How can I sound more ‘English’?
Have a look at the question below.
Part 1: Tell me about your home town.
OK, if you’re doing the IELTS test, you have enough language to talk about your town. But what makes a “good answer”?
- Vocabulary that matches the subject (25%
- A good range of grammar (25%)
- Fluency – not just speaking quickly, but understanding how we speak (25%)
- Natural English pronunciation and tone (25%)
These four things are marked at 25% each. Have a look at two answers, and we will compare them.
“My home town er….. is a small town in Spain. It is on the coast, so er…. we can go to the… beach when we want. There aren’t er… many er…. skyscrapers, but there are …… many old buildings and er… churches. The weather is usually sunny and…. er… about 20 to 25 degrees in Summer. Maybe 10 in Winter, but it…. never snows. I like it there.”
OK, there are no grammatical mistakes here, which is great. The vocabulary matches the subject too. But does it sound ‘English’? Look at this second answer below:
“Well, my home town is, you know, a small town in Spain. So… it’s on the coast, I mean, we can go to the sea… to the beach when we want. And there aren’t many tall buildings, I mean skyscrapers, but there are, like, many old buildings and places to see, like churches. It’s usually sunny, like, I mean, 20 to 25 degrees in Summer and, I don’t know, 10 in Winter or something, but it never snows. I like it there.”
Is the vocabulary different? No. Is the grammar different? No. So why does this second answer get a much better mark than the first?
The answer is the natural English in the middle. Look at the language in bold.
1) Did you know that “you know” and “I mean” are the two most common phrases in the English language? They have no meaning, but we say them all the time. They are like a pause, but better, because they copy what English people do when they speak. Can you think of what you say in your languages?
2) We often repeat ourselves. This speaker says “we can go to the sea… the beach” and this is completely natural. We are always thinking about what we say, and we go back and correct ourselves all the time.
3) What does “like” mean? It can mean: About, you know what I mean, um… and we use it a lot.
4) Look at how the speaker starts a sentence with ‘and’. We teach you not to do this in writing, but in Speaking it is completely natural.
5) Look at how the speaker doesn’t often give exact information. ‘About’, ‘like’, ‘or something’ and ‘I don’t know’ are all examples of language that isn’t exact.
6) Starting sentences with ‘So’, ‘Well’, ‘And’ and ‘I mean’ are very common.
How can I practise these??
Because these pieces of language have no meaning and they are automatic, we say them very quickly. Listen to the recording below. How do I say these bits of language:
“You know”, “I mean”, “Well”, “So”, “And”, “I don’t know”, “Or something” ?
- Fast or slow?
- Do I pause after I have said these things?
- High or low sound?
- Loud or quiet sound?
Think about these and then practise saying them again and again, like a loop:
“Y’know y’know y’know y’know y’know…” quickly. Then put this back in to a sentence? Did it help? It will help your IELTS mark.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.