Bitesize Episode 10 - 9 Ways to Improve Your Fluency Skills in English

Charlie Baxter

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By Charlie Baxter

The Bitesize Episodes

What's this episode about?

In this episode Charlie gets together with Pete from Aussie English again to give you their best tips on fluency. So please enjoy an episode on "How to improve your FLUENCY skills in English."
This is the 3rd and final part to a miniseries focused on learning tips rather than cultural aspects of the Brits but we hope you like them as we enjoyed making them for you!
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Transcript of Bitesize Ep 10 Transcript

Hello and welcome to the British English podcast, the show that helps you better understand British culture and British English. With me, Charlie Baxter. But we've got a guest today. We've got Pete from Aussie English because we're going to be going over nine of our top tips to fluency. But before we get started with the tips that I just mentioned, we should probably confirm what fluency really means. So I think most of us can agree that fluency in a language means speaking easily, reasonably quickly and without having to stop and pause a lot unless you're using it, you know, for dramatic effect, of course, like that one. Now, I actually encourage my students to to not actually think about achieving fluency as this word holds a lot of expectations really about perfection. And with that, they often feel overwhelmed by this goal that is mysterious and ever escaping. So, yeah, to be fluent is a little bit stressful. So I simply focus on helping them find a way to build confidence with their communication skills. And that is what we're here to do today. So without further ado, let's hear tip number one from Pete.

All right, so number one, before we really talk about speaking, one of the most important things for becoming fluent in a language or improving your fluency in a language is working on listening comprehension. If you can't understand what people are saying, then however good you are at speaking. It kind of becomes useless, right? Because you can't reply after someone's asked something of you or they've said something to you. So it's crucial that you understand what other people are saying. So what are the best ways of levelling up your listening comprehension in English or any other language for that matter? Well, we mentioned these in another video that you'll be able to check out, breaking down our top tips for listening comprehension. But basically the takeaway is find resources at your level or a little bit above and make sure that you have a transcript or the ability to read what people are saying. So if you are listening to podcasts, find a transcript so that you can verify what you're hearing is what's actually being said. If you're watching TV shows or movies, find subtitles or subtitle transcripts again so you can verify that what you think you hear is what's being said, OK, and then repeat, repeat, repeat.

You heard it, guys, repeat, repeat from Pete. So top tip number two is especially for those of you who love watching YouTube videos, if you watch a lot of videos, listen to a lot of podcasts or even read a lot of books. This is wonderful it is but there's always a but most of the time this style of learning is categorised as passive learning. The opposite of that is active learning. We need both in our study schedule and it's about balance. Active learning is such things as speaking classes, taking quizzes, writing assignments, or getting creative with your study notes. Anything that enables the mode of creating generally means you are in the active stage of learning. So think about what you are doing day to day and find a healthy balance between the two, because unless you want to just be able to understand the language but not use it yourself, you need to be getting as active as possible. So enjoy content online as a passive learner. But every time you do find a way to turn into an active exercise, ideally you want content that challenges you to think for yourself after consuming it. So yeah, be aware of the passive and active styles of learning a language and keep a healthy balance between the two. This episode comes with a free worksheet over on the website, the British English podcast dot com. So grab that and you can listen along whilst using it. Back to you Pete.

All right, point number three pronunciation, as I went over in point number one, you need to be able to understand what people are saying to you. Now, I'm talking about you being able to speak and people being able to easily understand what you're saying. And this comes by working on your pronunciation so that you can communicate clearly and effectively. It's kind of like nutrition and working out of the gym. Right. You can study a lot of English, but if you don't work on your pronunciation and people find it difficult to understand you, it's kind of all for nothing. The same way that if you don't eat healthily whilst going to the gym and trying to work out on your fitness, you're kind of fighting against yourself. Now, when I say pronunciation, I don't necessarily mean accent, right? You can model yourself on any accent you want, but ideally you just want to work on pronouncing things clearly and effectively so that people can understand you. OK, so it doesn't matter if you're going after an American accent, a British accent and Australian accent, a New Zealand accent, whatever it is, just make sure that whatever accent that you're working on, when you're working on your pronunciation, that the goal is to be able to communicate effectively so that people can understand you.

And we're going to cover this a little bit more in another video about how to speak English confidently. But before we finish this point, I have a few questions for you to ask yourself when it comes to working on your pronunciation. Firstly, are you practising your pronunciation? Do you have a plan for how to improve your pronunciation? Which areas of your pronunciation are your weak spots? For instance, do you have trouble with the TH the ff and vv sound in English? In order to improve, you can do things like get a tutor to give you feedback on your pronunciation and the areas that you're having trouble with, as well as how to overcome those issues so that you can speak clearly and confidently in English with good pronunciation. Ultimately, working on your pronunciation is going to allow you to build your fluency in English sound more natural when speaking with other people in English and as a result, build your confidence when speaking English. So pronunciation is very important.

