think about the order in which young children learn their native language. They first learn how to speak it and become quite fluent in it and finally learn how to read. Yes, I know that in the process they make many grammatical mistakes. One of the most common is to use the word “brung” as a past tense form of “bring.” The correct form is brought. “Look what I’ve brung you.” But the vital point is they didn’t wait until they knew what the proper form of the verb was before they spoke. And they do indeed get their message across.
So, don’t obsess with reading and listening. It appears the natural order of learning a language is listening, speaking, reading and then writing. So don’t think for a moment that your reading and writing skills aren’t good enough to allow you to speak it. Your average four-year-old doesn’t seem to worry about it.
- Surround yourself with others who speak English
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: immerse yourself in the English language. Compare the English language to an ocean. As long as you stay on the ship you’ll only learn what’s at the surface of the ocean. Sure, you’ll have a great view of the waves and you know the temperature by dipping your hands in the water occasionally. But you’ll never know what lies beneath the surface unless you immerse yourself – submerge yourself – into the body of water.
If you don’t the plunge from the boat into the ocean right now, when will you?
Think about this for a moment. Those English students who excel at speaking the language are usually the individuals who attended – or are still attending – an English-speaking school. Why is that? Because they were in a culture that forced them to speak English. If they had their way they might have preferred to speak more in their own language.
But they took all their classroom lessons in English, talked to their professors in English – even talked to their friends in English.
Compare these individuals to those who studied abroad, but returned lamenting they still aren’t fluent in the language. Because all the while they were in an English-speaking country they never allowed themselves to take the plunge. For whatever reason, they never took the plunge into fully using what skills they had developed up to that time?
So does that mean you have to travel or go to an English-speaking school in order to speak the language fluently? No, not by a long shot. You can become fluent in the language without ever traveling anywhere! Simply make a pact with your friends who are also learning the language that you’re all going to dive into the ocean of English to learn what’s beneath the surface.
Promise each other then when gathered you’ll only speak English. Don’t have that many friends who are English speakers or learning the language? Before you know it you’ll find yourself thinking in English when you’re around these individuals and speaking in the language won’t seem so frightening any longer.