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Do you feel like you'll never be fluent in English?

When I ask my students, "How many languages do you speak?" ... I'm usually amazed that most of them say, "Just one -- and a little English."

I always tell them: "You're speaking English to me right now. Come on! You need to have more confidence in your ability."

Some of my students are completely fluent, by anyone's standards. Many of them are even English teachers in their own countries! Yet they mostly say that they don't "feel fluent."

When I ask, "Why don't you feel fluent?", they often reply that they've been studying for years, maybe since elementary or high school, but that they don't get enough chance to practice. When they need to use English, they really don't feel that they are "fluent enough." They still make mistakes, they don't feel comfortable expressing themselves fully, and they get frustrated when someone doesn't understand them.

I get it. Trust me -- I've been learning my second language (French) since I can remember, and sometimes I still make mistakes. Where I live, French is the first language, so I have to use it a lot. Just this summer, a bus driver actually corrected the way I conjugated a verb, and he was right. He was pretty rude about it, but I was definitely wrong!

I've also let my third and fourth languages get pretty rusty (I mean they aren't that good at the moment.) Even though I studied Spanish in high school for five whole years, all I can do in Spanish at this point is read and listen. If you speak to me slowly and don't use too much slang, I might be able to respond a little. It can be pretty embarrassing, especially since I meet a lot of Spanish-speaking people. Finally, there's my fourth language: Polish. Although I lived in Poland for two years and was completely surrounded by the language, it was a long time ago, and I haven't spoken much Polish recently. I wonder if I could even make a few sentences if I needed to...?

The thing is: You have to keep practicing your second, third, and fourth languages. If you want to feel fluent and ready to communicate, you've got to practice, and you really have to tell yourself: "I've got this."

I am not kidding at all: With regular practice and some positive self-talk (telling yourself that you can do it, you are capable), you can begin to feel more fluent in a short time. You don't even need lessons if you're a dedicated learner. You can watch Netflix, YouTube, or find someone to chat with online. Find an app to practice vocabulary and grammar. Read a book. Listen to an audiobook. Make a realistic goal for yourself, like: "I'm going to focus on casual language" or "I'm going to learn one new word a day." Then dedicate twenty minutes a day to real, serious practice. We all have an extra twenty minutes to set aside (phrasal verb = separate from the rest; save) for an important goal. (Me too!)

...and don't forget to tell yourself: "I've got this!" --Susan.

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