If you want to improve your pronunciation, then don't be afraid to talk out loud to yourself. If you don't want to sound like a complete psycho all the time like I do, then practising internal dialogue is a legitimate alternative. But seriously, this is one of the biggest differences between polyglots and people who only speak one language. Maybe you could say monoglots. Polyglots talks themselves all the time out loud for pronunciation purposes because it seriously helps internalise sentence structure, the grammar, as well as intonation, rhythm and cadence of a language. So whenever you get the chance or some time to yourself, like when you go to the toilet, perhaps have a chat with yourself in English, become the commentator of your life, and you could you could narrate what you're doing. You could do this internally, perhaps probably best to you could say, oh, I'm I'm going to the supermarket. I'm entering the supermarket right now. I'm grabbing the trolley. I want an apple. I'm going to go get an apple. I've got the best apple of the bunch in front of me. I'm tempted to eat this apple right now, but yeah, I'm afraid of being judged before I buy it. And then you could introspect on top of that instead of just narrating, you could sort of, you know, play with your imagination. You could think beyond it. So you could you could think about where apples come from and you could answer in your head. I wonder where Apple's come from. Hmm. And if I was an apple, would I prefer to be a bright green one or a red one? Is there racism within the apple kingdom? I hope not! D'you get the idea? It's fun, it's free, so next time you see someone talking to themselves on the train about apple racism, you don't need to assume they're crazy because they could be just simply learning a second language just like you, unless you you're on the subway in New York. Probably best not to assume everyone's learning a second language there. You could land yourself in a bit of trouble there. Yeah, maybe not in there. Maybe not there.

Ok, point number five, focus on vocab expressions and your most common phrases, things that you want to say or that you say in your native language all the time when it comes to learning English, like with any language, you don't have to learn every single word, every single phrase, every single expression that can be imagined in that language. Ideally, you want to focus on the stuff, the language, the vocab, the expressions that you want to use, that you already use in your native language on a daily basis to communicate. So how can you do this? Obviously, you can get a tutor and ask them for natural ways to phrase things. You might want to learn how to better order food or maybe how to give your opinion those sorts of things. You can use websites like Reverso and Tatoeba where they effectively mine common phrases in different languages and you can find how they're being used and then just put them into your repertoire so that when you're speaking with someone, you can just whip out that phrase. The other thing is to find content like we were going over in point one where you are able to read what you're listening to on podcasts, audio books, TV shows and movies, and then take the phrases, take the vocab that you hear being used and that you think you want to use or will use in daily, everyday English. And then lastly, there is a process called Building Your Islands. I'll go over this in other videos and we will have covered this a bit more deeply in the listening comprehension video and how to improve that. But basically, you want to build vocab islands around topics that you're talking about on a regular basis, your family, your job, your passions. You want to focus on these things more than just anything and everything in English that you don't already know.

Are you ready for top tip number six? This one is clever. It's a very clever one. And I definitely didn't think of it myself, but I did think it would be great for you as a language learner. See, I was reading a self-help book, I know right, desperate! Called Atomic Habits, which teaches you how to become aware of your everyday behaviours and implement new successful habits and let go of the unwanted ones. So this tip is to build a lot of small positive behaviours, to gradually create a learning routine that feels like you're just going about your usual day. But in fact, that now includes these atomic habits of learning English. Now, most people know what a habit is and have been told that creating good habits is, well, good. But what we're often not told is how to do it or at least how to do it in a realistic way. So this book, Atomic Habits break things down into bite size, understandable information so that you can follow the instructions step by step and indeed create good habits. So really, this top tip is to read the book Atomic Habits to ensure you create a daily study routine. But to example one technique from this book, I'll talk about habit stacking, habit stacking. So what you do is you bring your awareness to a habit that you do already. So for me, one is that when I go to the toilet, I go on TikTok.

Now, if you don't like this behaviour, you state that every time I do this behaviour, I will do a new behaviour. So for me, I want to get better at using the present perfect in Spanish so I could set myself a new habit of typing out three example sentences using the present perfect. After watching maybe one minute of TikTok, I allow myself 60 seconds of that and then straight after I've got to write out or type out these examples sentences using the present perfect in Spanish. Then after succeeding a couple of times and getting that satisfaction from completing it, I can aim to actually remove the TikTok videos from from the habit because I'm actually getting more satisfaction from creating a new present perfect sentence in Spanish. So when I go to the loo, I now think, oh, it's time to practise my present perfect in Spanish. Another example could be when I go to the gym, I listen to music. Fairly normal, right? Well, how about after listening to three tracks or completing an exercise, I will complete one deck of flashcards on Quizlet. Pretty reasonable. Now, this is just scratching the surface of the the atomic habits. So go check it out and find that way that works for you to achieve an effortless and enjoyable daily study routine. But yeah, that that technique, habit stacking is working well for me and I highly recommend it.

