We all want to sound natural when we’re learning a second language, but English can seem like an especially difficult language with lots of confusing vocabulary and pronunciation.
The first thing to say is that sounding like a native English speaker doesn’t mean sounding like the Queen of England! One of the great things about English is all the different ways people speak English around the world. There are native English speakers from Jamaica and India and Ghana and many other places – all with totally different accents, ways of speaking, and even different grammar! That diversity is what makes English such a rich language!
With that in mind, here are four simple things you can do to make your English even better!
1. Mind your be verbs!
Many English students forget to include the be verb when they’re speaking. Students might say “I going to the shop” or “He happy today”. If you say this, English speakers will probably understand you, but if you remember to include the be verb (am/is/are), they will definitely understand you.
I going to the shop –> I am going to the shop
He happy today –> He is happy today.
2. Learn your -ed endings!
English has regular and irregular verbs. Learning the irregular verbs is difficult enough, but even the regular verbs are… pretty irregular.
All regular verbs have an -ed ending, but the pronunciation isn’t always the same. Look at these three verbs:
want –> wanted
move –> moved
cook –> cooked
The first verb, wanted, ends in the /ɪd/ sound. The second, moved, ends with the /d/ sound. The ed in cooked sounds like a /t/!
How do you learn which is which?!? There are patterns. If a regular verb ends in a k, the ed will always sound like a /t/. Cooked, walked, thanked, etc, etc.
More importantly, find ways to listen to English in a natural setting. Watch TV series in English. Listen to podcasts. Turn on the radio while you’re eating breakfast in the morning and watch the news at night. By hearing English, your brain will naturally learn what sounds correct and you won’t even have to think about it while you’re speaking!
3. Trust your ear!
All English students get confused with grammar sometimes. Sometimes you’re speaking, suddenly you’re thinking, wait, is it “I like him” or is it “I like he”?
If you find yourself in this situation, say it out loud:
“I like him.”
“I like he.”
Which one sounds correct? “I like him”, right? Your ear is your best friend when you’re learning a language. If you get confused, just ask your ear!
4. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes!
Whether you want to simply improve your conversation skills or if you want to take the IELTS, TOEIC, Cambridge First, Cambridge Advanced, or Cambridge Proficiency exam, practice makes perfect! Speak and write in English. If you make a mistake, that’s okay. We learn when we make mistakes. So get out there, use your English skills! Go to the pub with your English friends! Go on a date with an English speaker! Start writing poetry in English! You’ll develop confidence – and that’s the most important skill for any student!