how to speak English fluently

by Jason R. Levine. Last updated March 28, 2016.

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How to speak English fluently?

The Internet is teeming with suggestions, instructions, and procedures for how to speak English fluently and confidently. It’s overwhelming for learners and teachers to try to make sense of it all.

It’s especially difficult to know if the source of information is a person you can trust, someone with extensive knowledge and experience in English language teaching or learning.

To cut through the noise, I asked a number of the world’s leading language learning experts for their opinions. These are people I have been following, collaborating with, and learning from over the course of my 15-year career in English teaching.

34 of them were kind enough to help me. I asked them to answer the following question in 140 or fewer characters.

“What is the most important thing to achieve English fluency?”

My objectives were (1) to provide direct advice from a diverse group of English specialists in the field and (2) to create a short list of recommendations based on the responses I received.

What is English fluency?

Many popular dictionaries begin with this entry: The ability to speak or write a foreign language easily and accurately.

Scott Thornbury, one of our 34 experts, had this to say: “Fluency is an impression a speaker creates, and may only accidentally correlate with accuracy, speech rate, grammatical complexity, etc.

Interestingly, a number of these same dictionaries offer this as their second entry: The ability to express oneself easily and articulately.

The notion of articulate expression is key, I believe, to the “impression” Scott Thornbury is talking about.

When English learners ask me about how to speak English easily, I usually say: Fluent users of English can be easily understood by readers and listeners; and they understand most of what they read and hear.

Now, over to our experts:

 

“What is the most important thing to achieve English fluency?”

   

How to speak English fluently
Tip #1

Andy Boon

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“Give students a purpose to speak/write. Help them find the language to break the silence/empty page. Then, build from there.”

Andy teaches English at a university in Japan, has a PhD, and writes articles, books and graded readers. Follow Andy on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #2

Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto

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“Focus on a bit of language that interests you, practice until you know it, and then use it until you own it.”

Barbara is sometimes a teacher, trainer, or author, but always a learner. Follow Barbara on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #3

Cecilia Lemos

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“Let go of self-consciousness; speak as much as you can. We make many mistakes when speaking our L1, but that doesn’t stop us from speaking.”

Cecilia is an English teacher, teacher trainer and materials writer, passionate about what she does. Follow Cecilia on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #4

Chuck Sandy

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“Practice builds accuracy. Accuracy builds confidence. Confidence builds fluency.”

Chuck is an author, teacher trainer, and community builder. He’s a cofounder of http://iTDi.pro and curator of the new http://GalleryTeachers.com. Follow Chuck on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #5

David Deubelbeiss

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“The language must matter, be important-real and not an exercise. Interact with messages you genuinely want to hear and understand.”

David is an English teacher trainer, author, passionate ed.techpreneur, and Director of Education, EnglishCentral. Follow David on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #6

David Dodgson 

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“Engage with English everywhere-music, books, games, signs, t-shirt slogans – make notes & take it back to class, share, & collaborate!”

David is a language school coordinator, EAL tutor, and teacher trainer based in Gabon. Follow David on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #7

Drew Badger

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“Learn like native speakers and you’ll speak like one.”

Drew is The World’s #1 English Fluency Guide and the co-founder of EnglishAnyone.com. Follow Drew on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #8

Eric Kane

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“Learning to communicate in a new language is fun when you collaborate with others. Create a network and celebrate your successes.”

Eric is a teacher, teacher trainer and founder of ELF Learning, a children’s content creator based in Japan. Follow Eric on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #9

Fiona Mauchline

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“Willingness to take a leap into the unknown, geographically, personally, linguistically (experiment, make mistakes). Accuracy’s another story.”

Fiona is an ELT writer, ‘itinerant’ teacher trainer and, of course, English teacher. She blogs (https://macappella.wordpress.com/) and writes articles for the British Council, IATEFL TDSIG and ELT Magazine. Follow Fiona on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #10

Jack Askew

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“Know why you want to reach fluency, set a goal, make a plan, and take consistent action every day.”

