You’re doing it wrong!
Well, only if you’re not focusing the brunt of your attention on speaking your new language.
Are you building your language learning process upon grammar rules and written exercises?
Focused on those little details of the language?
Writing out tons of vocabulary lists?
Of course those aspects are super important too, especially when it comes to mastering reading, writing and listening. However, you won’t get far if you’re missing the crucial element of fluency: speech.
There’s a common problem for many learners who focus on rules and proper writing, but who don’t practice their speech: They cannot understand native speakers and they choke during real conversations. We don’t want that to happen to you.
We want you to act completely natural when you start speaking to a native, so you’ll make new friends and so everyone will be impressed. That’s why we’ve nailed down the 10 best learning tactics that will help you figure out how to learn a language and speak it fluently. The best part is that they’re applicable to any language you decide to learn.
The Top 10 Tactics for Learning to Speak Any Language Fluently
1. Talk when you read and write
Writing is a really important part of language learning, so you should never neglect it. You need to complete different exercises that challenge you to answer questions, choose the right word that fits into a sentence, write essays and compose email messages.
You’ve surely noticed that most lessons in grammar books come with a review and practice section. Instead of solving these parts mechanically, you can take your effectiveness to a whole new level: read out loud.
Read anything that you read or write in your target language out loud.
Don’t be afraid to get silly and try to mimic the accent of a true native while doing this. Once you get in an actual conversation, your knowledge of grammar and vocabulary will shine through proper speech. You’ll also get a confidence boost, which is extremely valuable for progress.
People say you’re not fluent in a foreign language until you catch yourself thinking in it. That makes sense. You can’t achieve high levels of fluency if you’re constantly thinking in your native language and doing mental translations.
Thinking 100% in a target language at the very beginning of your practice is difficult, but this simpler technique will drive you forward: Learn how to say your most commonly said words and phrases in your target language.
Think about all the short and simple sentences you use in your daily communication, and then translate them into the language you’re learning. What do you use at the grocery store? At the post office? On the bus? At work? At home? Learn how to say them, and then always think them to yourself as you go about your daily business.
Be careful, though—literal translations don’t always work. Idioms usually require liberal interpretation, so you’ll need to do a research to see how certain phrases are being used in the language you’re learning. That’s a useful practice that will help you remember conversational phrases.
3. Watch movies with subtitles
You never bother watching movies without synchronization? You need to step away from that habit. Subtitles may seem boring and distracting on the surface level, but they’re not the most important factor in this exercise. It’s the native speech you want to hear (and learn).
There are a few phases in watching a foreign movie if you want to extract speaking lessons:
- First, you watch it while reading the subtitles. If there’s a word you don’t understand, write it in your personal dictionary and define it.
- Pronounce those words and try to get the accent right. Fit them into sentences of your own, so you’ll understand how they can be used in different situations.
- Now, watch the movie again. Don’t read the subtitles this time. It’s important to understand as much of the speech as you can. Then you can move to the next step that will take your fluency to the next level.
Not at a level where you can realistically do the above? Or just think that sounds way too tedious for you? Instead of doing it with a movie, try the videos on FluentU.
With FluentU, you hear languages in real-world contexts—the way that native speakers actually use them. Just a quick look will give you an idea of the variety of FluentU videos on offer:
FluentU really takes the grunt work out of learning languages, leaving you with nothing but engaging, effective and efficient learning. It’s already hand-picked the best videos for you and organized them by level and topic. All you have to do is choose any video that strikes your fancy to get started!
Each word in the interactive captions comes with a definition, audio, image, example sentences and more.
Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab, and easily review words and phrases from the video under Vocab.
You can use FluentU’s unique adaptive quizzes to learn the vocabulary and phrases from the video through fun questions and exercises. Just swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you're studying.
The program even keeps track of what you’re learning and tells you exactly when it’s time for review, giving you a 100% personalized experience.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes store or Google Play store.
