How to sound like a native speaker

Today’s post will be a little different. I hope that by now you feel comfortable enough with you English to start reading blogs. This month it’s not about motivation or how to come back to learning. I’m leave here a few tip which will help you to sound more fluent and native speaker-like. I’m sure you will find something easy which you can apply right away, but don’t shy away from the more difficult ones. Keep on reading and remember – practice makes perfect! 😊

Use short forms

By far the simplest change you can make right away, and the one that will make the quickest difference, is how your speech will be perceived. Use shortened forms, or so-called contractions, as often as possible, especially in conversation, and you will sound more at ease without much effort. Full forms are used of course and are as correct as possible, but when used on a daily basis in casual situations they sound a bit too stiff and formal. So leave them for more formal occasions.

Compare these two examples:

A: I have not seen this new film yet. But I have heard it is pretty nice.

B: I haven’t seen this new film yet, but I’ve heard it’s pretty nice.

Which person sounds more natural and which sounds stiff? Well, that’s right:)

Shorten also longer structures, such as: would have done

instead of saying: I’m sorry, I would have done it, but I ran out of time.

say: I’m sorry, I’d’ve done it, but I ran out of time.

Don’t forget about question tags!

This is one of the first things that strikes the eye (or rather, „the ears„) when you talk with native speakers. Disjunctive questions are added at the end of sentences very often, which makes the whole speech lighter and less monotonous (be careful! question tags require proper intonation). So try to put them into the conversation as often as possible.

Take a look at the following example:

A: She wasn’t invited to the party, was she?

B: Oh, you’re right. I forgot to do that last week.

A: You liked it anyway, didn’t you?

B: Absolutely!

Use adverbs to describe

Another very useful trick, especially when you want to describe or explain something, and you can’t for the life of you remember the right words (or you just don’t know them). So instead of remaining silent or using completely unnecessary phrases, I recommend you use the words kind of, sort of (often pronounced kinda and sorta) and thingy into your speech and try to explain something without losing the fluency of your speech.

You can do it like this, for example:

A: I saw a great dress in h&m the other day. It sorta looked stylish but also had these funny thingies around, kinda like belts, you know?B: So she made this really amazing cake last week. It tasted kinda like a cheesecake but was sort of creamier and richer.

Stuck for words? – Use fillers

There are a whole lot of them in English! If you don’t know what to say at a given moment and want to give yourself more time to formulate a statement, then instead of losing fluency and doing it silently – use words, which work perfectly in such cases. My favourites that I use on a daily basis when I myself happen to „stutter” are: actually, um, uh, well, like, basically, at the end of the day, you know, I mean, d’you know what I mean?, right, fair enough, or something, and stuff

Now take a peek at how it sounds in practice:

A: Um so basically, I gotta do this course in like languages and stuff to be able to apply but uh you know it may take a while.

B: Well you know you’re going to be really busy then, I guess.

A: Right. Gotta do this though, you know what I mean?

B: Fair enough.

Make use of phrasal verbs

Knowing and frequently using compound verbs, so hated by some students, is one of the best ways to start sounding more comfortable in English. In practice, they are used repeatedly and usually replace in everyday conversations the more formal phrases you know from textbooks. So remember that native speakers love phrasal verbs and in order to communicate better and more efficiently with them, you too should use them as well.

Look at the difference in tone between these two sentences:

A: I really hope someone will be able to subtitle for Steven tomorrow. I can’t cancel yet another meeting!

B: I really hope someone will be able to fill in for Steven tomorrow. I can’t call off yet another meeting!

Just please do not try to put them in every second sentence – as in this case you will risk sounding unnatural. To incorporate more phrasal verbs into your language, first think of you typical daily situations in which you use English. Are there any topics that you talk about more often? Are there any emotions which you want to express on a regular basis? Write them down and look what phrasals you could use in those conversations. Try to incorporate them in your conversations, the more you practice, the more natural it will be for you and the better feel you will have. Then you can start using them more regularly.

Practice pronunciation and intonation

Nobody expects you to have a perfect British or American accent, but it will certainly make a difference if you can pronounce longer words properly and avoid typical mistakes in vowel sounds.

Make sure you can say words such as: available [əˈveɪləbl], comfortable [ˈkʌmftəbl], vegetable [ˈvedʒtəbl], communication [kəˌmjuːnɪˈkeɪʃən], publicity [pʌbˈlɪsəti ]or nationality [ˌnæʃənˈæləti] with correct stress.

Avoid typical mistakes in long/short sounds such as:

i – bitch/beach  [bɪtʃ/ biːtʃ]                            a – cut/car      [kʌt/ka:(r)]

u – foot/food     [fʊt/fuːd]                                   o – hop/horse   [hɒp/ hɔː(r)s]

Don’t forget about proper intonation in questions and question tags. Do not separate words when you are speaking. Remember, the way your teacher talks during the lesson (especially at beginner levels) reminds a well maintained French garden with perfectly cut grass. The language the natives use is more like the green bush in the jungle. All words are connected and you can’t really tell when one plant ends and another one begins.

Each journey starts with a small step. You don’t have to apply all the tricks at once. Start from one and when you feel comfortable with it, take the next one 🙂 Good luck!

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