Jack helps English learners get on the road to fluency. Follow Jack on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #11

Jason West

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“Don’t waste your time, hope and money on a classroom course. Prepare properly and do focused speaking practice with friendly non-teachers.”

Jason is creator of the world’s first social media English course. Follow Jason on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #12

Jennifer Lebedev

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“A language learner must commit to a realistic study plan that makes use of quality resources and allows for meaningful practice.”

Jennifer has been teaching how to speak English in an easy way and creating instructional content for nearly 20 years. Follow Jennifer on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #13

Juan Alberto Lopez Uribe

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“The #1 thing to achieve fluency is to live language through meaningful and dynamic interactions in a caring, challenging, and interesting environment.”

Juan is a Teacher Educator in the area of affective language learning. Follow Juan on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #14

Ken Beare

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“Be patient, make many mistakes, speaking every day for fifteen minutes is better than once or twice a week, use your ear and your brain.”

Kenneth has taught online and off for over 30 years, as well as developing a wide range of interactive English learning materials to help you know how to speak English well. Follow Ken on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #15

Kevin Stein

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“Fluency requires automaticity which requires familiarity. Practice language you know. Because fluency = confidence to take the next step.”

Kevin is an English teacher who believes that learning is something that students and teachers create together through curiosity and respect. Follow Kevin on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #16

Larry Ferlazzo

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“Students need to feel safe to make mistakes & realize errors are wonderful learning opportunities and not something to be avoided.”

Larry teaches English Language Learners at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, California and writes a weekly post for The New York Times on teaching ELLs. He has written eight books on education issues. Follow Larry on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #17

Luke Meddings

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“Fluency isn’t the same as accuracy. Hesitation, reformulation and non-standard grammar are part of everyday English, so relax – it’s normal!”

Luke is an international speaker, award-winning author and teacher trainer; he co-founded Dogme in ELT with Scott Thornbury, started The Round with Lindsay Clandfield and blogs at lukemeddings.com. Follow Luke on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #18

Mau Buchler

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“You have to find out what kind of English speaker you are.”

Mau is the creator of www.tripppin.com, a great site to help you learn how to speak English fast. Follow Mau on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #19

Michael Marzio

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“Smartest starting point is intensive listening on very regular basis, with pictures or video providing some semblance of context or meaning.”

Michael started making English educational videos in the sixties and hasn’t stopped yet. Follow Mike on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #20

Minoo Short

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“Fluency is about building reflexes, and reflexes are built by listening to and repeating common collocations and phrases.”

Minoo is the founder of Anglo-Link. Her videos for English learning have been viewed over 40 million times. Follow Minoo on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #21

Nik Peachey

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“You need to have a reason to learn that will impact your life.”

Nik is Head of Learning at EnglishUp, an online school for English language learners dedicated to helping them learn how to speak English clearly. Follow Nik on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #22

Paul Maglione

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“You can’t learn a language unless you start by maximizing your input. Hearing and seeing leads to understanding, then skills building, and finally proficiency.”

Paul co-founded English Attack in 2009 with the vision of bringing the power of online entertainment to English language learning. Follow Paul on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #23

Philip Shigeo Brown

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“Know what kind of fluency you wish to achieve then take decisive steps to move towards your goal, stay motivated, and enjoy getting in flow.”

Philip is a Lifelong learner & Coeditor of “Exploring EFL Fluency in Asia” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). Follow Philip on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #24

Rachel Smith

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“Repetition!”

Rachel’s How-To videos on English Pronunciation have been viewed over 25 million times. Follow Rachel on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #25

Rob Howard

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“Just express yourself! Speak up and say what you feel to make your opinion understood as precisely and easily as possible.”

Rob is the owner of EFLtalks and Online Language Center. Follow Rob on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #26

Scott Thornbury

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“Learn some useful sentence starters. Act as if you are fluent, even if you’re not. Use your hands.”

Scott teaches on the MA TESOL at The New School, NY. Follow Scott on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #27

Sean Banville

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“Read, listen to, talk or write about things you are really interested in, things you love to read, listen to, etc. in your own language.”