All right. Point number seven. Now, Charlie made a really good point about building habits and the importance of having habits so that you can improve your language gradually and steadily over time. Now, studies have been done on habit building and it actually takes something like 60 or more days for people to build a habit. It takes time, about two months. So when studying, it's very good to try and build structure, have a daily routine that you can adhere to that isn't too much, that it feels like a chore and that isn't too little or you don't really get anything done when you have this structure. It's good to have both short term and long term goals. What are you trying to achieve today? What are you trying to achieve this week and what are you trying to achieve over the next two to three months? So you could think about this like, am I working on my pronunciation this week? And what are my goals for the end of the week? Next week, am I working on my listening comprehension? And again, what are my goals? And maybe for the rest of this month, I'm working on vocab and expressions and just overall fluency in speaking and how can I measure this and what are my goals again with improving this? It's also good to mix things up and try and keep things interesting. Don't just consume the same content, don't just study the same thing, change things up, give yourself a change of scenery as well. Go outside, do it elsewhere, speak with different people, just mix it up and keep it fun.

And speaking of mixing it up. Tip number eight is to get good at improvising and saying the same thing in many different ways. Get flexible, get get comfortable with the idea of adaptation. To get good at this, you can actually download the ebook and audio book called The Six Step Exercise to Efficient Language Learning, which I created a while back that is perfect for this tip. It's all about paraphrasing effectively, and it's such a good way to get active with passive reading materials and it helps your brain connect all those phrases that you're learning together. So check out the link here. If not, it will be down in the description box and enjoy it. Oh, and. Pete has the last top tip for you.

All right. And point number nine, guys, this is tied in with point number three. We were talking about pronunciation and point number five, about expanding your vocab and building your islands. Get feedback. This can be by finding a tutor on websites like italki or verbling. It can be by finding language partners or just asking other people who speak English, whether they're native speakers or advanced non-native speakers, for their advice so that you can get feedback on your weak points, your strong points and what it is that you can do to improve. So you might want to ask some things like what aspects of my pronunciation need work? Where are there holes in my vocabulary? And I am sort of falling down when it comes to conversations and my fluency. Am I able to move between topics and carry a conversation well? And if not, what can I do to improve that? Use these people to help build your islands as well. Again, just ask for feedback on things like the way that you form sentences, what you're talking about, the phrases that you use, the grammar you use. Ultimately, feedback is going to be the thing that allows you to improve rapidly. So just be shameless guys. Ask as many questions of as many people as you can when it comes to improving your English.

There we go. I wonder if we mentioned the best tips for learning a language in your opinion. Let me know on my Instagram, the British English podcast. And yeah. Tell me what you thought of Pete's accent. You could tell that he was Australian, right? Yeah, of course you could. So you can also check out Pete's podcast called Aussie English. He's also got a YouTube channel called Aussie English. And don't forget to get the free worksheet I have made for you that includes a reminder of all these wonderful tips and and more. And also get that free ebook, and audio book of mine on paraphrasing like a champion. That's all over on the website, the British English podcast, dot com or click the link in the show notes much love and see you next time on the British English podcast.

Meet today's guest


from Aussie English

Pete's goal is simple: to help you rapidly improve your English whilst learning about Australian history, culture, current affairs, and more!

He does that through his Podcast, YouTube Channel, social media and his Academy over on his website.
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Podcast host: Charlie:
This will be quite a bit harder for you to understand, as there are a number of accents in the conversation, some poorly delivered at times, as you will notice.

Podcast host: Charlie:
But the aim is to give you a variety of dialects in one conversation and some dialogue to give you native expressions in context. So enter, if you will, to Charlie's pub and his imaginary world.

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Alright geezer, how's it going?

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Yes, I'm well thanks. How about you? Have you had a good day?

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Can't say good mate. No my old man he's been giving me a right old earful for what happened on site last week.

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Oh that's a pity. Are you back on your dad's building project again?

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Sad to say mate, but yeah, I am. Couldn't resist this one though. Cash in hand, you know.

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Oh fair play, hard to resist those I imagine. Oh, here she is.

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About Your Teacher

Charlie Baxter

Teacher, Podcast Host, YouTuber
Charlie is the host and creator of The British English Podcast & Academy. He has also been an active YouTube English Teacher since 2016 but after seeing how many of his students wanted a more structured, carefully designed way to study he decided to create The British English Podcast Academy.

It focuses on British culture, informal expressions, accent and history that is all unique to the UK.

Charlie has spent 6000+ hours teaching intermediate-advanced students since 2014 privately on Skype and has seen a lot of different styles of learning and while he believes there will never be a single CORRECT way to improve your English there are a large number of methods that people use that do waste people's time and prevent them from improving quickly.

So Charlie decided to create The Academy because he believes he knows a VERY effective way to improve your English quickly and enjoyably.