English Language 101: 9 Steps to Fluency
- January 10, 2018
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Learning a new language is quite beneficial. It allows us to engage with people from cultures different from ours and find work abroad with considerable ease. It also lets us take up foreign courses of study and understand literature and poetry we might not have otherwise been able to! This being said, many of us find learning a new language to be tricky. When it comes to learning a language during our TOEFL iBT test preparation, even more so!
There are a number of things you can do to become fluent in a language. Believe it or not, psychologists have learning a language down to a science! We’re going to keep things simple though. There are certain activities and actions that can really speed up your learning. As a result, you achieve better language proficiency and ace those test scores!
- Use your Resources
To begin with, make full use of all resources available to you. This would mean everything at your disposal from old school grammar texts to TOEFL study material such as TOEFL practice tests and books. Use these texts to help inform you about grammatical rules and words you might be unfamiliar with. Keep referring to your resources as these will act as a good base from which to improve. They will also help direct your learning and keep you on track.
- Good ol’ Flashcards
Remember those educational cards, with words written on them in thick print? You might have seen them back in school. Yes, primary school in particular. Well, believe it or not, there is a method to that madness. Flashcards work by engaging both your visual cortexes when you read and areas of your brain associated with hearing and speech when you read out loud and pronounce the words on the cards. Flashcards are a great way to amp your vocabulary. Pick a new word every day. Put it on a flash card. Don’t put the card down till you’re clear on how to use and say the word. Works like a charm!
- Speak Up
One of the most effective ways to gain fluency in any language is by speaking it. Speaking a language familiarizes you with words and sounds. It also helps to speak to someone who is fluent, as you can pick up on how they pronounce their words and work to clean up your accent! Speak English as much as you can. Speak it to whoever understands, wherever they may be. It doesn’t matter if you’re at a store, addressing a teacher or conversing with a class mate. Start discussions and friendly debates with your friends. Take every opportunity to test run your skills. Last but not least, ensure that at least 50% of your communication is done in English!
- Keep your Ears Open
Listening is just as important as speaking. Listening helps you learn new words and develop an understanding of phrasing. The more you listen, the more you will likely learn. Observe how fluent users put their sentences together. Do they use conjunctions? What other parts of speech do you observe and how are they applied?
Another thing you might find helpful is YouTube. YouTube is full of mundane videos offering instructions for various things, like how to do your nails right. The idea however is to pay attention to how people speak while giving instruction or offering pointers. The English spoken in such videos is directive in fashion and is a little different from regular casual conversation. Watching these videos will help develop fluency in the way of both instructing and answering questions. Try to spend as much of your time watching and listening to academic lectures and documentaries, as your time is limited to prepare, and this is what you will be presented with on the exam.
Though some of you might have been hoping we wouldn’t suggest this, it is what it is, as they say! Nothing sharpens your language skills like a good read. Again, like with documentaries and lectures, what really helps is if you find something to read that actually interests you. Reading will enrich your vocabulary and sharpen your sentence construction skills. Some people actually find it easier to retain what they have read as opposed to what they have heard.
- Tag Team
This does not mean hold back one of your friends while your other mate lays a wrestling move on him. What this refers to is someone you can learn the language with. When you have a partner struggling to learn the same language, the two of you can:
- Share reading material and review it
- Pick a weekly topic like environmental conservation, social perspectives or modern engineering and hold a discussion
- Pick things you disagree on and try to conduct a civil debate on them in English.
- Give each other daily activity reports (what you did during the day)
- Simply talk to each other!
The activities mentioned above will help strengthen and re-establish everything you have been learning on your own time.
- Keep a Dairy
Sure you can laugh! Just remember, this isn’t a secret diary with a lock and key. If you’re into that, go for it! If not, the recommendation is to keep a diary in which you simply note down what you did during the course of the day. Use this like a log. Feel free to put in imaginary entries. The idea is to learn how to use English for dry fact sharing. This will also help you start thinking in English. Thinking in a language makes it even easier to learn.
- Don’t get Disheartened
There might be days when fluency seems like a far cry. You might be frustrated and confused. You might feel like it has been months and you’re still nowhere. Don’t lose heart. Remember, learning anything takes time. Becoming fluent in a language takes even longer. The trick is not to give up. Keep at it.
Another thing is to not become over conscious about your lack of fluency when learning. No one is born with skills. We all learn as we go. Every expert was once an amateur and every teacher a student. Be kind to yourself and stay consistent. You will get there.
The points above, if adhered to, will give your language learning a serious boost. If you’re learning English to score high on the TOEFL iBT, start well in advance. Give yourself months of space to learn, explore and practice the new language. Check out online study guides and free student resources to help guide your learning. Practice tests will also help you identify areas you need to focus on. This way, by the time your TOEFL iBT comes up, you’ll be comfortably fluent and confident.
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