Sean makes the English lessons for Breaking News English.com (and 9 other websites). Follow Sean on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #28

Shelly Sanchez Terrell

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“We learn language by communicating with others. Connect on the World Wide Web with other language learners!”

Shelly is an author, international speaker, education thought-provoker, elearning specialist and the founder of 30Goals.com. Follow Shelly on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #29

Stephen Krashen

“The only way to develop fluency is to get plenty of compelling comprehensible input. Comprehensible input is the cause: Fluency is the result.”

Stephen is professor emeritus at the University of Southern California. He is a linguist, educational researcher, and activist. Follow Stephen on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #30

Steven Herder

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“Data and determination – Decide to focus on your fluency. Record yourself, count words per minute and track your progress – you’ll improve!”

Steven is an EFL teacher in Japan exploring leadership with young college minds. Follow Steven on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #31

Sylvia Guinan

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“Learn though multi-media, multi-sensory, hands-on social fun.”

Sylvia is an English teacher, writer and blogger who uses brain-friendly techniques to help students and teachers around the world. Follow Sylvia on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #32

Tyson Seburn

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“Involving yourself with the language at every appropriate opportunity helps build awareness and confidence needed for fluency.”

Tyson is the author of Academic Reading Circles (http://bit.ly/round-arc), #tleap founder, and EAP instructor at the University of Toronto. Follow Tyson on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #33

Vicki Hollett 

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“What’s #1 to achieve fluency? M-O-T-I-V-A-T-I-O-N-!”

Vicki is a teacher, teacher trainer, writer, and video producer at Simple English Videos, designed to help you learn how to speak English like a native speaker. Follow Vicki on Twitter.


How to speak English fluently
Tip #34

Vicky Loras

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“In my opinion, fluency comes with repetition and listening to speakers of the L2 all the time around you!”

Vicky is the Co-Founder and owner of the Loras Network, an English school in Switzerland. Follow Vicky on Twitter.


What are the Essentials for English fluency?

As you can see, the tips cover a large area including learning, planning, speaking, grammar, conversation, lesson organization and motivation. I closely studied them all as I wanted to reduce them to something easy to digest and remember. By focusing on the important ways these 34 tips converge and overlap, I was able to create my short list of recommendations. I’m calling it “7 Essentials For English Fluency”.

How to speak English

Here is the list again:

  1. Have a geniuine purpose and motivation for learning and using English.
  2. Notice English around you, and engage with English that really interests you.
  3. As much as possible, read and listen to English that is easy and comfortable for you.
  4. Practice English in deliberate and meaningful ways.
  5. Communicate and collaborate often with others, in person and through media.
  6. Plan and set realistic goals for yourself.
  7. Try out new things without worrying about mistakes.

Now, over to you.

As a learner or teacher of English, do any of these tips resonate with your experience? If you have a favorite (or favorites), please share them!

Do you agree with the “7 Essentials For English Fluency”? Would you add to the list? Delete from it? Are any of the suggestions more (or less) important than others? Do you think it’s possible to achieve true consensus on this issue?

I highly value your feedback and hope to stimulate discussions and conversations among learners and teachers alike on how to speak English fluently and confidently. Please let me know what you think in the comments below.

Finally, I extend my heartfelt thanks to the 34 specialists for agreeing to contribute to this article. The English language teaching community is a giving and vibrant one, and their participation was further evidence of this. These individuals are doing extraordinary work as English teachers, researchers, and writers. I look forward to continuing to draw inspiration from them.

Jason R. Levine

Jason R. Levine (Fluency MC) helps English learners around the world practice their way to fluency through his online speaking practice program, the Weekly English Workout. Students and teachers can try a free sample here. Fluency MC is based in Paris, France and conducts Rhyme On Time student workshops and teacher development workshops at schools worldwide. For information and bookings, please email support@fluencymc.com.

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How to speak English fluently – 34 experts give their tips

61 thoughts on “How to speak English fluently – 34 experts give their tips

  • October 16, 2015 at 5:43 pm
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    Wow, fantastic post Jason, thanks so much! Definitely agree with all of them.

