Language learners are always keen to sound as native as they can. While you’ll never be able to sound exactly like a native, there are several ways you can make yourself sound more fluent.
- Listen out for filler words, the everyday words — the ‘umms’, ‘errs’ and ‘you knows’ — that we use in English to fill pauses in our speech. They’re everywhere! Most languages have them – ‘pues’ often pops up at the start of sentence in Spanish and you’ll always hear ‘bah’ or ‘alors’ in French, for example. Peppering your dialogue with these will really make you sound more natural, and help buy you time as you formulate the rest of your sentence. It might even impress the person you’re speaking to that you’ve grasped this part of their language!
- Interestingly, appearing fluent and natural doesn’t just come from the words you use. One of the best tools you have as a language learner is your eyes. Next time you’re sipping an espresso in Milan or out on a stroll in a park in Berlin, take a minute to watch the locals. Are they using their hands when they talk? How much are they using facial expressions? Bearing these in mind when practising the language can help you come across as a more natural and confident speaker. Keeping a beady eye on speakers’ mouths can help your pronunciation, too. What are they doing with their mouths when pronouncing certain sounds? You might notice things, such as relaxing the mouth a little more or rounding the lips more tightly, which could be helpful in pronouncing things more accurately.
- But remember, there’s a fine line between awareness and exaggeration when it comes to mannerisms. The French are renowned for shrugging and the Japanese for bowing, but be careful — while these might be some of the little things that will bring your language to life, overdoing them might appear insincere.
- Don’t become frustrated if you think you sound too ‘English’. Rolling your Rs and perfecting the back-of-the-throat gutturals comes with time and practice. And here’s a secret — a lot of other nationalities will find your English accent quite charming.
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