How to Speak English Fluently?

by Hau Hoang - Posts (6). Posted Monday, March 28th, 2011 at 10:55 am

The most popular question I get from my friends in Vietnam is how to speak English fluently and correctly. I realize that it is a aching question that not just my friends, but also learners of this global language are trying to answer. In my case, even though I was taught English since the beginning of middle school in Vietnam, the things I learned then were barely adequate to carry out a conversation or even write up a letter in correct grammar.

In 9th grade, I decided to focus on studying English intensively on my own, which helped me land a scholarship to study in America through an exchange program – a thrilling turn for my education.

Obviously, being in the native speaking environment was a golden advantage, but at the same time, I still had to study and practice the language. By the end of high school, I was very confident with my English skills. All of my hard work paid off even more in college, because the classes at St. John’s College are discussion-based, so there’s a lot of talking.

Here are some of the things that worked for me when I was learning English. Since everyone has a different learning style, what worked for me won’t necessarily be best for you, but hopefully this will at least help you along.

Listen as much as possible

As I recall, the pronunciation I was taught in middle school in Vietnam are mostly incorrect. This is a common case because English pronunciation is not at all straightforward. There is nothing like the difficulty in trying to pronounce some of English’s most difficult words. For me, the toughest words to master were words like “weird,” “judge,” and “noodle.”

What helped was listening to native English speakers as much as possible, either through tapes, CDs, movies, or most prominently, the internet. I’m not exaggerating in saying that American movies and music were my principal English teachers in 9th grade. I would buy CDs of Westlife and Britney Spears, download the lyrics and sing along to the songs. And once in a while, my sister would bring me from Hanoi DVDs of American movies which I would watch over and over, and practice reading the subtitles along with the actors. I can still recite word-by-word the whole script of Mean Girls.

In this way, my English study was basically an immersion, though indirect, in the English language as well as the American culture. My pronunciation and speaking skill therefore improved very quickly. I got to learn the real English – what real Americans say to each other in everyday life; for example, saying “How are you doing?” instead of the ordinary “How are you?”

Judge yourself

When you practice speaking by repeating along with a recording, be somewhat hard on yourself, try to imitate as close as possible to the speaker’s pronunciation, and most importantly, the intonation of the sentence – this will help you carry out a more natural and smooth conversation in English.

It is also very helpful to have a dictionary with International Phonetics Alphabet (IPA) pronunciation (I recommend Oxford, Macmillan, or Dictionary.com for those who have home internet access). Of course, the first step would be to learn how to read the IPA symbols (some YouTube videos can help teach you that). I always use this guide to learn the pronunciations of new words, and also to make sense of the pronunciation in the recording.

Specifically, by looking at the “anatomy” of the pronunciation, you will be able to greatly improve your pronunciation. For example, since Vietnamese words all have one syllable, a lot of Vietnamese pronounce the word “hôm” for “home” since their sounds are seemingly equivalent. When you look up the IPA pronunciation of this word, however, you will see that it actually consists of two syllables /ho-ʊm/. As a result, you should practice perfecting your pronunciation by saying the two syllables separately and quickly. Eventually it will become an instinctive thing to pronounce “home” in that correct manner.

Variety is key

For me, the key to speaking English fluently is sentence structures. The more structures you know, the more comfortable you will be when trying to express your thoughts.

My advice would be try to master the fundamental structures – “for example,” “I think that,” “it is interesting that,” “I find it,” “it is better to,” “not only … but also” – by practicing them over and over. A good familiarity with the structures will help with the coherence of the conversation.

As you expand your knowledge in sentence structures, it is also important to augment your vocabulary. It is always wise to constantly try new words in conversation due to the mutual relationship between speaking and learning new words: you need more words to express your thoughts precisely, and at the same time, it is easiest to learn new words when they are uttered and put in context.

Learning to speak English fluently is a difficult task. On top all of the tips I listed above, my final advice would be to practice as much as possible because really, practice makes perfect. Good luck everyone!

57 Responses to “How to Speak English Fluently?”

  1. Zongru Zhan says:

    It seems very useful for me. I pronounce so terribly that I even become shy to speak English.
    I will practice more.

  2. TOTTO says:

    Thank you so much for your coment and advice.
    good luck for you too.

  3. Alex Figueiredo says:

    Thank you for your the tips. I’m really need to improve my English. Goog luck for you too.

