You’ve been lied to. The way most of us were taught English in school makes you sound like a robot when you speak. It’s nothing like how people speak in the Real World.
That’s why in today’s episode, we will teach you some tips and tricks to speak natural English. As a bonus, this will also help you better understand some differences between formal and informal English.
Words You’ll Learn in the App
- Throw one’s weight around
- Seek out
- Come in handy
- Not somebody’s cup of tea
- Have under your belt
Natural English vs School English
The main problem we see with school English is that it makes your sound too stiff, or speak like a robot. Since the main focus is on coursebooks and learning the grammar, traditional schools usually don’t help you train your listening skills. As a result, you become too dependent on your eyes. You have to READ something in order to understand it.
As a teacher, I often experience this with some of my students. If I ask them a question, sometimes they don’t understand. However, when they READ the question off of the material we’re covering, then they understand it. This happens because they are still too dependent on their eyes, rather than their ears.
And since listening and speaking usually go hand-in-hand, the traditional method tends to leave you with poor pronunciation habits. You end up speaking English through the filter of your first language, which in turn makes you sound unclear sometimes.
Finally, another issue we see with “School English” is the fact that even though you study the grammar, you leave the class not knowing exactly how to use it in the Real World. You learn the rules, you do the exercises… but you can’t use it in a real conversation.
What is “Street English”?
When we say “Street English”, we mean the kind of English used in everyday situations. In other words, “Natural English”. It’s the kind of English that you will likely encounter when you travel, go to a restaurant or watch your favorite TV series.
“Street English” has some specific aspects of vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar. Learning these and how they are different from the English taught in traditional schools will help you speak more naturally.
Let’s take a look at some examples of “Street/Natural English”:
Reduction of Prepositions
Prepositions such as “To” and “Of” are often reduced in spoken English. “To” gets reduced to “tuh” or even “duh”, the letter T having a flap sound. Check out these examples:
Easy to find
I need to go to the store
/I nee-duh go-duh the store/
The preposition “Of” often gets reduced as well. Take a look:
In front of you
She’s the Queen of England
/She’s the quee-nuh england/
Think of that
Sweet Child O’ Mine
/Sweet chil-duh mine/
Do you feel like natives speak too fast sometimes? If you are able to understand a phrase when you read it but not when you hear it, it’s probably because you’re not familiar with connected speech.
Connected Speech is what we call when natives and fluent speakers reduce, cut and connect the sounds in a sentence. If you want to speak (and understand) natural English, you need to learn some connected speech patterns. Here are some examples:
T + Y (CH)
The T + Y combination often has a “ch” sound. Here are some examples:
Nice to meet you
/Nice to mee-cha/
D + Y (JUH)
Something similar happens to the D + Y combination. In this case, the sound is “juh”. Take a look:
Where did you go?
What did you do?
These are just a couple of examples of connected speech. There are many more. If you want to learn more about connected speech, check out our YouTube channel “RealLife English”. There are many videos there about this topic.
Natural English and Vocabulary
Here’s another difference between School English and Street, natural English. “How are you?”, “I’m fine” and “What time is it?” are common phrases you learn in traditional schools. But how about “What’ve you been up to?”, “Not much” and “Do you have the time”? While there’s nothin wrong with phrases such as “How are you?”, there are so many other phrases natives and fluent English speakers use every day to express the same idea. Check it out:
Alternatives to “How are you?”
How’s it going?
How’ve you been?
What’ve you been up to?
Alternatives to “I’m fine”
I’m doing great
Couldn’t be better
Alternatives to “What time is it?”
Do you have the time?
What time have you got?
Have you got the time?
As you can see, the English you usually learn at school sounds very different from the English you see in the Real World. If you want to see more examples, check out the podcast episode we did on this topic recently. You can listen to it at the top of this page.
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