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Why You Need to Use Your Words to Sound More Fluent in English

I don’t have kids yet, but when I spend time with my friends who do, I pay close attention to how they are raising their children.

After all, parenting is a skill that takes practice, so I figure I better start storing up the information for when I need it. 😉

A few weeks ago, I hung out with one of my oldest friends and her four children. I was shocked by how articulate her kids are – her four-year-old daughter is more polite than most adults I know. Seriously.

One thing I’ve noticed is that she always encourages her kids to use their words rather than cry (or worse, scream). Her twins are just learning to talk, so they need to be encouraged to express themselves verbally.

In American culture, we use the expression “use your words” as gentle encouragement for toddlers who are learning to speak, but this advice is extremely useful for adult English learners too.

After all, one of the biggest frustrations for non-native speakers is that they don’t have the vocabulary to express the precise ideas they’re so comfortable speaking about in their first language.

But here’s the thing: you can’t let not having a word stop you from speaking.

You need to find another way to express the idea, describe what you mean, or otherwise encourage your listener to supply the word for you.

I credit using my words with achieving fluency in Spanish – I never pulled out my dictionary, I just used the words I *did* know to express the idea.

Without fail, someone would provide me with the word I was missing or share a more appropriate synonym.

Not only did I keep the conversation flowing, but I also naturally learned new vocabulary. Win-win.

Remember, even native speakers forget words from time to time. (Ryan and I discussed this during our conversation about culture and mindset for next level English.)

Challenge yourself to use your words without opening up Google Translate, and your brain will start creating new pathways to help you express these concepts.

That’s how kids learn to speak, and it can help you sound more fluent too.

Remember, the word “fluent” means “effortlessly smooth and flowing.”

Speaking fluently is about flowing with the conversation, not about completely perfect grammar or vocabulary.

You sound fluent when you are able to keep talking and keep the conversation going, even when you forget a word, aren’t sure how to explain a concept, or need to clarify or rephrase an idea.

So try it today: deciding to use your words is an important mindset shift that can help you sound more fluent immediately.

Your Turn

Now it’s your turn! Did this tip help you shift your mindset about how you’re learning English? Let me know in the comments.

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2 thoughts on “Why You Need to Use Your Words to Sound More Fluent in English

  1. I love this Kim. English learners don’t need the latest “hack” to add 100 new words a day in their sleep or whatever promises are out there. You need to start with where you are and build on that. As you quite rightly point out, in conversation, other people will help you – they’ll supply the word or “scaffold” your explanation to help you express it more clearly. Even if they’re not English teachers. And this is because we’re constantly helping each other in conversation by finishing each others’ sentences or supplying words when people say “oh I can’t remember the word right now”. Nobody’s perfect and nobody knows all the words anyway – thanks for this reminder!

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Cara! There are so many aspects of communication that native speakers – of any language – do without thinking about it because we’ve been socialized to act in a certain way. I wanted to remind English learners that they don’t have to know everything or speak perfectly. I’ve noticed that highly intelligent, articulate non-native speakers tend to have high standards for themselves – and wanted to encourage them to relax and trust the normal flow of conversation, just like you identified. 🙂

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