  4. hok bunheng says:

    Thanks you so much for best commendation

  5. Hau, thank you very much for your very interesting and useful article. I have same thoughts but ones were in a intuitive level and you have formed it in writing words. Thank you for your boldness and sincerity.

  6. kai says:

    thanks, man, very helpful, practice makes perfect.

  7. I didn’t know you changed your Address I’ll add the new ones too, I’m Carlos from Brazil, owner of English tips blogs and a long time I’ve been promoted VOA special English on my blog, congratulations.

    • Jessica Stahl says:

      Thanks Carlos! We work closely with Special English and love what they do. They’re absolutely the best source for anyone looking to learn American English. We’ll be honored to be added to your blog alongside them.

      • daylyn says:

        hi! i really need to speak english fluently and with confidence.. can anyone with god heart help me..? we can utilize skype perhaps… thank you so much!

  8. Angle says:

    Thanks a lot ,now I am trying to find a pratical way to improve my spoken english ,and I hope we can have a futher talk about english learning.

  9. Thuyngan says:

    Hi Hậu,
    I’m Vietnamese, too. So I hope you can pronounce my name correctly. I find your article really interesting. As I can see you used to be a Vietnamese student but now you no longer live in Vietnam, is it right? As a Vietnamese, I want to say “xin chào” to you. I hope I can get more experience from you as it’s really helpful. Thanks.

    • Hau Hoang says:

      Yep! You got my name right. Thanks for your comments. I hope you find these advices helpful. Are you still in school?

      • Thuyngan says:

        Hi Hậu, again
        Yeah, I’m still studying at school. However, I’m a freshman now, not being a high school student anymore. I find that you have an interesting way of showing your experience. And I love to learn more from your advices. If you have time, could you please tell me a bit more about American education,please? For example, about the way American or even international students like you study at school. I just want to have a clearer view or maybe a brief comparison between Vietnamese edu and the USA edu. From that, I would create the best plan as I can for my studying. Thanks alot and good luck, Hậu :)

  10. jhonny says:

    Here, in Madagascar, VOA is off

    • Jessica Stahl says:

      As long as you can connect to the internet, you have VOA. You can watch and listen to all our programs at voanews.com, and listen to a live 24/7 radio stream.

  11. Marcelo Trindade says:

    Thank you for your advice, I agree with you, listening is the key to a great improving english.

    Hugs

  12. This tip is so helpful. I will advice my users to read it. Thank you!

  13. ria says:

    Very useful….thanks

  14. Hai says:

    Hi, Hau

    My name Hai, from Vietnam. It’s nice to contact you.

    Actually, I have got many advices from Jessica on how to improve my English skill. However, I think sentences structures you mentioned are very important in speaking English smoothly, but my problem is I do not absolutely understand the meaning of sentence structures, so sometime i do not comfortably use them, so is there any chance you can help me to list some common sentence structures and help to translate into Vietnamese so that I can practice them comfortably?
    My email address is hai.tranngochai82@yahoo.com

    Thank you so much and look forward to hearing from you!!!

    Best wishes,

    Hai

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    • Yordanos says:

      hey i am from ethiopia .I am not that bad at speaking in english but i really need help on my essays and applications for my scholarship ….could u please help me out with that
      u can have my adress
      hagosyordanos30@gmail.com

  18. [...] of you, including our own blogger Nick, have suggested using American songs as a way to practice English.  Well, the holiday season is [...]

  19. Hi
    This is an important advice for me which will help me to become more fluent english speaker. Thanks.

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  21. shailendra kumar says:

    Thank you so much for this help……

  22. iknowenglish says:

    hi! this was the best article i’ve ever read i’s also finding this logic since 1 month…i should have been gone through ur website :)
    nd good luck for u too!

  23. John in Newfoundland says:

    I found this article to be quite interesting. As a Canadian I am fluent in English and although I speak no French.

    I recommend movies (feature films) and reading as a way of learning English. There are quite a few free movies available on Google and thousands of free books available on Project Gutenberg (www.gutenberg.org). These sources will help you practice reading and listening and will also expose you to ‘cultural references’ which will reveal a lot of the nuances of the language.

    Watch as many old movies as you can and watch the most famous ones more than once. Read the books that the movies are based on. Hollywood are famous for changing the stories for all sorts of silly reasons, Don’t be offended, the Americans always win, Hollywood pays the bill for that. You will learn two stories with similar words in them. Hollywood often insist on happy endings. That is a rule, like the one where America always wins.

