For some reason English certificates are seen as the holy grail of language learning for many learners. IELTS, Cambridge B2, C1, C2, TOEFL, the list goes on.
Actually, I know the reason these are important for many people, and unfortunately for many, those reasons don't align with why they are really learning English.
But that's for another post.
Let's talk today about being an advanced level speaker compared to being a fluent speaker.
Are these the same thing to you?
SPOILER ALERT: They're not the same thing, and I'll share why.
What makes an "advanced English speaker"?
I've asked the question on my Facebook page, and I got some very interesting answers. There were many good answers as well as many misconceptions. I'd like to address those today.
Many people think that there are magical "advanced" vocabulary words or grammar. They think, "Once I can learn X number of words or "all of the grammar" I'll somehow be fluent.
Sorry, it doesn't work like that.
Sure, there are some advanced words. Of course, there are some advanced grammar. But these are not what you need to become fluent.
What is an "advanced English speaker"? I'd define it as somebody who has good control of how they use English and can use a range of vocabulary and grammar to communicate their message.
That's not to say "all grammar and vocabulary".
By teaching primarily grammar and exams, English academies and traditional classrooms are unintentionally doing you a disservice in the classroom.
People are too often held back by the way they learn a language instead of it being propelled forward.
Too many people are trained to believe that an IELTS 7 band or a Cambridge C1 certificate is all they need to finally be a fluent English speaker.
We forget that these types of exams are really only intended to be a reflection of your English ability. They are not meant to be the end-all-be-all of your English learning. Essentially, they are giving many non-native English speakers (and employers) the wrong compass to judge English ability.
The question then is, do you want to be an "advanced English speaker" or do you want to speak English fluently?
What is a 'fluent English speaker'?
English fluency is being able to smoothly and efficiently have clear communication about a wide range of topics. If you can do this, you are fluent.
Of course, there are levels to this, and there is always room for improvement. With something as subjective and deep as a foreign language, I doubt anybody will be able to say, "I've arrived", but let me share some tips that will help you feel great about your progress as well as a guide to continue.
The #1 thing to learn in order to move from an advanced speaker to a fluent English speaker are fixed expressions.
These are small groups of words that go together in a way that create their own meaning in a given context.
Let's take this sentence for example.
"Let's take _____ for example" is a fixed expression. Obviously, you're not "taking" anything to a place, but using the expression, "Let's take _____ for example" communicates in a natural way that you are going to give a specific example to illustrate a point.
This is using language naturally. Being able to do this will greatly improve your English listening, reading, and speaking because you will have these expressions in your back pocket and ready to use.
The first step is identifying them.
Next time you sit down and do a YouTube search (after you subscribe to Sweed Academy), or you go to Netflix or Amazon Prime or Disney, and you listen to English content, notice how many times you can identify expressions, word groups, and phrasal verbs.
Picking up expressions and word groups in this way will make learning phrasal verbs seem less like a school assignment and more like learning an actual language where people communicate with one another.
If you need some guidance in becoming fluent...
Book a call with our team. We are here to show you exactly how you can identify expressions and take them to use in your speaking.
On our call, we will simply ask you a few questions about your current English level, what you need to improve your English for, and we will look at where you want to go.
After that, we will assign you some specific homework centered around your goals and decide if we are a good fit to work together to get you to your goals.
Book the call either above or on the side of this blog and let's talk soon!
Jesse J. Sweed
Jesse is the founder of Sweed Academy and The English Mind. He specializes in showing high-performing professionals how to think and speak directly in English without hesitation and self-doubt.
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