How does a speaker become fluent? Remember our Five Factor Framework, which includes comprehensible input, grammatically correct output, meaningful interactions, formal instruction, and practice and repetition. Gaining fluency means we focus on practice and repetition.
Fluency activities involve the following four characteristics:
- Easy, familiar materials with no unknown vocabulary or grammatical features
- Some pressure to go at a faster speed
- A large quantity of practice
- A focus on receiving or communicating messages
Let’s look at various activities for developing fluency across the four skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
Developing Listening Fluency
A digital recorder or playback program with variable speed control can improve listening fluency.
Obtain a recording of a text between 200 and 300 words that’s also in written form. Then, examine the written text to ensure it’s completely understandable.
While reading the written version, listen to the recording at a slow speed. Then, gradually increase the playback speed so that the text eventually plays normally.
Short films or movies with subtitles can also be listened to repeatedly (without increasing the speed). Repetition is essential for fluency development because repeated material becomes easier, and repetition provides a large amount of practice.
Developing Speaking Fluency
It’s beneficial to repeat the same spoken material to improve fluency. If a learner is finishing their intended study, they may not be able to engage in language learning activities with different listeners. They can, however, do repeated speaking without an audience.
Developing Reading Fluency
Reading fluency involves reading silently with adequate comprehension at around 250 words per minute, about a native speaker’s speed.
Reading fluency is developed through a large amount of easy, familiar material.
Speed reading courses in English contain texts with very controlled vocabulary levels (1,000 or 2,000 words) with no difficult grammatical constructions. These texts are all the same length and come with comprehension questions at the end.
When the learner reads each one, they keep track of the time spent reading and graph the time and the comprehension score.
They should do 20 pieces of reading in this manner, completing two or three per week. This activity can increase reading speed by at least 50%, and learners can possibly even double their reading speed by taking such a course.
These speed reading courses don’t produce super-fast reading but produce reading speeds comparable to native speakers.
Another method for increasing reading speed is to read very simple material.
For example, suppose the language has graded readers (which, unfortunately, not many languages do other than English). In that case, they can read texts written at a very easy level with strict vocabulary control.
If simple written material is unavailable, reading speed can be increased through repeated reading.
Developing Writing Fluency
Writing fluency is especially important for written exams in the language. Writing fluency can be improved with two techniques. For example, memorizing useful phrases and sentences is one way to develop fluency at a very low level of proficiency.
This memorization ensures what’s produced is accurate and can be produced fluently with practice. The survival vocabulary contains the most useful sentences and phrases to memorize.
However, one must consider the motivation for learning the language and the opportunities to use it. For example, they can use this page to find and memorize useful sentences and phrases related to the expected usage.
Obstacles: What to Do When You Fall Off Track
Dealing with struggles, not falling off track, and keeping motivation high can be challenging for language learners. Fortunately, you can do many things to support yourself.
Remember to Stay Motivated (3 Strategies)
Learning a new language is challenging.
Many people start learning a language but quickly lose interest when they realize how much work is involved. Despite high motivation, infants need years to learn their first language.
Here are three general tips to keep your motivation high.
1. Use the Language in Context if You Can
When learning a foreign language, the immediate motivation to use what has just been learned isn’t always present. It’s usually easier to learn a language when used in context.
A foreign language learner must set short-term goals that can be used to track progress and achievement.
These objectives can be as simple as learning 20 new words in a set amount of time or how to properly answer the phone.
Having clear short-term goals can assist the learner in maintaining motivation. To maintain interest and motivation, the language items learned should be relevant to the learners.
2. Identify Special Interests
This is sometimes related to the learner’s field of work or study, where technical or specialized vocabulary and terms are frequently used.
This specialist vocabulary is unique to the subject area in some cases. Much of the specialist vocabulary is also used outside the subject area in other specialist areas. Knowing the specialist vocabulary helps with language use outside that specialist area.
For example, the anatomy vocabulary in English is unique to that subject area (costal, cervical, cardiac), whereas that of environmental issues (green, pollution, waterways) can be applied to topics outside that subject area.
Choosing a topic with more widely applicable topic-related vocabulary is preferable for language learning.
3. Take Responsibility for Your Own Learning
When learners understand why they’re using certain methods and techniques to learn certain things, their confidence and learning skills improve. Good learners take responsibility for their own learning and don’t rely solely on teachers.
Adaptable Learning Criteria for Your Learning Style
Different learners have different learning styles, but there are also important learning criteria that should be adapted to whatever learning style is preferred.
It’s useful to observe the criteria that work when learning a language. It’s also interesting to learn about the nature of each language and how that language is customarily used.
Potential points of interest include the following:
- Language families: What language family does the language fit into? What other languages are in this family? How are these languages related historically?
- Word building: Does the language make use of prefixes and suffixes? What are the most common ones? Do dictionaries contain an analysis of word parts for each term?
- Classifiers: Does the language use classifiers? What are the more general-purpose classifiers?
- Real-world applications: What do people say and do in certain common cultural practices such as eating, meeting, leaving, giving thanks, refusing an offer, offering a gift, or receiving a gift?
Consult Other Learners for Ideas
A good thing to do is to talk to other learners who have successfully learned the language. They can give advice about what made them successful and what they found useful in their learning.
Learners should think carefully about this advice, comparing it with the conditions described previously, and consider how their peers’ suggestions may fit into their own language learning.
Take Heart on Your Language Learning Road
Learning a new language can be incredibly rewarding. However, it also takes time and effort, and there are many pitfalls that can frustrate you and send you off track.
Each language comes with its own set of challenges, but no matter what language you’re taking on, the tips above can help.
Whenever you feel like your enthusiasm is waning or your frustration levels are rising, feel free to return to this section to remind yourself how to refocus your attention and regain your momentum. Learning a language requires hard work, but hard work always pays off!