  • October 16, 2015 at 7:09 pm
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    This design is steller! You obviously know how to keep a reader amused.
    Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Excellent job.
    I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that,
    how you presented it. Too cool!

    • October 16, 2015 at 7:21 pm
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      Thanks so much! I appreciate your encouragement. Go ahead and start a blog. Why not? This post is my first-just getting started myself!

  • October 16, 2015 at 8:20 pm
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    Thanks so much, Jason, for the free lessons and all the rest. You are inspiring. I’ve suggested to the eight advanced ESOL that they check out your website.

    –Shannon

  • October 17, 2015 at 4:27 am
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    You are a champion for putting this together Jason! What a great idea and resource.

    I’ve shared this on and will no doubt share it again in the futre. Well done!

  • October 17, 2015 at 1:57 pm
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    Hi Jase what a great post! It was really inspiring to hear from industry experts about such a crucial topic in ELT.
    From my experience I completely agree with the shortlist you’ve created and it can definitely be used by teachers and learners alike.
    It would be great if the infographic could be a PDF/word document (more like a poster) as then it could be displayed in classrooms – I know my ESL pupils would be interested in reading it.
    I’ve also been thinking about writing a blog but don’t know where to start! Great inspiration.
    Thanks and well done!

    • October 17, 2015 at 4:47 pm
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      Thank you, Jenni! I like your ida about the infographic and will think about the best way to do this and make it available. It would be great to hear what your students think. Please stay in touch about that. 😀

  • October 17, 2015 at 4:51 pm
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    Excellent Job, Mr. Lavine.
    I would only add as number 8 the opinion of Ms. Minoo Short when she said that fluency has to do with our capacity to build language “by listening to and repeating common collocations and phrases.”.

    We basically reproduce what we have heard before when we are learning a new language. It takes time to create you own idiolect in the foreign language. Expontaneous speech and fluency comply with our brain resources in the foreign language and our understanding of the social meaning of language.

    Best regards,

    Rodolfo Chaviano
    English Teacher, Nicaragua

    • October 18, 2015 at 9:46 am
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      Thank you, Rodolfo. I am in strong agreement with Minoo (my approach to ELT is grounded in repetitive exposure and practice with collocations). This is encapsulated in the “Essential”, “Practice English in deliberate and meaningful ways.”

  • October 18, 2015 at 7:08 am
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    Agree with all the tips!
    Except that, you don’t ask any expert from Asia about it. Most Asia are struggle with fluency and i like to know they opinion.
    thank you!

    • October 18, 2015 at 11:13 am
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      Thank you, Gladys. Nine of these folks currently teach in Asian countries and a large number of us (including me) have many years of experience teaching Asian students.

  • October 18, 2015 at 12:31 pm
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    Which tips resonated depended on different stage of my language (6) learning?
    For first steps basic everyday communication: 29, 6, 34, 2, 31, 24
    For more advanced needs (work, business, academic, intellectual exchanges) add 23, 12, 20, 33
    (Manysaid similar things in different ways)

    But usefulness of tips will depend on individual’s personality, needs and what they bring to learning language so an
    eighth tip might be “Whichever works for you, singly or in combination”.

    btw: what a great list of people to follow for PLN!

    • October 19, 2015 at 10:38 am
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      I hadn’t thought to consider different stages of language learning, Claudie. And I like your #8 a lot!

  • October 19, 2015 at 2:10 pm
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    That’s really awsome tips you gave us to learn them.
    I am as a non-native speaker so motivated to stay learn and learn and never end.
    A thousand thanks for you Mr. Jason.
    my regard is foe you.
    Halim from Indonesia.

    • October 21, 2015 at 1:45 pm
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      You are very welcome, Halim. Stay motivated and you will surely go as far as you want to!

  • October 19, 2015 at 7:11 pm
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    It was very interesting to read the different comments, and I think the infographic is a good summary. I would emphasize short, regular listening/reading sessions (on subjects of real interest) and when possible practicing/trying out something you’ve just learned (writing a little using new vocabulary or responding to an idea– even if it’s just a comment at the end of a blog, or a short entry in your notebook, singing it, or talking to someone about it).
    I do think regular reading, listening, and practice are key– 15 minutes almost every day will help more than several hours twice a month…

    • October 21, 2015 at 1:47 pm
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      Great suggestions, Cathy. I’m totally with you on the short daily “workouts” ?

