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Fluency and TEFL

Demosthenes of AthensFluency (or what some people might call Volubility and Loquaciousness) is the ability to speak smoothly and at length about a subject without effort. And if there are pauses, these are to gather thoughts or allow a point to sink in rather than to search for the right word.

A fluent speaker can be understood by a native speaker easily even though what they say may contain grammatical or other errors.

A non-fluent speaker on the other hand will pause often to search for the correct word or phrase‏‎ to use (possibly translating in their own mind from their mother tongue‏‎). Talking at length with a non-fluent speaker can sometimes get tiring as you wait for them to finish what they want to say.

In general as a learner gets more proficient in English and speaks more, their fluency increases. However, language teachers can also help learners with this particular speaking skill.

Tips to Improve Fluency in ELT

  • Fluency is tied in with confidence. Confident speakers are fluent speakers so allow your students to make mistakes, practice, and use language and always encourage them when they do. The more confidence you can give them, the better it is for their fluency.
  • Allow students time to prepare before speaking. Give them a topic and then 5 minutes to sort out useful vocabulary and phrases and think about what they will say.
  • The wider a students’ vocabulary, the easier they find it to find the find the right word and use it appropriately. You should therefore encourage more than just essential reading for them to build up vocabulary.
  • Pracitce makes perfect. Try and intorduce plenty of longer speaking activities with the class and make sure here that English is merely the medium rather than the goal.
  • Don’t interrupt your students; allow them time to find the right word and use it. At the beginning this may seem to encourage the opposite of fluency but by allowing them have time to recall the right word helps that word to become more available the next time they need to use it.
  • Encourage students to speak more slowly but more thoughtfully. Slow speaking means they have more time to prepare what is to come next.
  • Conversation activities – use as many as you can in class!

Useful Links

Accuracy vs Fluency‏‎ in TEFL – which to teach and which is more important – accuracy or fluency?

The image shows Demosthenes, one of the world’s greatest orators from Ancient Greece.

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