How to be more fluent: the bigger picture
By Claire Jaynes
Unless we grow up in a bilingual home or community, many of us can struggle to achieve a good communicative level in another language. As adults, we only have short periods of time which we can dedicate to learning. So how can we improve our fluency in the shortest time possible?
1. Immerse yourself in the language.
At Trebinshun House, our students often comment that they are much more confident and can feel an improvement in their fluency after only a week's training. They're doing something right by not only taking an intensive language course but living in an immersive residential environment too. This means their day is 100% in English. The host and teachers share breakfast, lunch and dinner and accompany them on the social programme (no escape!). Expressing yourself socially as well as in class gives you a wider range of opportunities where you can practise your English. And if you can disconnect from the office for a week, so much the better.
2. Take an intensive programme
Our programmes are 4.5 or 6 hours per day of face to face study. This gives students a real opportunity to explore the language in a wide range of contexts and use different skills. Language analysis is combined with listening and reading authentic texts. It's a tried and tested method: British and US Foreign Office staff posted overseas follow a similar intensive daily programme of learning. According to Shawn Kobb, an American diplomat now based in Vienna, the Foreign Service training provides 5 hours per day on conversation, presentation and interviewing in classes of no more than 4 students. Just like at Trebinshun House, this fast-tracks learning.
3. Mix your interaction
There are benefits to both small group and one-to-one classes so it makes sense to take part in both. Most students find it beneficial to have some 1-1 sessions to focus on their own language errors. In this way, you get more detailed feedback from the teacher and a chance to work on your own projects. Your confidence develops in this 'protected' environment and you take more risks with the language and get more feedback, creating a virtuous circle. Not forgetting that you'll be able to put this to good use in the group sessions and in social interactions.
4. Use it or lose it!
Having invested your time and money in a course, it makes sense to use your language as much as possible. If you're learning to use English at international conferences, focus on presentations, developing listening skills and social English during your course to give you a solid foundation for the future. In the public eye, we see how easily Roger Federer switches from French to German to English in interviews and Novak Djokovic picked up Italian when working with his Italian coach and continues to use it (along with English, Serbian German and French!).
These are fairly common sense ideas to help you focus on the key issues related to fluency in language learning. We can also work with you to provide tailor-made solutions for your language learning goals. In the meantime, why not tell us how you maintain and improve your English?