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Practice is an integral part of any learning experience. It comes down to this: if we want to internalize something and really get it, we have to practice. If we want to become more confident, we gotta practice. When it comes to language, practice is our way to become fluent. Practice and fluency go hand in hand. When you practice, you allow yourself to take what you already know, the knowledge you already have, and use it. By doing that with English, you minimize the gap between the English you know and the English you use, whether it’s with speaking or writing.
Once you decide to invest in yourself and in your English, and make time for practice, it’s important that you also practice effectively. Many times we tend to lose ourselves in the process and go down the rabbit hole of passive learning. When that happens, we are basically under the illusion of learning, where we think we’re making a lot of progress but in fact we’re not. There are, however, some great ways to stay focused and be mindful, intentional, and effective when practicing our English.
In this episode, I share 5 of my top fluency practice strategies for teachers and students that you can use and implement right away if you want to turn your English practice around (or your student’s if you’re a teacher) and really become fluent. My coaches and I have been using these 5 practice strategies for years with our students, and they really help them see great results. In fact, these strategies are the core part of our practice membership, Beyond, which gives speakers of English as a second language the space, the speaking opportunities, the coaching, and the support to take their English to the next level.
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Hey, welcome to the InFluency Podcast. I’m Hadar. And this is episode number 224. And today we’re going to talk about five fluency practice strategies that I use with my students and have worked for us oh, so well.
Hey everyone. Welcome to the InFluency Podcast. Thank you for being here today. Today I want to share with you some of the practice techniques/strategies that I’ve been using with my students while being a private tutor. Yeah, yeah. There was a time where I would teach students in my living room, while closing my cat in my bedroom. Because she would climb all over the place. She’s still with us, by the way. Her name is Pizza. So, back to my story.
Back in the day, I used to teach pronunciation, but also I realized that a lot of people really needed to work on their fluency. And while, as a teacher, it always feels weird to be speaking with students. Of course, with giving feedback, but not doing a lot of teaching. And if you’re a teacher, you know what I’m talking about, right? Like we feel that if we are teaching right now, if we’re getting paid to teach, we need to teach and not to speak.
But apart from learning pronunciation, this is one of the things that my students loved doing. And with time I realized that it was actually the thing that helped them advance the most when done in the right way. Right? Not just speaking, but speaking with constructive, helpful, smart feedback.
And when I started implementing that, I saw the significant change it had on their confidence and fluency, and also my ability to teach and plan and create content. And I’ve started coming up with more strategies and more techniques to help them become more and more fluent.
And then of course, I grew my business and started teaching online; and had, you know, instead of a few dozens – a few hundreds, and then a few thousands of students. And we were able to really create some strategies through trial and error that really worked.
And today I want to share with you five of those strategies. And whether you’re a student or a teacher – a student working on your own or working with a teacher, and a teacher teaching anything related to English – this episode is for you. And I hope you enjoy it. Let’s listen.
Hey everyone, it’s Hadar. Thank you so much for joining me. Today I want to share with you five fluency practice strategies that I have been using with my students for many, many years, and my coaches and teachers use with our students as well. Whether you’re a student or a teacher, you want to use these practice strategies to improve fluency.
If you’re new to my channel, then hello and welcome. My name is Hadar. I’m an English coach. And I am not a native English speaker. I am teaching and sharing with you everything that has helped me reach where I am today. And that has helped me help thousands and thousands of students around the world.
If you want to find out more about my work and get a lot of free stuff to help you improve your English fluency, confidence, and clarity, check out my website hadarshemesh.com. Or come follow me on Instagram at @hadar.accentsway. Let’s get started with the five practice strategies.
So the first one is speaking with feedback. Now, I’m going to talk about that a little bit. Whether you’re a student learning with a teacher, or whether you are a teacher trying to help a student, this is a very, very effective practice technique. And it helps students build confidence. Now, if you don’t currently work with a private teacher, then wait till the end, and I will share with you how you can do it on your own.
But if you do have a teacher or if you’re a teacher helping a student, here is one of the things that I’ve discovered to be the most helpful when it comes to identifying the challenges of the students. So the idea is for you to speak freely about anything that relates to your life: whether it’s your job, your plans for tomorrow, anything that you might be using on your day to day life. And then to have your teacher or coach give you feedback on the specific things that prevent you from sounding clear, coherent, or confident.
So, you don’t need to get feedback on every single pronunciation challenge or grammar mistake that you’re making. And if you’re a teacher, your job is to help the students identify the key elements that prevent them from being clear, coherent, and confident. So, if you’re a student working with a teacher, you would want your teacher to give you specific feedback on those places where you get stuck or whatever it is that you say make you sound unclear. Or it’s a very, very noticeable grammar mistake, such as, you know, saying something like ‘he play every week’ instead of ‘he plays every week’. So speaking with feedback in a spontaneous, intuitive way is one of the best practices that I have seen to help students gain clarity and confidence.
