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  Ask About English   
Ask about English


- Friendly and informal addresses


- Tips for translators


- Forming questions


- UK vs USA


- Objective tone


- Fluency


- Question tags

Two people talking

Speaking and conversation techniques and strategies


Learners of English face many challenges as they continue to improve their speaking skills. A few of them are given here:

There are a lot of words in the English language. It can be difficult to think of the right word at the right time - and even more difficult to know what to do if you can't find the word you want.

Keeping the conversation going
English speakers do this in several ways. They may ask direct questions or they may use question tags - phrases like 'don't you?' 'isn't it?', or longer phrases such as 'Don't you think agree?' 'isn't that so?' to invite comment and agreement. They also use various little noises - 'mmm...' 'ooohh' and phrases like 'ok' and 'I see' to show interest.

There are many reasons why you might have difficulty understanding what someone says to you. Maybe they are speaking too quickly, or they are using vocabulary that you don't know, or you can't make out their accent. There are lots of strategies you can use to cope with these situations.

This means saying the right thing, in the right way, at the right time. You might be able to say 'shut up!' to your friend without upsetting him or her, but if you said the same thing to your boss, parent or teacher, you might find yourself in trouble! Things to think about if you want to focus on appropriacy include word choice and intonation.

Fluency means speaking naturally, confidently and without too many hesitations as you think about what you want to say. It doesn't mean 'speaking as quickly as possible'. Some people find that it's difficult to be fluent and accurate at the same time, but if you keep on stopping to think about grammar and vocabulary, you might come across as difficult to listen to and even boring!

Thinking time
Even fluent speakers need time to think! You can ask a question, repeat something, or use a 'filler' (a word like 'err') to give you time to organise your next sentence.

Good pronunciation is important in conversation - but it's ok to have an accent! You need to be able to pronounce individual words clearly, and good intonation will help you to sound natural and get your meaning across.

Speaking and conversing in English can be difficult, but by using a few techniques and strategies, and practicing as much as you can, you will get better!
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