  • October 20, 2015 at 6:41 am
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    Thanks, Jason for the compilation and essence.

    This is how I see fluency:
    You must WANT to learn to speak and/ or write. The next step is to speak and/ or write which goes hand in hand with listening and reading. The next step is to speak and/ or write which goes hand in hand with listening and reading. Look for opportunities or create them, don’t hesitate, don’t fear, make mistakes, listen, speak, read, speak, listen, read, speak…. With time, confidence builds, and fluency occurs without fail.

    I hope you’ll have no objection to my posting this on my blog: kolipakam.blogspot.in.

    Best wishes

  • October 25, 2015 at 2:18 am
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    Thank u so much jason .. i m really motivated ..all of your advices and experienced of the scholar’s i have taken in to my account..thank u once again for educating us.GOD bless you

  • October 30, 2015 at 6:00 pm
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    I think that 34 experts in the field were misled by the question: “what does it take to become fluent?”
    I suggest an expanded version of the question: “what is the main barrier in acquiring fluency for adults and how they may become fluent?” – will result in different type of answers.

    Here is my answer to this question. Most adults think in native language while trying to speak in a foreign language that is why they are not fluent now. To become fluent they need to be retrained and start thinking in English. To overcome the habit of cross-translation and start thinking in English a different approach is needed: training English skills instead of learning English language as information to be remembered.

  • October 31, 2015 at 12:42 pm
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    I just love: Practice leads to accuracy, accuracy leads to confidence and confidence leads to fluency! I’ll make a poster and put it in the classroom, and when students grasp the meaning I hope they’ll practice more! Best regards and thank you for sharing.

    • November 2, 2015 at 4:53 pm
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      I’m a big fan of Chuck’s tip as well, Jelena. He captured somethings truly special in that one.

      Please send me a picture of your poster when you make it!

  • November 6, 2015 at 12:34 am
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    I can resonates with all these comments as a learner and a teacher! Start with things you like and are familiar with. Keep the practice. Be in the zone! Don’t lose your motivation to learn. Great read to start my day. Thank you! 🙂

  • December 5, 2015 at 4:01 am
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    First of all thank you for your work.

    I am a high-intermediate to advanced level English learner. I have been studying English for the last 21 months every day and for the last 8 months I have been using it every day too besides studying it, writing emails, speaking to my wife (a non-native English speaker), rarely speaking to a native English speakers (maybe twice a month), surfing the web in English and above all watching series and movies in English without subtitles every day at night, at least 1 hour.

    Since last week I haven’t been very encouraged, when I stop doing those things daily only for 4 days I get back a lot.

    I also realized that even in my best days I translate a lot (I mean that first I think in Spanish and than I say it in English). I would love to know if this is due to that I’ve studied a lot with reproduction list (Fist I read or listen in Spanish and than I say it a loud in English ).

    In second place I would love to receive any advice, I don’t want to get by with my English, I want to have the best fluency, to be able to study and work on difficult things in English.

    Thanks in advance.

    Have a nice day,

    Manuel

    • December 14, 2015 at 7:34 am
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      Manuel, it certainly seems that you have found a groove, even if you are frustrated by what you feel is slow progress. From what you said and how you said it, your level of English appears quite strong. I would agree that using Spanish at this point could be holding you back. Is there any reason for you
      to continue translating?

  • February 15, 2016 at 10:52 am
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    I impressed the above facts for improving English Language.
    My aim to achieve a such type of goal so as to become best of the language.

  • February 22, 2016 at 1:07 pm
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    I Real enjoy the way you introduce, 34 tip on how to be came a goog english speaker. i’m one of them who real like to be come fluent in english, i hope this 34 tips will help me a lot to be come an english speaker like native speaker.

