A couple of weeks ago, on a one fine day, I came across a question that captured my attention on Quora, a question-and-answer website where people can freely ask and come up with answering some questions generating by other users. It was about why you cannot speak English quick-wittedly even though you have studied it since you were a primary schooler or even younger. After I scrolled down to get to know how other audiences responded to it, I started realizing many people actually were on common ground, including me who latter agreed to come around. I could say this was something prevalent when people spoke English as their second language.
After several minutes of spending on Quora, I tried to figure out why they have not reached a certain high level of proficiency in speaking skill. Some people commented may experience their restlessness and had distinct reasons why they went through it. There go my initial findings, and I draw them out into several points.
1. Many people understand what others are saying, yet they don’t have the nerve to speak it directly.
Responding may be very hard depending on the accents used by people whom they spoke to. Writing tends to be easier -despite a load of complexity in the writing process- because people can take up some times to recall the choice of words, grammars, or other components to build up sentences. Many brought up this point and gave some suggestion to get used to English by incorporating it into daily life activities. Simply put, practice makes perfect. People who are willing to devote more time to involve in light conversations in English and expand more in the heavier discussions will find their way to a certain level of fluency without eventually translating it back and forth.
2. Learning English from multiple accents
Some people believe learning merely from one single accent will be much easier to master spoken English. There is an idea people need to choose British and American accent only when they are in the middle of improving their speaking skill. If they tend to mix it up at the same certain time, it will introduce misunderstandings due to the fact they will hear and pronounce lots of words differently from both accents. Hence, one step at a time is the key.
3. Weak understanding when it comes to English phonetics
English language basically has 46 sounds, and each sound has a different symbol that demonstrates it, which later on we call phonetics. Learning phonetics is not easy yet rewarding task. Those sounds are essential elements that form any words in English used to build sentences. Some people would likely pronounce English words the way they speak them in their mother languages, and of course it learners should avoid it. I remember when I had this course in my second semester, and find it super helpful after I gradually implement it in my English conversation. Many sources online provide learning to improve pronunciation to sound more natural and proper.
4. Some people do not get accustomed to listening to different types of topics
It is quite surprising, but I agree that being exposed to a wide range of topics either through listening to audiobooks and TED Talk or watching various movie genres and YouTube videos will gradually scale up comprehension in some matters. Especially in the age of smartphones, it is much easier to be accessible to crawl as many interesting topics as possible, to broaden personal understanding and be more comfortable when jumping into a discussion of specific topics.
5. Reading plays a key role
This is presumably similar to the previous one to enhance passive English skills. Reading is arguably necessary to build and enhance a solid foundation to grasp lots of information. Many people would say you are what you read. Reading a lot will provide the breadth and depth of what we aim to seek and learn, and it obviously helps people speak more confidently as well.
To sum up, taking everything into account, it is true that cultivating active and passive English skills helps to start thinking in English. There is nothing more important than making time in the day for practising learning the English language.