Now, if you don’t have a teacher, you can do two things. One, you can use ‘voice to text’, so you can record yourself speaking, and when you see that it hasn’t detected what it is that you were trying to say. And then maybe there is a pronunciation challenge, and you want to explore that. You want to repeat that phrase… repeat that phrase… repeat that phrase. You want to see that it actually detects what you’re trying to say the second time.
But also – and this is a really good tip, so make sure you write this down – there is a great tool called Wordtune. Wordtune is a writing assistant based on AI. I’m going to link to it below, I’m not an affiliate, I just love the product. And what it does is it takes a sentence, even if it’s half baked or not ready, and it really understands what it is that you’re trying to say. And it gives you some alternatives so you can choose from it.
And this is a great way for you to see, Okay, I said that. This is what it suggests. How is it different? How is the grammar different? How is the sentence structure different? So even if you don’t have a coach working with you, then this is something that could be helpful, and it’s practically free.
Now, another reason why I know this works is because in Beyond – my English practice membership community – we have sessions of speaking with feedback and writing with feedback. The students absolutely love it. Because not only that it deals with real life challenges, that actually most students face, it’s also super relevant to the lives of the people who practice and the lives of the people participating in the session. If you want to find out more about Beyond, my English practice membership, super affordable, you can click the link below and learn more about it.
The second practice strategy that I’ve been using with my students for many, many years is asking the students – and by students, that means you – to answer a different question every day: to give yourself three minutes and record yourself on audio or video, answering the question. Every question should be totally different about topics that you don’t always talk about. And here’s why. Usually when you speak in your day-to-day life, you use a certain vocabulary, like you use the same ongoing conversations.
And here’s the thing. You’re used to speaking about something, therefore that would be convenient for you. But every time you get out of your comfort zone, getting asked about something that you don’t know how to talk about, that might feel challenging. And then you’ll feel like your vocabulary’s limited, or you might not participate in the conversation, which is not good.
And to improve that and to expand your vocabulary and confidence, speaking about different topics, I recommend to take a question, a different question every single day and answer it for 3-4 minutes. And what type of question? Just go and google ‘conversation topics’ or ‘controversial questions’. And you will get lists and lists and lists of questions to raise a discussion.
And all you need is yourself and the internet and a recorder. So you can record yourself and listen back to it if needed, but you don’t even have to record yourself. I like recording because you are more composed, you are more intentional when you know it’s recorded. And this is why, like, that’s the closest thing to speaking in front of other people without really speaking. If you want to get fancy, use video. I have talked a lot about improving your fluency through video. And I’m going to link to some of those resources and videos and episodes in the description below.
The third practice technique is imitation and shadowing. Again, I’ve talked about that on a separate video, but now, as we are talking about the top five fluency practice strategies, I really, really love this strategy because it helps you understand English and comprehend English on a deeper level, on a subconscious level. Because you’re absorbing English, you’re repeating it, you’re getting it into your body without thinking about the grammar rules, without thinking so much about the words that you’re using. Right? So, it’s like a holistic experience and it helps you improve grammar, vocabulary, fluency, and pronunciation, for sure.
So the idea is that you select someone that you like, a speaker that you like, or a video or a TV show, or whatever that is. You play a line, you pause, and you repeat. You can also shadow it or echo it where you play it, and then you repeat it like a split-second after the person speaking. If you have the script, even better. You can even take notes. It’s a very active practice strategy. And my students, who have been using it consistently, report that this is one of the things that has really, really helped them.
Again, when you join Beyond, these are the things that we’re doing, all of these exercises on an ongoing basis. Because, you know, first of all, you want to keep it interesting. And also, you want to do a bunch of different things that tackle all the challenges that you face when communicating in English.
The next one is transcribing texts. So here it’s more about working on your listening skills and listening abilities. And the idea is to listen to different listeners with different accents. By the way, not just standard American, not just English teachers on YouTube. But listen to different voices and different dialects so that you start to develop awareness around all the potential English sounds.
And the idea is to listen to someone speak and try to transcribe or write down what it is that you’re hearing. And then compare it with a text. And look at the places where it’s not aligned, right? Because there will be some places where you will write ‘should’, and the person actually said ‘could’, right? And then you’d be like, Okay, why did I hear it differently? And this is why like listening and then transcribing, writing it down for yourself and comparing it with the original is such a great strategy to improve the confidence and listening, but also understand how it all works together.
The last thing is challenging yourself. So when I see my students talking about something that is really difficult for them, I challenge them to go and explore that a little deeper. So for example, if a student of mine would say, “I am really afraid to speak in meetings at work. So, I want to work on my English and I want to work on my pronunciation.” Great. So we’re doing all the work. But then I would also tell her to go and tap into that fear and do more of the thing that she is so afraid of.
