How to Speak English Like a Native Speaker - Learn Different Ways

short video lessons spoken english practice Jun 13, 2021
How to speak like a native speaker

Speaking English like a native speaker comes with a lot of hard work and determination.  It means learning the rules (and when to break them), connecting speech, and understanding collocations and phrasal verbs.  It’s certainly no walk in the park, but it’ll take your ability to communicate in English to the next level.

What is a Native Speaker of English

By definition, a native English speaker is someone who grew up speaking English as their first language in a country where English is a native language (such as the US, the UK, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, Australia, and South Africa.) 

 

This means that there are many native English accents and dialects to learn; but one thing every native English speaker has in common is their ability to speak fast and fluently while effortlessly using collocations and phrasal verbs.

 

A person who is a native-level English speaker is someone who:

  • Understands and can use idiomatic phrases and phrasal verbs;
  • Is capable of spontaneous discussions in English-speaking contexts;
  • Can use English tenses and sentence structures effortlessly and in the correct context;
  • Can understand the subtle differences in tone and pitch.

 

Why Learn to Speak English Like a Native Speaker?

Learning to speak English like a native speaker is useful because speaking fluently makes communication much easier.  You’ll be able to explain your point of view clearly by using the right words in the right context.  In addition, it’ll also become easier for you to understand native English speakers when they speak.   

How do Foreigners Hear English

Listening to native English speakers speak and understanding what they’re saying can be challenging for foreigners.  This is because native English speakers link words and reduce sounds without even thinking about it.  

 

So, how do foreigners hear English?  English can end up sounding like a big mess to the untrained ear.  It’s difficult for non-native English speakers to hear individual words clearly when native English speakers speak fast.   

 

The most important thing for non-native English speakers to do is to practice listening and speaking.  This will make it easier to understand native English speakers.

How Native English Speakers Speak

To figure out how to speak like native English speakers, we need to figure out how native English speakers speak.  

 

Firstly, and most importantly, native English speakers speak English with a specific rhythm.  They only stress the most important content words in a sentence and allow the rest of the words to fall away unstressed.  On the other hand, non-native English speakers tend to overemphasize every word in a sentence.  

 

In addition, native English speakers have mastered the art of contracting words when speaking.  A full sentence like “I would have liked to have gone” can be abbreviated to “I’d’ve liked to’ve gone” when speaking English.  Non-native English speakers are not used to these kinds of abbreviations and would rather say the full sentence and pronounce each word clearly.

 

Native English speakers also use a lot of idiomatic phrasal verbs that don’t have a literal meaning and non-native English speakers struggle to understand the meanings of these verbs.  This can reduce the language processing time and can make listening to native English speakers (and speaking like them) really difficult.  

Native English Speakers Have Really Good Slang

Slang is a particularly difficult language to learn.  The best place to keep up-to-date with the latest slang terms is on social media.  This is the place where native English speakers learn new slang and new written abbreviations.  Native English speakers know the slang of their region and the trending slang online.  If you want to stay in the loop, keep an eye on social media and try to figure out the context of the new slang words you learn.

 

Learning slang is difficult because it never has a literal meaning and it differs from region to region.  A google search might not even be able to help you.  The most important thing to do when learning slang terms is to look at the context native speakers are using it in.  Is it a positive word or a negative word? Is it a greeting? Or is it a way to show sympathy?  Context clues will be your greatest ally.

They Often Use English Idioms

Idioms such as “a piece of cake” (to describe something super easy to do), “once in a blue moon” (a very rare occurrence), and “it’s raining cats and dogs” (heavy downpour of rain) are common idioms that form a natural part of native English speakers’ speech. 

 

These are colourful ways to improve your vocabulary.  If you use them correctly, you will sound like you’re at ease with the English language. Remember, idioms only make profound statements when they are used in the correct context, so be sure you understand them before you try to use them.

They Use Phrases 

Phrasal verbs form a massive part of native English speakers’ day-to-day speech.  Phrasal verbs like ‘look after’ ‘take after’ and ‘go ahead’ have idiomatic meanings.  This means that the when we put ‘look’ and ‘after’ together, it’s meaning can not be derived from the word ‘look’ or ‘after.’  It’s a verb made up of two or more words (a verb and a particle) to create its own verb meaning.  

 

Native English speakers use phrasal verbs without consciously thinking about it.  In fact, they probably don’t even know what the term ‘phrasal verbs’ means.  To native English speakers, phrasal verbs are the same as any other verb.  They learn them naturally and understand their idiomatic meaning without ever needing to learn it.

They Constantly Make Indirect Request

Indirect requests are any requests that someone doesn’t make directly, but it’s implied in their tone or by the things that they say.  Indirect requests like “tell me when you are leaving” or “I want to know if you like cheese” are ways of making requests without directly asking a question.

 

Native English speakers instantly understand when someone is making an indirect request and they make indirect requests effortlessly too.  The trouble is that native English speakers are not aware that these types of questions are confusing for non-native English speakers.

 

In addition, native English speakers ask rhetorical questions when they want to make a statement.  A rhetorical question, like “how could I be so stupid?” is a question that is made only to make a statement; it is not asked to elicit a response.  

 

They Will Notice Sarcasm 

Intonation is the key to understanding sarcasm.  Native English speakers can say one thing and have it mean the complete opposite simply by changing the way they say it.

 

For example:

“What a fantastic day.”

