A very common question: How to speak English like a native speaker?
To answer this, first, we have to ask another question: how do native English speakers actually speak English?
For a long time, questions like…
- How do native speakers speak fluently?
- Why do they sound so natural?
- How do they sound so nativelike?
… really confused linguists.
I do a lot of public speaking in the form of training seminars and workshops.
And guess what?
These aren’t a walk in the park
Speaking at seminars is extremely tiring — even in my first language (and when I’ve done seminars in my second language, it’s even tougher) I have to speak at length while paying attention to the room. As I’m speaking, I’m also thinking about what I will say next – and occasionally answering questions at the same time.
Simply put, there’s a lot going on in my mind all at once… and even as a native speaker, this makes it tough to speak good English.
So how DO native speakers use their language?
We believed that native speakers spoke using grammar rules vocabulary words to create sentences — like a complex mathematical equation. But the problem is, the brain’s RAM just isn’t this good. We should speak slowly and awkwardly with a lot of mistakes and errors. You see, grammar rules are very, very complicated. And we say a lot very quickly. So we’re having to take those rules, add words to them and make the sentences we need as we go… well, the brain wouldn’t be able to keep up.
Again, we should sound very slow and awkward.
But we don’t.
Spoken English is really, really fluent.
Native speakers use natural English… not grammatical English
But why do some phrases and expression sound more natural in English than others?
Why do we say, “Good morning?” and not, “Pleasant first half of the day”…? Why does, “Julian, your ugly face needs plastic surgery” sound natural, but, “Julian your ugly face needs a plastic operation” sounds weird?
Clearly, to speak good English well just knowing “grammatical” language is not enough. Indeed, many of the things native speakers say actually aren’t even grammatical, but do sound very natural – take “thanks very much”, for example. Nobody would argue that this isn’t good English usage. But it’s not grammatical by traditional standards.
Native speakers speak in CHUNKS.
When we speak a language, we’re actually speaking in chunks. Phrases and expressions – big pieces of language. Native speakers store chunks in memory, and then just pull them out as-is when they speak. There are no rules or individual words – so no computation is necessary.
This is why native English sounds so fluent and natural. It’s why we can speak so fast, and why we speak so naturally.
The problem with English speaking courses
Now, the problem with most traditional English learning is that it totally ignores this. You are taught English using grammar rules and you’re forced to memorise lists of individual words… simply put, you learn in exactly the way natives DON’T use their language. Then you wonder why your speaking is slow and awkward with a lot of mistakes.
Simply put, to speak like natives speak…
… just learn to speak in that way from the start. Simple. And extremely effective.
So how do you talk in English well, using chunks?
I go into more detail on this topic in this video:
On YouTube: How to speak English like a native speaker?
As you can see, saying how native speakers actually use their language isn’s simple.
Start learning in chunks. This is the fastest way to getting good at them. In my lessons and courses, I almost never teach individual words (or grammar for that matter). Instead, we concentrate on fluency-building chunks of language. This has several advantages. First, by learning them like this, it’s easy to speak using chunks. Second, unlike words, it’s very hard to translate chunks – which helps make it easier to think directly in English.
Learn more about this
A discussion of exactly how to identify chunks, learn them and use them, is too much for this blog post.
So instead I refer you to my best selling book, Master English FAST. This book will show you step-by-step how to improve your English as an intermediate-advanced English learner. And yes, Chapters 5, 6, 10 and 11 are all about chunks and using chunks to speak fluent natural-sounding English.Best, Julian Northbrook
P.S. Want to know more about speaking amazing English? My book, Master English FAST will show you how (get it Here).
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