One of the easiest ways to become an advanced English speaker is to copy what other people do. For example, you should copy (and use) collocations and standard phrases, as these will help you speak English more fluently and more automatically.
But there are other things that you can copy which will make you feel more confident when you use English. Here are three things that native English speakers do. One is a “mindset” change; one is surprisingly easy; while one might take some practice.
Use varied intonation
One of the biggest differences between English and other languages is the range of intonation that native English speakers use. Our voices rise – and fall – much more “dramatically” than in other languages. Intonation can be used to show strong emotions, such as shock, disbelief and surprise.
It can feel a little “exaggerated” if you don’t use intonation as much in your first language, but listen to the difference in the following phrases. Can you hear the difference in intonation, and how the voice rises and falls? Notice that the second phrase (with varied intonation) sounds more positive and friendly.
Working on your intonation will take practice, but the easiest way to do this is to listen to conversations. Try TV programmes (reality TV and soap operas are great for this) as well as interviews (podcasts and chat shows).
Include foreign words
The English language “borrows” (OK – steals!) words and phrases from lots of other languages. Some of these are very common (“a la carte” menu from French, or “vice versa” from Latin), but some will make you sound sophisticated when you speak English. Here are some great ones to try:
a bon viveur = someone who enjoys a high standard of life (especially good food and wine)
“Charles is a bit of a bon viveur. He loves going to Michelin-starred restaurants.”
creme de la creme = the best of something
“They only employ the creme de la creme in their company.”
angst = a feeling of deep worry (especially about “existential” issues)
“The pandemic has caused a lot of angst about the impact of poor housing in our society.”
doppelganger = someone who is the double of someone else
“I saw your doppelganger in the supermarket yesterday.”
Using foreign words may be very easy for you (especially if you’re a French speaker!) Remember, though, that the pronunciation is “anglicised” (we make the word sound more “English”).
Don’t stress when you forget a word
This is a mindset change.
We ALL forget words when we speak. Sometimes we’re thinking about something else, or we change the subject of a sentence while we’re speaking. Sometimes we haven’t used the word for a while, so it’s not fresh in our minds. Sometimes we’re distracted or tired – and sometimes it’s a problem of increasing age!
So here are some things that native speakers say when they forget a word. Use these phrases too and you’ll feel less pressured when you forget a word.
“Oh what’s that word again – you know, to talk about …”
“Can you pass me the, the, um, thingummy over there.” (“Thingummy” = when you can’t remember the technical word for something)
“I’ve completely forgotten the word – I must be going senile!”
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