 

If a native English speaker uses a rising tone, it shows that they are excited.  They truly mean the day is fantastic and they are in a great mood.  If they use a flat or falling tone, then they are being sarcastic.  The day is not fantastic.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

 

They Are Changing Meaning Of Word Through Inflection

Intonation can change the meaning of an entire sentence and it can change the meaning of a word.  Words like ‘beautiful,’ ‘wonderful,’ and ‘fantastic’ change their meaning if the intonation changes.  We don’t even need to use these words in full sentences to be sarcastic.

 

If we say any word that expresses excitement or agreement and use a falling or flat tone, then the word instantly loses its original meaning.  It’s important to remember to use words with the correct intonation.  

 

If we’re excited about something, we must use a rising tone.

“Fantastic!” “Wonderful!” “Beautiful!”

 

If we receive bad news, we can use a falling or flat tone to express the opposite meaning of these words.

 

 

They Use Double Negatives 

Grammatically, double negatives are strictly forbidden in English.  Two negatives make a positive, so “I don’t know nothing,” really means “I know something” in English grammar.  

 

However, this is a rule that English speakers often break.  Native English speakers actually emphasize the negative when they say “I don’t know nothing!” or “I don’t want to go nowhere!”

 

Native English speakers have a natural understanding that this rule can be broken and that the sentence still holds its negative meaning. 

They Sound Natural at Asking Questions

Native English speakers use tag questions to turn a statement into a question.  They use it to confirm their statement.  

 

For example:

“You like coffee, don’t you?”

“He isn’t finished yet, is he?”

 

These questions are added to the end of a statement to turn it into a question.  It’s important to only use question tags when you think what you’ve said is true, but you want someone else to confirm it.

 

They Love to Cut Off Words

Ellipsis is the English grammar term for cutting off words and not completing sentences.  Native English speakers say things like “He wanted to go to the beach, but I didn’t want to.”  They don’t repeat themselves.  The listener understands that the second part of the sentence is “I didn’t want to go to the beach,” so it’s unnecessary to add it on.  

 

Native English speakers also hardly ever completed idioms and sayings when speaking.  They’ll say “it never rains…” (it never rains, it pours) or “fool me once...:” (fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  Fool me a third time, shame on both of us.)

 

It’s important for non-native English speakers to learn how to cut off words and when to do it.  It’s a subtle difference, but saying “he wanted to go to the beach, but I didn’t want,” does not sound correct to a native English speaker.  The word ‘to’ makes all the difference.  It is a small word that can mean the difference between sounding like a native English speaker or not.

Constantly Answer With “Yeah”

“Yeah” comes before most answers in English, even if it’s a negative response.  “Yeah, no I don’t think so,” is a common answer in English.  “Yeah” is casually added and holds little to no meaning sometimes.  

 

Native English speakers say “yeah” in informal situations and “yes” in formal situations.

They Use Casual Greetings 

Learning casual greetings is a great way to learn how to use English in informal situations.  A lot of non-native English speakers focus their time and attention on learning formal English, which is great; but it can sound odd and inappropriate in most daily interactions.

 

Some common casual greetings include ‘hi,’ ‘hey,’ ‘hey guys,’ 'how have you been,' ‘morning,’ ‘afternoon,’ and ‘night’ instead of ‘goodnight.’  Native English speakers also ask ‘how’s it going?’ as a greeting without always expecting an answer.  ‘How’s it going?’ can replace ‘hey!’ 

Use Natural Sound When They Speak 

Filling the gaps with words like ‘uh,’ ‘like,’ ‘right’ and ‘mmm’ is very common in English.  It’s important to know when and how to use these words and sounds appropriately.  In order to pick up how native English speakers use these filler sounds and words, you need to listen and listen carefully.  

 

TV shows, like Friends and other sitcoms, are great for exposing yourself to how native English speakers interact with each other and when they use filler words and sounds.  It’s important that you don’t overuse these sounds when trying to sound like a native speaker because native English speakers know when you’re trying too hard.  

How Many Words Does a Native English Speaker Know

Researchers have discovered that the average native English-speaking adult knows anywhere between 20 000 and 30 000 words.  This means that non-native English speakers need to expose themselves to new words as often as possible.  Listening to podcasts, listening to native speakers and reading are all great options for learning new words.

How to Learn English With Native Speaker

In order to learn to speak English like a native speaker, you need to learn English with native speakers.  A native English speaker can help you learn collocations, phrasal verbs and the best way to express yourself.  You can also listen to them speak and repeat their rhythm and intonation to make sure you are speaking English like a native speaker.

How to Find a Native English Speaker

It’s difficult to find a native English speaker who can help you learn the ins and outs of speaking like a native.  But you don’t need to look any further!  There are native English speakers at English-Everyday who are waiting to meet you.  Our program is the best move you can make to learn how to speak English fluently.  Find a native English speaker and start practicing your speaking skills today.

How to Talk With Native English Speaker 

Platforms like Zoom are a fantastic way to bring native English speakers right into the comfort of your own home.  At English-Everyday, you can talk with native English speakers every day on Zoom.  The classes run throughout the day and you can hop in and talk with a native English speaker to improve your English skills anytime and anywhere. 

How to Speak English Fast Like a Native Speaker

In order to speak English fast, like a native speaker, you need to practice every day.  There is no other way to learn how to speak English fast and fluently.  You can read as many books as you like, listen to as many podcasts as you like and watch as many TV shows as you like to build up your knowledge, but you need to practice speaking English every day to speak it fast.

How to Understand Native English Speakers 

To understand native English speakers, you need to throw yourself into the deep end.  You need to listen to podcasts and watch TV shows without subtitles to challenge yourself to learn how to understand native English speakers.  English speakers link words and sounds, which can make it nearly impossible to understand the first time; but be persistent and keep working hard and you will see the results.