  • April 7, 2016 at 10:35 pm
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    thanks for collecting the 34 tips related to fluency. as far as iam concerned it seems to me that the experts havent shown the link between fluency and accuracy. recently iam working on flency v/s accuracy and i’ll be very delighted if it would be possible to have your point of view on how can fluency affect accuracy.

    • April 8, 2016 at 6:31 pm
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      How fluency and accuracy relate in language acquisition and use is a fascinating topic. In fact, Chuck Sandy’s quote speaks to it directly and I happen to agree with it wholeheartedly: “Practice builds accuracy. Accuracy builds confidence. Confidence builds fluency.” I believe building a strong base of accurate language knowledge through fun, interactive practice is key to developing fluency. What do you think?

      • August 9, 2016 at 2:49 pm
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        absolutely it true because if u not try you won’t get that confidence

  • April 9, 2016 at 11:23 pm
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    Thanks for the worth advise you mentioned. In fact, to reach a successful result it is wise to provide more fluency practice to our teaching rather than focus on accuracy. Many experienced teachers and less experienced ones make successful effort to feed their student especially with grammatical structures unfortunately, learners find difficulties in expressing themselves accurately with the language acquired. Most of them suffer from this lack. In fluency not only we always focus on knowledge and skill requirements as topic related vocabulary and structure. furthermore, comprehension is needed. Chunks and communicative skills are advised; but also the control of pronunciation, intonation, negotiation of understanding and use of fillers and awareness of discourse are accurate.so, in this case the fluency objective is not completely reached. however, we are facing a sort of accuracy vs fluency. In my modest point of view encouraging students to use fluency with slight delayed assessments may well lead to an acceptable accurate language. Moreover, it gives to learners an enthusiastic desire to continue developing their language skilfulness. Otherwise learners find difficulties in practising speaking since they face lack of vocabulary, afraid of making mistakes in pronunciation, misunderstanding tasks or boring ones and shyness. In addition, the interferences with mother tongue. Likewise, less practice of oral part of the language and the emphasis rather on accuracy than fluency because of the testing system based on written tasks.

    • April 12, 2016 at 9:38 am
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      I’m with you, especially with regard to the importance of fueling their enthusiastic desire to keep pressing on!

  • April 18, 2016 at 8:28 pm
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    …many things I agree with, and so many things to think about! I especially like the statement that fluency and accuracy are not the same. In my opinion, for many adult learners, fluency should be the priority. Accuracy (given a good environment) will naturally follow. Great piece, Jason!

    • April 20, 2016 at 8:00 pm
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      I’m happy you enjoyed it, Brenda. It seems to me that accuracy can follow fluency or vice versa; the key is in the experience and environment, not to mention the personality of the learner.

  • April 20, 2016 at 7:41 pm
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    I have to agree most with the statement of Vicki, I really feel that motivation is the number 1 needed element to be fluent in a foreign language. Actually, without motivation, there is no way that one can become fluent in a foreign language.

    • May 20, 2016 at 7:55 am
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      Motivation is number 1, indeed! The question is, what leads a learner to be (and remain) motivated…then we get into what many of the others are saying, I think.

  • May 7, 2016 at 9:16 am
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    Hi Jason! This is very informative. More explanation for each word would be helpful and i totally agree with all of them. What should be the basic learning starter for english language? Thanks!

    • May 20, 2016 at 7:56 am
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      I’m happy you enjoyed the article, Cindy. Could you tell me a bit more about what you mean about the basics you mentioned?

  • July 18, 2016 at 5:08 am
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    Hello, this is a great compilation. Thanks for putting it together. Let of self consciousness is the most important one i think. This is the stumbling block that makes new students hesitate from trying to speak and practice skills in public.

    • July 22, 2016 at 3:40 pm
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      You’re very welcome, Niraj! I’m with you all the way on letting go of self-consciousness. Do you have any suggestions for how students can try to do this?

  • August 3, 2016 at 1:24 am
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    Very nice. I like man buchler ‘s saying! Good job . 🙂

  • August 4, 2016 at 11:39 am
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    these teachings are awesome to help my improve English language thanx…for all comments…..

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