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HOW TO SPEAK ENGLISH FLUENTLY

HOW TO SPEAK ENGLISH FLUENTLY

Date: Feb 23 2008

Topic: Speaking

Author: dignified

Lesson

In order to imprint words on your memory and also to feel comfortable about pronouncing them at a moment's notice, it is necessary to practise vocabulary a number of  times.  

1.  Decide which constructions and vocabulary are ideal for you to learn.   (Be discerning, because you cannot learn everything.)   Choose about ten new words per day to practise. 

2.  Practise them until you are word-perfect.  Then use them in real situations by incorporating them into conversations with as many people as possible (at least six times each word or construction, but more if possible).     The more you manage to use them in conversation, the more readily you will be able to say them fluently in the future.  

REMEMBER:  Fluency in English is accuracy with good pronunciation - not speed.

HOW TO SPEAK ENGLISH MORE ACCURATELY

From a learner's point of view, the problem with English is that it is too rich in constructions and vocabulary, ie:  There are numerous words and constructions which have similar meanings.  Mistakes occur when students remember half of one construction and half of another;  they end up with a hotch-potch which is at best "incorrect but understandable" and at worst "nonsense".

1.Choosing English for Use or Recognition Purposes only

English people do not use every phrase and word in the English language.  They have favourite phrases which they use time and time again.  I recommend that when you are taught more than one way of saying the same thing,  choose only one version to learn accurately for future use.  Then store the other one(s) vaguely in your mind for future recognition purposes only.

2. Pitfalls to Avoid

Native English speakers modify their language according to their situation, just as you would do in your own language.  Unless you have constant exposure to English over many years, you cannot expect to do this.  The trick therefore is to choose the best English for universal speaking purposes and to recognise other versions of  English, so you are not at a disadvantage.  By doing so, you will avoid misunderstandings and you will be able to judge the quality of another person's English.   

Although a knowledge of the following is essential for understanding English (and possibly for some exams), I recommend you avoid them as much as possible when speaking in normal situations:-

Idioms, Phrasal Verbs, Slang (which can sound insolent when used at the wrong time)

3.Avoiding grammatical errors when speaking

Many students experience difficulties with the use of the present perfect, because the use of it does not correspond with a similar-looking tense in their own language.  If it helps you, it is possible to avoid the present perfect altogether by using:- 

SIMPLE PAST + SPECIFIC TIME

eg:  I have been to Tunisia.  (Time unknown)

I went to Tunisia some time ago.  (Exact time unknown)

I have just finished my homework. (Recent, but time unknown)

I finished my homework a short while ago (Recent, but exact time unknown)

English is such a rich and versatile language, it is possible to say what you want to say in more than one way.

IMPORTANT REGIONAL DIFFERENCES

In spoken American English, the use of the Simple Past and Present Perfect are often used contrary to the rules of grammar, particularly where the words 'yet' and 'yesterday' are concerned.

In South West England, the following regional errors can be heard:  I be, he be, we be, they be, etc.

In Yorkshire, the definite article is often omitted in speech.

PRONUNCIATION

GENERAL

Non-native speakers of English experience different pronunciation problems according to their native language.  This is due to:

1.  Different pronunciation of some letters

2.  No equivalent sound in their own language

If students cannot hear whether they are pronouncing a sound correctly, then the only alternative is to "feel" and "see" whether they are pronouncing it properly.

English is a language which depends upon:-

AIRFLOW, LIP SHAPE, TONGUE POSITION, TEETH POSITION, JAW MOVEMENT

COMMON DIFFICULT SOUNDS 

(See also spelling & pronunciation rules)

TH:  (long, soft, as in TEETH) Put the tip of your tongue between your teeth and blow gently.  It is a long sound and should last about 5 seconds.

To test whether you are making this sound properly, place your hand approximately 12 cm from your mouth.  If you can feel a good flow of cool air halfway down your arm and your teeth and lips are in the right position, your pronunciation of this sound will be OK.  Do not forget to check the length of time you are allowing for the sound. You must produce this amount of air whenever you say a word with a soft TH in it. 

TH:  (short, hard, as in THE) Put the tip of your tongue between your teeth and make a voice sound from your throat.  It is a short sound with a sudden burst of air.

