If you want to learn to speak fluent English quickly, the best strategy is to do just that: start speaking in English.  Use every opportunity you can to practise whatever English words and phrases you have learnt.

world globe on desk
Across the globe, English is the language of commerce and an essential tool for international communications - Unsplash

English is now recognised as the “global language of business” and it’s estimated that approximately 1.75 billion people are able to communicate in spoken English at a useful level. So, it’s definitely worth knowing how to speak good English.

Having good communication skills in English is often a prerequisite when applying for a new job. Being bilingual will without a doubt work in your favour and be an impressive addition to your CV.

Sadly, learning English as a second language at school isn’t really enough to make you a proficient and fluent English speaker. The problem is that you need to practise speaking the new words you have learned but the classroom environment doesn’t really accommodate conversation! Repetition, repetition, repetition!

Useful Tips to Practise Speaking English

Of course, the opportunity to study abroad in a predominantly English speaking country like the UK or USA is ideal. But international travel has become a challenge, so until the dust of Covid19 settles, it’s best to stay safe and stay home.

Thankfully, we live in a country that offers so many opportunities to practise English conversation.

We can practise speaking English every time we go to the shops or when we meet new people on the streets. Almost any situation in public can be utilised as an opportunity to practise our conversational English skills.

Immersing Yourself in English

In order to achieve a greater level of proficiency in English one should spend at least a year completely immersed in the language. That means that the only language you communicate in should be English. By doing so, you naturally grow accustomed to English grammar and become familiar with so many English phrases and expressions.

But why would South Africans benefit from going abroad when we can speak English right here in our own country?

The truth is if you stay in your familiar surroundings it’s hard to kick old habits – in this case, the habit of speaking in your native language.

It’s not even just about speaking English well, immersing yourself in a foreign language forces you to become completely cut off from everything, so that you actually end up so influenced by what you’re learning, you eventually find yourself thinking in the other language.

The day you wake up and realise you were dreaming in English, you’ll know you’re becoming fluent!

Usually the dreaming stage begins as soon as three weeks into the immersion learning experience, but can take up to three months. Next it’s your English vocabulary that shows significant development and then at around the six month mark you should experience improvement in your pronunciation.

Remember that speaking the English language has a reputation for being difficult to learn and many people claim the toughest part is learning how to pronounce words correctly.

What makes learning how to speak English fluently such a universally fulfilling experience is that you can never be too old to begin the journey of practicing your English skills.

There are so many wonderful youth exchange programmes available to South African students who are keen to learn about new cultures and really push the limits of their fluency in English. Living on a campus with fellow students and attending English classes and study groups will do wonders for your language skills.

Become Fluent in English by Working Overseas

Forget studying abroad, take it to the next level and apply for jobs English speaking countries. Some people learn more effectively under pressure, so if you’re up to it, jump in at the deep end and aim for a job where you need to speak English very well.

People take this kind of leap all the time. Although most individuals settle for less challenging work such as waiting tables or cleaning work, you could apply for skilled work in your professional field. It may be daunting at first but if you’re not scared of making mistakes at first, it will be worth the challenge.

Take an English Vacation

Sometimes it’s just not possible to move abroad for an extended period, especially when you have many responsibilities at home. But you’d be surprised how much you could learn on just a short trip – if you make the effort to only speak in English the entire time.

Taking a few weeks in the UK where there’s not the option to fall back on Afrikaans or Zulu when you get flustered, will help you to improve your speaking and you’d be surprised how quickly you can adapt and memorise new words at a rapid rate.

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A trip to an English speaking nation like England will provide ample opportunity to improve your fluency - Unsplash

Remember too that the UK and USA aren’t the only places your English language skills will be put to the test. As a foreigner in any country, the chances are you’ll need to communicate in English – it is the international (business) language after all.

Make a Habit of Watching the English News

You could watch CNN and the BBC news or simply watch the local news in English too. One of the bonuses of being South African is that we have that choice daily.

By listening to professional news broadcasters you will note the correct pronunciation and grammar rules.

In fact, it’s common practice for ESOL English teachers to record news broadcasts and replay them to students as a teaching aid. Even if you don’t understand the new vocabulary at first it will soon all start making sense.

Listening to English Everywhere You Go

Use the time when you’re travelling to work and back as an opportunity to listen to English lessons. Really focus on the mornings as an ideal time to absorb new words and improve your English because your brain is most alert in the beginning of the day.

We’re fortunate in this day and age that even if we don’t have the opportunity to learn English through immersion we can still tune into the internet radio and learn English from all over the world. Not to mention the countless podcasts that are freely available to all of us. There’s really no excuse.

Learn From English Television

Start by watching an English television series from beginning to end. You could begin with the subtitles on and then slowly wean yourself off when you feel more confident.

Who said learning has to be boring?

Read Books for Children and Teens

A great way to start reading and writing in a foreign language is to re-read books that you are familiar with. It’s probably best to start with reading material that’s less challenging such as a favourite childhood story. Try to find English versions of the books you originally read in your native-anguage.

Many popular books such as Harry Potter have been translated into as many as 78 languages. More and more English children’s books in South Africa are being translated into one or more of the eleven official languages. You may also consider downloading e-books and audio books.

You’ll find that young adult literature is a great option when it comes to practicing your English reading skills. These books tend to be less complicated than adult literature but you can find really gripping material that  would appeal to adults interests too.

Learn English From a Pen Pal or Skype Buddy

Having a pen pal these days is not what it used to be, Facebook friends changed that. But for the sake of getting to know someone from a different culture and to master your writing skills, there’s nothing quite like a pen pal.

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You could even have Zoom meetings with your new pen pal to practise your spoken English - Unsplash

On the plus side, you could also get to know your pen pal via Skype or Zoom and improve your spoken English with a trusted friend.

Use social media platforms to find English speakers who would be keen to take part in an online language exchange or register with trusted pen pal sites such as penfriends which is a safe option for youngsters who are keen to advance their English skills.

Join a Fun Class That’s English Speaking

If you have a hobby or passion such as painting or cooking you could sign up to join a course or attend classes, provided they’re offered in English. This will be a great way to challenge your listening skills and comprehension while at the same time having the opportunity to easily speak to fellow classmates in a stimulating and safe environment.

The Sooner You Begin Learning, the Better

Many of us have had to improve our English fluency as adults, and while it’s definitely possible, the truth is it would have been a whole lot easier to understand English if we’d begun the journey as children.

If you have kids, you could start the learning process together and you will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly young children catch on. A little healthy competition between you and your kids may just be the motivation you need to take your English to the next level!

There are so many ways to learn but it’s important to remember that kids love learning through play. Do sing-a-longs to English songs that they know in their mother tongue and turn learning into a game. Read aloud together because reading and listening are both important skills.

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Making the habit of reading English books to your kids will benefit the parents' learning too! - Unsplash

When you start practicing speaking skills, don’t put too much pressure on pronunciation at first, just let the learning be relaxed and fun and remind them it’s okay to make mistakes and it takes time to speak English well.

You’ll see that the rules to syntax, grammar and pronunciation eventually fall into place naturally as they hear the patterns in the language by reading books and watching television programmes etc.

Before you can blink your eyes your entire family will speak English fluently – and confidently!

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Born from a family of creatives, Kyla has a passion for the arts and interior design.