Learners of English Language browse the internet daily, looking for easy English speaking tips. This is all in a bid to increase fluency. When filling forms for jobs, schools, business or even travel documents, we may sometimes find a section set aside for us to either tick or fix in our fluency level of certain languages. These sections are added to these forms mainly to gauge a person’s ability to control the languages he or she claims to speak. A popular example is the LinkedIn social media. To create a profile, there are some information you may be asked to fill. On the ‘accomplishment’ section of a person’s LinkedIn profile, you would come across different languages to select from, and a drop down where you can select whether you have elementary proficiency, limited working proficiency, professional working proficiency, full professional proficiency, or a native/bilingual proficiency of the language you have selected.
Language proficiency is the ability to relate socially and intellectually in a particular language which is usually acquired. It can also depict the ability to use a particular language for other functions asides speaking. These functions may include writing, reading and speaking. In as much as there are claims to show that language fluency and language proficiency are somewhat different terminologies, the fact still remains that these two terms are closely connected. Where language proficiency deals in acquiring a language as a skill, fluency is the ability to flow in a language in all criteria that is, speaking, reading, listening and the likes. This then takes us to the real question of the day:
What is Fluency in English?
Fluency is the ability to speak a language well. I remember going to France for an exchange program. The first question I got from people there when I told them I could speak French was if I was fluent. Language fluency could be a very confusing term. For me, I could communicate basically to save my life, at least. However, when faced with situations for me to speak on my level of fluency, it becomes a struggle.
The word ‘fluent’ is derived from the Latin word, ‘fluere’ which means to ‘flow’. When something flows, it does not expend so much energy. It just ‘flows’ smoothly and effortlessly. Hence, being fluent in the English Language is the ability to use it easily and skillfully. It is the art of mastering the English Language.
Mastering a Language
Language is one of, if not the most important form of communication. As social beings, humans thrive better with language. Every psychologically healthy human has the ability to learn and master a language. Where it is possible for humans at every age grade to pick up and master a language, language is best mastered from the toddler age to puberty. This is not to say that adults cannot easily learn a new language. Everyone can. The drill is: the earlier the better. This is because the older a person gets, the harder it would be to learn and master a new language.
Mastering a language involves quite a number of factors. As much as it is fun to pick up a foreign language and show off to friends that you can speak something exotic, continuity is most important when mastering a language. A toddler may start learning English and may begin to gain some level of fluency in that. If that toddler gets into middle school and stops speaking or learning English for whatever reason, it may eventually be lost in the toddler.
There are quite a number of English speaking tips that will come in handy when learning to gain mastery in English. For one to have full mastery of English, he or she has to have an extended exposure to it. If not, just like the case of the toddler above, ability to communicate in English will eventually reduce. When learning the English Language, it is important to continually practice it. This can be done by reading books in English, playing word games in English, seeing movies or listening to music in English and even striking conversations with someone who is fluent in the English Language.
Why English Fluency?
For a lot of people, being fluent in English would mean you have a high level of proficiency in English. Being fluent in English has quite a number of advantages. First of all, the English Language is the international language of business. This means that it is an accepted language all around the World. This means that if you want to sell yourself globally, English would be one of the perfect languages to pick up and gaining fluency in the English language would be your goal. Also, the English language is practically the language of the World Wide Web which is also known as the internet. With us being in the internet age, getting a level of fluency in the English language would be an added advantage. For a non native English speaker, fluency in the English language would usher in more job opportunities compared to a candidate who has no command of the English language.
Levels of English Fluency
The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), which is an international standard for gauging language fluency and proficiency, came up with six levels of fluency:
Breakthrough level and elementary level which fall under the basic fluency; the intermediate level and upper intermediate level which fall under the independent fluency; the advanced level and the mastery/proficiency level which fall under the proficient fluency.
To make this much easier, londonschool.com breaks the above levels into 9 levels of English fluency with Level 1 being the lowest level of fluency and Level 9 being the highest level of fluency.
- Beginner: Non English Language speakers
- Elementary: Can only understand a few English words
- Pre-intermediate: Can communicate simply, though with some difficulty
- Low Intermediate: Can make simple sentences in English. However, these people only have a limited vocabulary.
- Intermediate: This set of people can speak and understand the English Language to a reasonable level. They can make use of basic English tenses although they have great difficulty using more complex grammar and vocabulary.
- Upper Intermediate: These people speak the English Language well and are capable of understanding when people speak to them in the language. However, they still make grammar mistakes and sometimes may not know how to construct their sentences in a way that people can fully understand them.
