How to become fluent in a language?

Posted on October 04 2017

One of the most-asked questions when people study a language is “what should I do to fluently speak that language?”. Being fluently and being able to speak the language is two issues that are mostly overlapped. Some are good at reading and writing but still bable like a three-year-old baby. It is not because their command of that language is not good, they are just not really fluently. My repeated answer is, and it was mentioned in our previous article, to expose yourself as much as possible to the language. Still confused? Then this article is to explain further of what I did in my case.

I listen to music

I put this on top because in my opinion this is the first and easiest way we should try at the beginning of learning a language. I recommend you to listen to pop songs of the language you are learning, unless you are a rock fan or other vocal genres (Learn with passion is always the best). But considering your level of the foreign language is just basic, a hard-to-listen genre is not a wise choice. Why Pop (or Country is also a good option)? Because Pop is simple. Pop uses normal language, pop shows you the way in which people talk to each other. It is the everyday language. Yes, there are slangs and weird grammar but that is how you have an idea of their language. Additionally, Pop has another advantage. It is easy to sing along and catchy – this is how music plays their role in learning language. If you study the language in a formal class or self learn, with a tutor or do tandem exchange, the common problem of these is that you need topics. If you are in a formal class, the language you are exposed to is the one in textbooks and you always need topics to create fake conversations for practice. These would not really help you (At least, I do not think so). Your brain and mouth would not have chance to practice, to link to each other. When singing along, we do not need to “invent” the content, we really “sound out words”. And do not worry about meaning or whatever. Just sing along and try to imitate their pronunciation. It helps you with accents and intonation. And gradually, you will passively gain an amount of expressions that no textbooks can teach you. Next time you speak, you speak like singing a song. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I think in that language

I did not know about this method for the first 10 years of my language study. Seriously, it is a magical way, and does not take you a lot of time. You can do it anytime, anywhere (on bus, on train, in elevator or even when driving but this is not encouraged). You walk by a slogan or banner in your language and try to translate it in your head into the language you are study. Or just recall a normal conversation between you and friends, but in the foreign language. That does help. Guarantee! You will not see its result right away but later on, if you pay enough notice, you will realize you can speak more and faster than you thought.

I read translated books

Again, this is a highly-recommended method. But what I want to tell you here is you have to decide if you “read” book or you “read” language. We recommend you to read, but we do not mean that you have to understand the meaning of stories, or read between the lines. Those are what you will do once you have an advanced command of the language. I notice that, at intermediate level, we mostly finish grammar lessons and have a considerable vocabulary. But you may find it dificult and confusing to make sentences which sounds naturally. Am I right? And books is how to solve this. Don’t choose scientific, history or difficult genres. Choose romantic novels in which there are bunches of daily conversations of characters and author’s description of scenes and situations. Thank to that, you learn how people really make sentences. You read books side by side, one in your native language and the other in your learning language. It would be great if you have a pen and note to write down while reading, it does help! Read your language version or the foreign one first is up to you, while reading, you translate the sentence in your head and check with the translated one if your translation is correct. I do believe this is a very good way for us to improve our linguistic skills. If you do this usually, it would take you less time in real-life interaction. Your brain spends less time to translate. ๐Ÿ˜Š 

I watch shows and movies

This way is more like an advanced method of listening to music. However, it is a bit different. While music is more about helping your pronunciation, TV shows is more about helping your listening skill. First, you will soon realize that some grammar rules you learn in textbooks are not applied in real life. Same as music, people use weird grammars but that is what they say in their country, that is how the language is. For example: … So you want to sound like a robot reading directly from textbooks or you want to sound naturally like a native? Of course sounding like native is more awesome. You learn it in context. You will not only learn what words mean, but also know how it is used, and this is quite important, it prevents you from some embarrasing situations when you use words with wrong contexts.

Small notes

Whether you listen to music or radio, watch movies or read books, there are two things that should be there: one – you have passion with what you are listening or reading - that is the trigger; two – do not make your brain work too hard on figuring out the meaning of everything you read or hear; what we care about at this stage is: how your brain absorb language.
These are mostly how I applied for myself. There are more ways, of course! But I found that these are the most enjoyful methods. One more plus, you capture the humorousness (or sarcasm?) of people in that country. Some even link this to culture, I am not sure, it’s up to you. What I want to emphasize here is you would learn a lot via these practices. Music, movies and books always work like a charm. We all know that. Hope this article helps you a bit. And again, everything takes time. So, be patient, please!