To test whether you are making this sound properly, place your hand approximately 6 cm from your mouth.  If you can feel a sudden burst of air on your hand, you are making the sound from your throat and your teeth and lips are in the right position, your pronunciation of this sound will be OK.  You must produce this sound whenever you say a word with a hard TH in it. 

V:  Put your top front teeth onto your bottom lip and make a voice sound in your throat.  Your lips should be more or less closed.

If you are making this sound correctly, you will feel an uncomfortable vibration.  You must feel this vibration every time you say a word with V in it, otherwise you are not pronouncing it properly.   The listener must hear the vibration to be sure of what you are saying. 

ST:  Make a long, soft 'S' sound like a snake, then suddenly add an abrupt 'T+schwa' sound by pushing your tongue against the back of your top front teeth, then suddenly taking it away.  (Practise the 's' sound first, then the 'schwa' sound alone before adding the abrupt 'T' sound.)

PH:  Pronounce PH as F (not P)

F:  Put your top front teeth onto your bottom lip and blow gently.  Your lips should be more or less closed.

To test whether you are making this sound properly, place your hand approximately 12 cm from your mouth.  If you can feel a good flow of cool air onto your hand and your teeth and lips are in the right position, your pronunciation of this sound will be OK.  You must produce this amount of air whenever you say a word with F in it. 

H:  To make this sound, you need a lot of air and your mouth should be open.   Stand or sit up straight and take a deep breath, open your mouth, then let out the air quickly as if you are disappointed about something.  Allow your body to slump at the same time.

To test whether you are making this sound properly, place your hand approximately 12 cm from your mouth.  If you can feel a good flow of hot air onto your hand and your mouth and body are in the right positions, your pronunciation of this sound will be OK.  You must produce this amount of air whenever you say a word with H in it. 

L:  When making the L sound, you tongue must temporarily go up to the roof of your mouth and come down again.  It must not touch your teeth unless the next sound is TH.

To check your tongue is in the right position, use a mirror.  Practise saying La, La, La, so you can see what your tongue is doing.

R:   When making the R sound, your tongue does very little;  it just stays at the bottom of your mouth.  However, your lower jaw quickly moves forward, down and back as you say the sound. 

Use a mirror to check that your tongue is not moving up to the roof of your mouth and that your jaw is moving properly.   If you do not have this sound in your language, you will need to practise moving your jaw.  At first, it will be painful, because you will be flexing  unused muscles just as you would if you attempting a new sport.  If you persevere the discomfort will eventually subside.

W:  When making the W sound, you must pucker your lips as if you are going to kiss your favourite filmstar.  Use a mirror to achieve the correct lip shape.  To make the sound, you must push a sound out through the lip 'funnel' as if you have hurt yourself a little BEFORE saying the word, then at the end of this strained sound you open your lips a little and make a different sound as if you are saying the number ONE (but stop before you stay the N sound).  Only after all this can you say the rest of the word.  

Therefore, for the word WAR, follow these instructions:-  

  • decide which film star or singer you would enjoy kissing. 

  • think of this filmstar or singer and pucker lips into a kissing shape (check in the mirror)

  • make a strained sound through puckered lips for 1-2 seconds

  • open your lips and begin to say the number ONE (without the N)

  • then complete the word by adding an OR sound.  Make it a long sound (3-4 seconds).  Better to make the word too long than not long enough.

  • by following these instructions, you should have completed the word WAR

Read the above instructions for L and R, then practice saying:- WAR, LAW, RAW

CONSONANTS

In order to speak English well you must make all your consonants (except silent ones) sound loud and clear.   Many English parents reprimand their children with "Sound the ends of your words!", because many children swallow the last consonant sound in their words, particularly if the last consonant is a 'T' (as in the word 'BUT').   When English children do this, it is poor quality pronunciation, but when non-native speakers do this, it is often impossible to understand what they are saying. 

LONG SOUNDS v SHORT SOUNDS

The long sounds in English are extremely important.  Throughout England, Australia, Canada, America, there are fluent native speakers of English.   The accents vary enormously, yet we are all capable of understanding each other.   This is because the consonant sounds change very little and there is a uniformity of long and short sounds.

When studying English you may feel it is very strange to say long sounds, because they do not exist in your own language;  however, unless you do use long sounds, your English will be difficult to understand.  In fact, it is better to make your long sound too long, rather than not long enough

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