With 1.12 billion speakers, Mandarin Chinese is the second biggest language. The proportion of native- and non-native speakers is quite different from the English language. The total number of people who speak Mandarin Chinese as their mother tongue is 917.8 million people and 198.7 million non-native speakers. Besides China, Mandarin Chinese is the official language in Taiwan and Singapore. This means that even though English cannot compete with Mandarin Chinese in native-speakers, the English language is very predominant thanks to its role as lingua franca.
There’s no “hack” to become fluent fast, but using songs to learn English comes pretty close. Music is fantastic for learning languages, especially now that so many songs can be found on YouTube with free lyric videos. Learn how to sing a pop song or two from memory, and you will easily gain a bunch of new English vocabulary! Learning songs is also helpful for improving your listening skills, and absorbing grammatical rules in a more natural way.
How many apps to learn English do you have on your phone right now? Probably at least two! The digital age has revolutionized language learning, and it’s easy to forget how lucky that makes us. There’s a wealth of study technology available, so choose carefully. Make sure that you’re using the most effective resources for your own study habits, and that you’re not falling into the trap of relying too heavily on game-like apps. It’s also easy to forget what a great resource YouTube videos are for ESL learners. There are more hours of expert advice on YouTube than any student could watch in a single lifetime. Even better, almost every video can be watched with subtitles, played at slower speeds, paused, and replayed until you understand every word. Check out our article on top 10 YouTube channels for learning English.
Native speakers disobey the rules of their own language all of the time. This is something you’ll know if you’ve ever had to type out a recording of a spoken conversation. Many British high school students don’t know what a phrasal verb is, even though they use them all the time. Grammar rules are useful to be aware of — they’re essential to study at some point. But they should be far lower down your list of priorities than getting English-speaking practice. Most of the time, you will be understood if your grammar isn’t perfect! Aim to be understandable, and after a while, grammatical rules will start to sink in naturally.
This might seem like a silly tip for people who want to gain fluency. After all, fluency means being able to talk easily about anything you like! Well, that’s true — but if you aren’t there yet, then a bit of planning might boost your confidence. If you are heading to an event where you know you can practice your English skills, try planning the small-talk you are going to make ahead of time. Are you going to talk about your kids? Your knitting group? Your job? Whilst this may seem a bit silly, it can be helpful to have some conversation starters “ready to go” so that you can practice the vocabulary that you have been studying. This way, you won’t feel under too much pressure to come up with something interesting to say in the moment.
It almost goes without saying: the fastest way to become fluent in English is to move to an English-speaking country. If you are determined to speak fluent English and can relocate for a few months, this will save a lot of time. However, for most people, this just won’t be possible. Don’t worry if that applies to you because there are other big lifestyle changes you can make to boost your English level, including:
For almost everyone, speaking any new language means fighting through a fear barrier. This is completely normal! Your native language is a very precise tool for describing concepts. You are completely aware of subtle implications your words carry, how to use irony and humor, and how word stress can slightly change the meaning of what you’re saying. By comparison, speaking in any new language feels like using a blunt axe. You can’t say exactly what you mean. You might offend someone, or make a fool of yourself. You certainly won’t seem as smart as you really are. It’s intimidating! Few language learners talk about how much it sucks. Language expert and polyglot, Olly Richards states that language learners have to have a “tolerance for ambiguity”. His method to learn languages quickly includes accepting confusion and ambiguity. You’re not going to understand everything or speak perfect English as you try and reach fluency, and that’s ok. Real progress comes when you get over the embarrassment of putting yourself in English-speaking situations, and allow yourself to make mistakes.