So, that means speak more in meetings, right? In a way just like put yourself in a situation where you are forced to speak. Of course, only if you feel safe. But to really confront yourself with that thing that you’re afraid of. If your thing is fearing speaking in public, then go live on social media and speak to other people. Post videos. If your fear is to not pass a job interview, then go on like five or six or seven different job interviews just for the practice.
Do more of that thing that scares you. Because fluency is interconnected with confidence. And if you’re experiencing a certain fear around communicating in English, it’s not just about the grammar and it’s not just about the vocabulary. So you got to push yourself and see that it’s possible for you to do something, and that boosts your confidence and ultimately, will boost your fluency as well.
So these were the five practice strategies that I wanted to share with you today. Just a quick recap. The first one is to speak with feedback, whether it’s with a coach or with ‘voice to text’, or a writing assistant. The second one is answering a different question every single day. And when you get stuck, try to find that word that you were missing. And maybe repeat it a few times and make that word more available. The third one is imitation or shadowing exercises. The fourth one is transcribing what it is that you’re hearing, improving your listening and comprehension. And the fifth one is challenging yourself and doing the thing that scares you.
Even if you were to do just a little bit of each exercise, I guarantee that you will feel significant rewards. Now again, a lot of people are missing out on practice and they’re missing out on opportunities to speak.
And this is why we created Beyond – our English practice membership. Now, it’s really all about taking the knowledge that you already have and putting it into practice, and minimizing the gap between the English that you already know and the English that you use. With all of these strategies, you know, that we implement in the program, and a lot of opportunities to speak and a lot of coaching and support and feedback, and so much more. And doors are going to open soon. If you’re watching this as I release the video, you can click the link below to find out all about it. And even if the doors are closed, I’m inviting you to get on the list to find out when we open doors for Beyond – our English practice membership.
Have a beautiful, beautiful rest of the day. I hope this was helpful. If you have more suggestions and more tips on how to improve fluency, please write them in the comments below. Have a great day. And I’ll see you next week in the next video. Bye.
Here are the 5 strategies you can use right away:
1. Speaking & Writing with Feedback
Whether you practice with a teacher or on your own, it’s important that you get feedback. It doesn’t need to be about everything, but focus on the main things that hold you back or are challenging to you. You can also include some online tools that are extremely helpful. For pronunciation, you can use Voice-to-Text tools where you record yourself and then see what you said converted into text. This tool can give you insight into the sounds that you make and which sounds might not be clear enough. For writing, you can use a favorite of mine – Wordtune, where you get a variety of suggestions to make your message clearer and more aligned with what you really want to say.
2. Daily Speaking Practice on Varied Topics
Look for conversation topics online and try to answer a different question every day. You don’t have to record yourself, but I highly recommend it. Recording ourselves usually makes us speak more intentionally, and it’s also a good learning resource – you can listen to the recording and understand what you need to focus on in your practice.
3. Imitation & Shadowing
My students love shadowing (or echoing) exercises, and for a very good reason. Imitation and shadowing exercises allow you to understand English on a deeper level. The idea behind this exercise is not to learn how to speak like a native speaker and use their dialect or accent, but rather, to play and have fun with speaking, and take ownership of your English by taking someone else’s words and making them your own. It’s a great learning exercise, and a holistic one, too. It allows you to gain insight into different aspects of the language: its grammar, its vocabulary, its sounds, and its prosody – rhythm, intonation, tone of voice, etc. This practice is all about fluency and confidence.
4. Listening & Transcribing
Active listening is exceptionally useful, and with the right mindset it’s fun as well. English is full of reductions, and it’s inevitable to sometimes mishear words. When you do listening practice, you get to really work on understanding English and making sense of the gaps between what you hear (or perceive, to be precise) and what was actually said. You learn to expose yourself to different voices and dialects that are not necessarily mainstream, but that make English what it actually is. And you do that by choosing a video or an audio you find interesting, and transcribing what you hear. Oh, the places you’ll go!
5. Challenging Yourself
It’s a cliché, but hey, some clichés are true. At least this one is. To grow, you need to try new things, step out of your comfort zone and make it bigger. It’s paramount that every now and then you try something that scares you. Find the time and space to do that, and confront your fears. Your English will thank you for it. If you’re interested in a safe space to do exactly this, I wholeheartedly encourage you to join our English practice membership, Beyond, where you’ll find a community like no other.
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Here are more practice strategy videos:
#1 STRATEGY of how to become FLUENT in English
10 AMAZING TIPS that’ll SKYROCKET your English fluency?
50 Powerful Fluency Tips (in under 5 minutes)
How to become fluent in English | FLUENCY ASSESSMENT
10 MISTAKES that will PREVENT you from becoming fluent
This will skyrocket your English communication skills [with only 2 minutes a day]