7 Tips to Speak English like a Native Speaker

December 19, 2018

Looking at the stats of my videos, I realized that the vast majority of my audience here are from countries where English is not the first language. English is not my first language either. I didn't grow up in the US. I didn't even start speaking English until my early 20s. So I wanted to summarize my progress and share some tips that you might find useful.

📌 Tip #1:
Pay attention to how people speak. If you are watching a TV show, for example, pause and repeat what they say when you hear a useful expression. Think about what you would have said. And say it out loud. Many people say watching movies or TV shows in a language you're learning helps a lot. In my opinion, watching them in a passive way doesn't really help that much, especially if you have the subtitles in your first language. You start feeling the difference when you start paying attention to what the actors say, and how they say it. This is what I call active watching.

📌 Tip #2:
Force your inner voice to switch to English. We all talk to ourselves. You're not alone. It's not a sign of insanity. When you do talk to yourself, let it be in the language you're learning. When you have a monologue in your mind, try to do it in English. That'll help you think and speak in English simultaneously, rather than thinking in your first language first, then trying to translate. I know it's not as easy as it sounds, but eventually, it'll become easier. I struggled at first too, but then it kind of grew on me, and it became natural to think in English. Now, I don't even think about thinking in English. It just happens naturally.

📌 Tip #3:
Keep a list of words and phrases that you want to learn. When you hear a new word or phrase being used frequently, use it in sentences, think about how you would use it in a conversation, and say it out loud. That'll help you internalize the meanings of those expressions.

📌 Tip #4:
You can improve your pronunciation very fast just by focusing on three things: sound, stress, and intonation. Let's start with the sounds. Some people say if you start speaking a language after some certain age, you can never learn how to pronounce some sounds. That's not true. It is absolutely possible. I started speaking English when I was 23. I mean, I studied English before in school, but 23 was the age when I actually had to speak English every day.

So how to pronounce the sounds that are nonexistent in your first language? One thing you can do is to look at the charts that tell you where you should put your tongue and how you should move your lips to pronounce a particular sound. Watch videos in slow motion to see how native speakers say it. The 'th' sound, for example, doesn't exist in my first language. All I needed to do was to learn where to put my tongue: on my upper front teeth, right here.

Try to say tongue twisters that have a lot of the sound that you are struggling to pronounce. For example, there's no distinction between v and w in my first language. An example sentence that has both of these sounds would be: I would like to make viral videos. Or... I would like to visit West Virginia. It's w, v, w, v. As for the 'th' sound, singing along a song that has a lot of it came in handy for me.

📌 Tip #5:
Learn what syllables to put the stress on. You don't have to memorize it for every single word. You'll start noticing the patterns after you practice for a while. For example: exceptional, phenomenal, political. Democracy, psychology, photography. Extension, attribution, compression. Once you start to see the pattern, you'll be able to pronounce them correctly even if it's your first time saying it. If you have no idea where to put the stress on, put the stress on the first syllable, you'll be right most of the time.

📌 Tip #6:
Pay attention to intonation. In English, not all words in a sentence are pronounced at the same speed and tone. You can go faster over the words that matter less and put the stress on the words that matter. For example, you wouldn't usually say: I want to go home. Instead, you'd say: I wanna go home. The word you stress can also tell about the importance of something. There are several ways, for example, you can say, "Did Alice wear that dress to the soiree?"

  • You can say: Did Alice wear that dress to the soiree? And you could go on to say: I thought someone else was supposed to wear it.
  • Or you could say: Did Alice wear that dress to the soiree? I thought she was planning to wear some other dress.
  • Or you could also say: Did Alice wear that dress to the soiree? I thought she was gonna wear it at the wedding.

As you can see, the way you say it changes the meaning.

The rhythm of your voice can also change the meaning of the words. For example, if you use rising intonation, it usually implies a question. If you use falling intonation, on the other hand, it implies a statement. For example, if you say "I was there," with a falling intonation your next sentence might be, "how come you don't remember?". If you say, "I was there?", with a rising intonation, on the other hand, your expression becomes a question, and you can go on to say, "how come I don't remember that?"

📌 Tip #7:
Record your voice and listen to it. Sometimes you never notice your mistakes until you hear it. In fact, I thought my English was impeccable until I started making videos on YouTube. I realized that I was still mispronouncing some words, pronouncing some words incorrectly. And I still do, perhaps even in this video, but not as much as before.

Alright, that's pretty much it. Thanks for watching. If you have any comments or questions, let me know in the comments section below. If you are a native or native-like speaker, let me know in the comments how my English is and correct me if I made any noticeable mistakes in this video. As always, thanks for watching, stay tuned, and see you next time.