How do we learn English naturally?
Wouldn’t it be nice to learn English naturally the way children learn their native language? Have you ever noticed how children seem to learn a new language more quickly than adults?
They seem to pick up the accent rather easily. That’s without even studying the language seriously like we do. Yet, in no time at all, they are conversing with the natives as if they grew up here. Why is that?
And have you ever noticed that when children speak with their peers, they don’t worry about constructing a sentence properly before they speak? They just talk about what interest them. Their focus is not English. Their focus is to be a part of the conversation.
Perhaps this is exactly what they are doing right. Perhaps speaking English with the intent to communicate with friends, to express one’s thoughts, is what it takes to become fluent easily.
Story of an English conversation class
I remember teaching an English conversation class with students from Japan, Taiwan, Israel, Spain, Czechoslovakia, and China. We took turns bringing topics of discussion. And some of those topics are controversial. Even though the students requested that I correct their English at the beginning of the quarter, when those discussions get going, nobody even knew I was there. They were completely focused on explaining what they think.
I love it when that happens. They were becoming fluent. They were speaking English without thinking. Isn’t that what we aim for?
Where to practice fluency
In the article Natural Approach to Learning English, I shared some tips on how adults can approach their language learning more effectively. I shared what I learned from a French teacher whose students retain 90% of what they learned after summer vacation, which is quite extraordinary.
Here are some suggestions on how to train yourself to “not think” when you are speaking English.
Go to events that you are interested in, especially those where you have opportunities to speak with many people who like the same thing. When you are talking about a topic you love, it is easy to focus on expressing how you feel about the topic. English takes a back seat. And that’s a good thing if your goal is to become more fluent.
There is a website called Meetup.com with groups of many interests. If you are interested in photography, there are groups for that. If you are interested in practicing a language, there are groups for that. If you are a stay-at-home parent wanting to meet other stay-at-home parents, there are groups for that.
Visit the groups and see if you feel comfortable. If not, go to another group. Find one where you feel at ease with the people. The more at ease you are, the easier it is for you to express yourself in another language.
You can measure your progress by recording yourself before you begin this experiment. After a few months, record yourself again and compare your fluency.
You can read the entire article of the Natural Approach to Learning English here.
If you like this article, here’s another one to help you Learn Word Order in English.
Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking. To schedule a session with her, please email firstname.lastname@example.org