    Project Gutenberg provide a list of the 100 most popular books. If you read even twenty of these you will have more literary knowledge than the ‘average American’. Read the children’s classics like Alice in Wonderland, Anne of Green Gables, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. These are all free and not difficult to understand. Our best writers like Shakespeare and Charles Dickens are much more difficult to understand. Many of our books are translations from other languages. Heidi (originally German) is easy to understand and written for young people but other translations (anything Russian) can be very hard to follow.

    If you read five pages and become lost, download another book and try again. The books are free and are so small they download quickly. Some electronic book readers have dictionaries that you can access from the screen. Point and click. (Yeah Baby! *)

    * a cultural reference to the movie character ‘Austin Powers’, a comedic or spoof version of James Bond who says the phrase dozens of times in the films.

  24. Paola says:

    I feel it was a very good advice and very useful. Thanks

  25. Great article Hai ! I want to share your knowledge with my friends immediately. Keep your good work !

  26. Seema says:

    I am an exchange student in America right now, and I loved what you said about practicing english speaking while you are in America. Very useful.
    Thanks :)

  27. rita khas says:

    You are right. OF course practice makes people perfact. Very useful advice.

  28. Truong Vo Ky says:

    Hi, thanks for your article. There’s a lot of Vietnameses here. Un “bonjour” from France

  29. jenny says:

    thank u very much for ur site about practicing english speaking it really helps for me. it is very helpful to us not so good in english

  30. Now there’s a free iPhone App “American English Pronunciation for Vietnamese”

    https://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=637374793&mt=8

    just for Vietnamese speakers who want to master their English pronunciation skills. Take your lessons with you, plug in some ear buds and practice on the train, in between meetings, or anywhere you use your iPhone or iPad.

    Learners can listen to the American speakers and repeat after them. Then learn though games. Zoo Jew Jew. You just heard three words. Which one was different? Or enter a loud party room and click on the words you overhear. Then learn to imitate the proper rhythm and intonation of English. Check out the free version of the App with full functionality for select sounds.

  31. Quang says:

    Hi Hau!
    First of all, I have to say thanks! Your tips is really interesting and useful. I do the same way and of course it paid me back somehow. But there are still some points that I can’t make it through. Although my pronunciation is getting better and better, but It’s still hard for me to recall the words for my speech. I have been wasting a lot of time just to grope for words that I think it’s more appropriate for my expression…I still get lost there. By the way, since you have gained lots of experience, could you give me another tips about writing? I think it can come along in mutual relationship as practicing writing skills and speaking simultaneously…that way you can deepen your mind in English and therefore, it will help me to sharpen my expression. So any tips? please…thank you again and best wish for kindness

  32. fortuna nduita says:

    to speak english fluently is not to hard just you have to practice more …….
    and who want to practice with me try to find me on facebook .

    • Jessica Stahl says:

      Hi Fortuna. I took your phone number out of your comment. I don’t think it’s a good idea to post your personal contact information on the internet where anyone can see it. Good luck with your English practice!

  33. assefa says:

    I wanna have english skill in speaking, writing & listing

  34. Blythe says:

    These are great tips, Hau. I think motivation plays a big role in becoming fluent. It seems that you really wanted to improve your English, and when you’re motivated, doing hard work doesn’t seem so difficult!

    I would also add that being fluent in English (or any language) is about making mistakes. Many people who study English in school try to be perfect in order to pass a test. However, in the real world of spoken English, even native speakers make mistakes. So, my advice is don’t let making mistakes stop you from speaking. I am an English teacher, and I tell my students to make LOUD mistakes. :-)

  35. ase says:

    am assefa from Ethiopia Africa. I wanna have a very good English language knowledge specially writing, speaking & grammar. so what do you advice me

  36. my dung says:

    I’m very lucky to meet these nice guys here

  37. chriselle says:

    Hi i want to improve my english can you give me a tip ??

  38. Anna says:

    Thanks 4 ur tips, Nice to know you

  39. arekireng says:

    I like this article. It can increase my english.Thanks so much.

  40. Lukas says:

    I do not agree with these tips, just because listening to songs, movies or simmilar learning can lead to even worse knowledge of language. In these fields language is not fluent and the most important thing is to have strong backgroun. I did the same as suggested here, I tried to learn language in that way but I just wasted my time and even money, and only this method- vokieciu kalbos kursai helped for me. Try to do the same, and follow my suggestions

  41. Aaron says:

    I am an English learner, should I speak English all the time….

  42. Ashish says:

    Tips shared here are superb. Will surely help in improving fluency…

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