- Pre-advanced: Just like the upper intermediate, these people speak the English Language well and are capable of understanding when people speak to them in the language. However, they still make grammar mistakes and sometimes may not know how to construct their sentences in a way that people can fully understand them.
- Advanced: These people speak and understand the English Language well enough but can be lost in more complex English vocabulary.
- Very Advanced: This is the highest level of English fluency which is sometimes attributed to native speakers of English. These people have a strong command and mastery of the English Language.
Tips for Speaking English Fluently
For some people, mastering the English Language as a second language can be quite frustrating. The truth is: it doesn’t have to be. Just like acquiring any other thing, being fluent in English requires hard work, a passion for the language and continuous practice and usage. Here are a few tips that will help you in your journey to being fluent in English.
1. Listen, Listen, Listen!
I cannot overemphasize the importance of listening when acquiring the English Language. To gain fluency, you have to learn to be a good listener. First of all, listening to native speakers or fluent speakers would help in shaping your ability to pronounce English words in the right way. Listening doesn’t have to be so hard. You can enjoy the time while carrying out some listening exercises. You could get nice movies in English and enjoy a pastime at the same time, acquire some English Language skills. You could also get some good music in English and listen while you do other things or just relax in bed. In whatever way you choose to listen, the fact still remains that listening to a language continuously would help you learn to speak the language better.
As with every other skill, trying to acquire fluency in English without the right drive would be chaotic. You have to keep passion up, determine that you want to master the English Language and go for it. Motivation is a very important key in gaining fluency.
I remember trying to learn Spanish because all my friends felt that Spanish was the cool kids’ language. I started eagerly and bought a ‘Spanish for Dummies’ book to get me started. In the first month, I was able to say out Spanish numbers one to twenty by heart and I was able to introduce myself in Spanish. However, I lost interest after the fad died down and about two years after, I realized that I could not even remember how to conveniently count numbers one to twenty again in Spanish. The truth remains that language acquisition is quite technical. You have to consistently speak and practice vocabularies, sentences you have learnt in the English in order to master it. The more you speak the English Language, the more fluent you will become.
4. Cramming is a No! No!
There is an idiom that goes, ‘slow and steady wins the race’. Sometimes, learning English within a school environment might make us learn words and sentences mainly for the purpose of answering and passing tests and exams. That is not an effective way to master a language. When learning a language, it is importantly to take your time and learn vocabulary and sentences by heart. Learning a language deeply, taking your time to make sure that you have a grasp of what you are learning is the best way to master the English Language.
5. Get Learning Aids or Study Materials
For second language speakers of English, there are many learning aids that you can get to better your journey into gaining mastery of the English Language. Some of these materials are audio-visual and for some of them, play along to their games and sing along to the songs they offer. Using audio-visual language learning aids is a fun way to increase your fluency in English.
6. Keep a Dictionary
Ever heard of anyone who wanted to learn the English Language and decided not to get a good dictionary? I haven’t either. A good English dictionary is one of the most important tools to have when learning the English Language. A dictionary is a resource which lists words of a language (usually in alphabetical order) and provides the definition and other important information on the words. A dictionary can be in print form as in hardcover books or paperback books. It can also come in electronic format that is in an e-book format. These days, dictionaries have websites that anyone can easily use online. There are quite a number of very good English print dictionaries. Some of them are Cambridge Dictionary, Longman Dictionary and Oxford English Dictionary.
7. Make Mistakes and Learn
It is okay to make mistakes on your journey to being fluent in English. The beautiful thing about being around native speakers of that language is that when you make mistakes, they can help you and point out the mistakes to you. When you know you have made a mistake in English, do not be hard on yourself. Making mistakes is a part of learning. Correct yourself and learn what you need to learn about the correction. This way, what you have learnt would stick better and you would find out after some time that you will not make that mistake again.
8. Join Social Media Sites and Internet Forum
There is nothing better than learning the English Language with a bunch of other people interested in learning the language also. You can find groups of people on the internet who like you, want to be fluent in English. The internet is another great tool for learning. For some of these forums, you can ask questions and have people answer your questions. Some examples of English forums to join are ‘the free dictionary language forum’, ‘English Language and usage stack exchange’, and even better, an online English learning community like Fluent Land would even ensure that wrong usage of English in your posts would be corrected. All these forums are great for learning English.
In conclusion, being fluent in English, as a second language speaker, doesn’t have to be so difficult. By keeping your passion alive and being open to corrections, you can learn the English Language and even grow to become very proficient in it.