There are about twice as many non-native English speakers (1 billion) in the world as native speakers (400-500 million). Since searching “speak English fluently” will reveal over 119 million results, we think the number of non-native speakers will increase soon. It’s likely you’ll be one of them!
Though many English learners aim to become fluent as fast as possible, you don’t need to be “fluent” to have successful conversations in English. With hard work and consistency, you can build conversational skills that help you speak English naturally within months.
Let’s talk about what it takes to speak English without hesitation.
How fast can you become fluent?
It takes a beginner approximately one year to learn English fluently – if you spend 5 hours a day studying.
Of course, this time commitment isn’t always possible. For many people, true fluency is a journey that takes years (and that’s okay). The time required also depends on your current English level, your environment, the quality of your studies, your motivation level, and your native tongue.
Have you heard of New Year’s resolutions? These are commitments we make to ourselves at the end of the year. The most common New Year’s resolution is a promise to start going to the gym. However, it takes most resolution-makers only one month to break their resolution (=stop doing the action they committed to).
Many English language learners put pressure on themselves to speak English fluently faster than is realistic. Like with resolutions, it’s difficult to reach our goals when we don’t have a clear plan with milestones. That’s why a focus on fluency when you are not getting regular practice can be discouraging and actually hold you back from making progress.
So, while quick fixes won’t help, daily committed practice, even 15 minutes a day, will.
How often should you practice your speaking skills?
In short, as often as possible.
Sometimes it seems counterintuitive to speak when you are worried about your English speaking skills. But we can practice things that make us uncomfortable.
The fact is, the more you speak English, the better you will get. There’s no other “fluency life hack.”
This is because conversation is a type of active learning. You have to apply your skills, think on your toes (= without much preparation), and process feedback quickly. Plus, the more you do it, the more fun it gets. There are so many things we can talk about and learn from other people.
Remember: It’s possible to find people who are willing to speak English with you on and offline. Your conversation partner doesn’t need to be a native speaker. (Check out our tips on practicing speaking from home.)
How do I learn to speak English naturally?
Building strong English speaking skills requires other skills, including the ability to read, listen, and comprehend in English.
There are many ways to learn how to speak English without hesitation. You might think you need to travel to places where you don’t share a language with the locals in order to practice, but you don’t have to leave your country. Try pretending to be a tourist in a neighboring town or joining an international club. If you want to welcome travelers into your home, consider setting up an Airbnb or hosting students or volunteers.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Practice your English listening skills. We consider listening to be the gateway to speaking, so you shouldn’t ignore your listening. It helps you understand pronunciation and build a passive vocabulary that you can turn into an active vocabulary with regular practice. Remember, active listening is better.
- Start conversations constantly. Look for opportunities to practice your English speaking at every opportunity. It can be easier to talk with strangers you will never see again.
- “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” This English phrase means that you should expect to make mistakes. Don’t be afraid – you will make mistakes no matter what you do, but they will help you learn.
- Praise all progress, big and small. Fluency doesn’t happen without many small milestones in between. When you have an interaction you feel great about, treat yourself to encourage repetition.
- Practice speaking at home. You don’t need to live with a native speaker to practice your English speaking. You’re your own natural buddy! Find the transcript from a Youtube video or content from a streaming service, try recording yourself while reading it, and compare. Once you get good at this, you can practice speaking confidently in front of the mirror. Don’t worry, it will get less awkward over time.
Take the first steps towards speaking without hesitation
It’s 100% possible to speak English communicatively and understandably. 1 billion people already do!
Remember that many English speakers are not native, perfect, or fluent, but they still get their point across and speak with confidence.
Consider your current level. Who can you hold a conversation with – a waiter, a train conductor, your neighbor, a coworker?
Identify what you want to improve about your English speaking. Do you want to speak more? Do you want to speak in a way that is more grammatically correct? Do you want to add elements that make you sound like a native speaker, like phrasal verbs and idioms?
To take it to the next level, create a realistic plan to practice your English skills consistently. This means working on all the little things that move you closer to mastery, from pronunciation to prepositions to helpful conversational phrases.
How Plain English can help you speak English more fluently
We produce engaging biweekly lessons on current events that include audio with two speeds, full transcripts, translations into 9 languages, review quizzes, a Facebook group, and much more.
This content is designed to help you improve your reading, listening, comprehension, and writing. You receive in-depth explainers of conversational phrases and take fun quizzes that help you keep what you’ve learned while you fix your most common mistakes. The combination of these exercises sets a strong foundation for you to practice your English speaking skills.
With a free account, you can unlock 400+ current events lessons with transcripts and review quizzes, plus 400+ English expressions to help you make daily progress and speak English more fluently in a fun, engaging way.
In case you’re interested, the popular Plus+ membership has a stronger focus on speaking than our free tier. You can record yourself reading a passage from every lesson and compare it with audio from a native speaker. We also host 3 conference calls with fellow learners and native speakers every month, but you have the opportunity to get personalized feedback from our native speakers every week.