FluentU makes sure all the captions in a video actually match up to the speech you hear, makes it super easy to pause and replay continually, and even gives you instant word lookup so you don’t need to bother with looking stuff up in a dictionary.
Remember that movie? Watch it again! Sure, you’re all too familiar with the scenes by now, but you won’t get bored because this is a learning method with a purpose. Pause the film frequently and imitate the speech.
Listen to the way the actors pronounce the words and try to do the same.
Once you’re able to move your tongue faster and juggle those foreign sounds more easily, stop pausing and just try to parrot back what the characters are saying at the same time! This requires you to understand every word they say in the moment and spit it out quickly. Once you’re imitating like a legit parrot, your accent will start to get closer and closer to that of the native speaker you’re imitating.
5. Listen to local music and learn the lyrics
The words flow naturally when you sing, and you can usually get the pronunciation right when you sing.
Music is also fun because it connects you to the culture you’re researching. Of course, you have to choose music with lyrics if you want to work on your fluency. Find the lyrics online and try to sing along. Thanks to the vast information on the Internet, lyrics of any song in any language are usually available—along with translations and romanized versions (if necessary).
It doesn’t matter whether you have a talent for music or not. The only important thing is to follow the flow of the words. There’s nothing more fluent than words connected through singing.
6. Read local literature
Every country and culture has its masterful writers. Miguel de Cervantes wrote in Spanish, Italy has Dante, Hugo presented the sophistication of French expressions, and the great Tolstoy and Dostoevsky revealed new dimensions of the Russian language. It’s important to explore the literature written in the language you’re learning. It’s even better when you read it out loud. You may also try to succeed in different online literature tests.
Poetry has an even more awesome effect because it teaches you about rhythm. Of course, poetic expression is a bit more difficult to comprehend, so you’ll need to achieve higher levels of fluency to understand complex poems.
7. Find a language learning buddy
Even when you’re imitating the actors from a foreign movie, you won’t notice that your pronunciation is a little off sometimes. The human mind is a peculiar thing. It can easily distort our impressions and we may think we speak perfectly even when we’re making serious mistakes. That’s why you need a friend who will join you on this journey.
You can talk in the foreign language and correct each other when needed. The corrections may lead to heated discussions about the proper pronunciation of certain words, but the confrontations will be productive when you analyze native speech together.
You can also make plans and set goals together, increasing your level of accountability and keeping you on track to fluency.
8. Talk to a native speaker
When you manage to amaze natives with your vocabulary and pronunciation, that’s when you can call yourself a fluent speaker. Your friends are great support when you learn a foreign language together, but they cannot replace natives.
Some of the things you can do is travel or find a native in your area. You may consider taking a semester abroad in another country. Some countries, like Germany, offer wide range of programs through reputable language and culture institutes. If that doesn’t work, the Internet will come to the rescue.
- Conversation Exchange is a platform that can help you find native speakers living in your area. You’ll connect. You’ll meet for a coffee and help each other become fluent in the languages you’re learning.
- Speaky is a worldwide language learning community where you can meet people from 180+ countries and connect with them to practice your language skills online.
When you want to become really fluent in a certain language, you have to understand the culture that speaks it. It’s important to see and feel that country from the inside. That’s when all idioms and phrases start making sense.
You’ll meet many native speakers who will be happy to help you learn the language better. Traveling is not a simple decision to make, mainly because it costs a lot. However, there’s no goal you can’t achieve with proper planning and budgeting.
10. Analyze different dialects
If you’re fluent in the standardized form of the language you’re learning, it’s time to move to a master level: dialects. Explore the way natives speak in different areas of their countries. Try to learn words specific for those areas and experiment with the way the same words are being pronounced across the country.
Your goal to become fluent in a foreign language will be a lifetime journey. There’s no peak that you can achieve.
You’ll always find new heights to reach. All above-listed methods have one thing in common: They’re really fun.
And they’re bound to help you boost your levels of fluency without serious difficulties!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.