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How to Achive Native-Like Fluency in Foreign Languages

by Alexia Wolker

What is native-like fluency?

During assessing the level of proficiency in the language, such criteria as fluency is used. Everyone knows that this is an important aspect, but we often understand very different things by the words “fluent” and “fluency”. In a broad sense, its concept implies fluency and free expression of thoughts in a foreign language. But here is a paradox, high knowledge of a foreign language doesn’t necessarily provide fluency, and vice versa, a student with a low level can communicate quite successfully.

Many people believe that fluency is available only for people with the Advanced or Proficiency level, as well as native speakers because fluency ensures absolute knowledge of the vocabulary and correct use of various grammatical structures. But this would mean that native speakers are not always fluent, because everyone makes mistakes, and only a few people can speak English at the level of Shakespeare.

Some people perceive fluency as the highest level of spoken language, and we can agree with this as fluency implies not only the ability to communicate but also to think in a foreign language.

In fact, the fluency of a foreign language means a certain "smoothness" and naturalness of speech. And this doesn’t necessarily require "one hundred percent" knowledge of words and grammar, but the ability to "own your speech." So it would be wrong to assume that the desired fluency is available only for people with a level above CAE. If you have certain skills, if you’re a person with an adequate level of Pre-Intermediate, so you can speak quite fluently, just the range of topics will be narrower, and the constructions will be simpler.

Some tricks of non-native speakers you need to know about

There are some tricks that will help non-native speakers to avoid prolonged pauses in speech and sound as native-like fluency speaker.

If you do not know what to say, you can:

The naturalness of speech provides intonational expressiveness:

Sometimes dramatic pauses may be appropriate. “You’ll never guess who I’ve just met ...”

It’s important to learn to express different emotions of intonation, for example, to stretch words, to express doubt “Well, I don’t know, but ...”, to highlight words, to convey surprise: “You did WHAT?”

The top 10 ways of achieving native-like fluency in the foreign language

Our recommendations of how to achieve native-like fluency in a foreign language would be the next:

  1. Write in the foreign language! Make a diary or blog. Writing helps to develop speech and memory. When you write, you organize thoughts, plan, summarize and eventually express what you wanted to say.
  2. Read aloud! Find something that you are interested in (preferably with many dialogues) and read aloud at least 20-30 minutes a day. This will help you to improve the perception, pronunciation, and comprehension. But before reading aloud, make sure you know the words and constructions of the text. That’s why it is recommended to look through the text, to translate unfamiliar words and only then proceed to read aloud. It’s even better when your text has a write-up disk, so you still have a sample.
  3. Record yourself on your voice recorder during talking or reading aloud. This will allow you to hear from your side and decide whether you really speak the foreign language.
  4. Sing in the language you’re studying! Sing at classes with a teacher, sing to yourself in the shower or the underground, with friends in a karaoke bar, etc. Songs help to memorize vocabulary, grammatical constructions and also help to develop pronunciation and rhythm. Again: before singing, it's important to disassemble the song to make you understand what you’re singing. And singing your favorite songs is the most effective way to make them memorable.
  5. Learn new words every day! The more vocabulary you have, the more you communicate. You can subscribe to an interesting newsletter like Wordsmith, from which the word of the day with its pronunciation, etymology, and meaning will be sent every day. Or use the lexical lows that many web pages offer you.
  6. Think in the foreign language! Think of anything that goes down in thought! Do it when you go by public transport to university or work, when you drink coffee during a break when you go home when you cook—even a few minutes thinking in the foreign language every day will help you overcome the language barrier.
  7. Communicate with native speakers! Moreover, modern technologies offer a lot of opportunities for this. Make an English-speaking friend - on Facebook, in Skype, in Viber, anywhere! Invite the native speakers to the coffee shop, picnics or walks. Communication with native speakers helps to overcome the language barrier quickly, better understand the culture of another country and the features of the character of its inhabitants.
  8. To continue the previous item, visit the country, which language you’re studying! Nothing motivates to start talking like staying in a linguistic environment.
  9. Take your time! If you think that the speed of your pronunciation compensates for its illiteracy and incorrectness, then you are wrong. It's better to slow down, to have a little time to think, and you’ll see how you’ll make fewer errors and understand better.
  10. Don’t hesitate to make mistakes! Usually, the fear of saying something wrong and being obscure, or looking funny, prevents us from speaking in the foreign language. Silence, of course, is gold, but not everyone is able to read thoughts. Take your hands, relax and ... speak!

What does it take to sound like a native in a foreign language?

When you learn a language, you practice four basic skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking. Speaking is the most important skill. A high level of spoken language is a huge plus to your resume and your key to incredible opportunities and experiences. However, at the same time, speaking is the hardest skill (of course, when it comes to the correct literary pronunciation), since it requires extensive vocabulary, knowledge of grammatical rules, correct pronunciation, and also the high pace of speech, that is, the accumulation of a wide range of knowledge. So don’t be frustrated if sometimes you feel like a “dog”: "I understand everything, but I can say nothing.”

Linguistic experts argue that basic communication skills can be acquired in a few weeks and the basics of a foreign language in a few months. It’s possible that you will not quickly reach the necessary level to understand the great works of the classics of foreign literature, but you will practice to skillfully build phrases and operate the terminology of your sphere of activity, whether you work abroad or in the international company. Most people don’t need much time to start discussing news with the people of Berlin or to share their thoughts with their counterparts from Vienna.

And the most important, try to think in foreign language. Of course, this sounds fantastic, and it seems impossible to “think in foreign language,” especially if the level of proficiency is low. This can be achieved gradually, but first of all, you need to limit external references of the native language in the process of learning a foreign language: use dictionaries, books reference, and foreign-language manuals. Of course, practice speaking as often as possible. Remember, we learn from mistakes. Well, if you can’t relax at all, then turn to the old tried-and-tested method—roll 50 grams of something "hot"—the tongue will be resolved by itself!

About the writer

Alexia Wolker is a blogger and works as an editor.She has a Master's Degree in literature and loves both reading and writing about books and literary topics. She also helps students with their literary assignments - articles, essays and summmaries of books, her works you can see at here.

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