The typical question people ask me is: “How many English words do I have to learn to be fluent?” to which I always respond with – “It’s completely the WRONG question!!!”
It’s not about the number of words you learn – it’s about how well you can use them in combination with each other!
Basically it’s PHRASES and SENTENCES I’m talking about, and please read this article if you’re completely new to this whole concept of word groups and phrases.
But those of you who are very well aware of how learning English phraseology helps your English fluency, may start wondering about the number of phrases required to achieve a certain degree of fluency in English.
Is it 100 phrases that will make you fluent?
Or maybe it’s 300?
The English Harmony System, for example, contains 1350 English phrases, so is that how many you need to learn before you can consider yourself a fluent foreign English speaker?
Well, guess what?
English fluency is something you can’t really put a figure on!
You can’t really quantify the amount of English phraseology you need to acquire in order to ensure you can speak fluently about any given topic.
There are certain aspects of English phraseology acquisition, however, that will make your task of English improvement so much more effective, so keep reading this article to find out more about it ❗
Depends on How Specific or Generic Those Phrases Are!
As a general rule, the more SPECIFIC the phrase in question is, the bigger the chance you’re NOT GOING TO USE IT OFTEN.
Let’s take, for example, the following phrase: “Perpetuate the stereotype”.
It’s quite a specific phrase to be used in situations when you have to describe the fact of a particular stereotype being promoted.
As you can imagine, it’s not something you’d be using on a daily basis – the heck, I can’t even remember the last time I would have used this phrase!
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying such and similar phrases aren’t useful. Of course they are, but the point I’m trying to make is the following:
SPECIFIC English phrases serve a SPECIFIC PURPOSE. They won’t DIRECTLY improve your general fluency!
Yes, they will improve your fluency INDIRECTLY – your fluency will improve if you engage in spoken English practice dedicated to specific topics where you’d be using quite specific phrases – but it doesn’t change the fact that even having learned a huge number of such phrases you may still struggle to talk about simple matters.
If you learn a bunch of GENERIC phrases, on the other hand, you may find yourself being able to speak with ease much sooner.
Phrases such as “Well, to be totally honest with you…” or “Well, I think it’s safe to assume that…” can be used in pretty much ANY English conversation, so it only stands to reason that the more of such general phrases you add to your active English vocabulary, the MORE FREQUENTLY you’ll be able to use them.
Interested in learning such generic English phrases? CLICK HERE!
Depends on How Frequently YOU’RE Going to Use Those Phrases!
Everyone’s life is different.
I use the phrase “Perpetuate the stereotype” once a year whereas someone who might be working as a social worker is probably using it 3 times a day!
You see, it’s all about your specific CIRCUMSTANCES, and it’s something you should bear in mind when choosing which English phrases to learn.
So basically the right thing to do would be learning those idiomatic expressions and phrases that are relevant for YOU and that you’re most likely going to use.
Sure enough, it’s not as if you’re going to HARM your brain by learning some expression you might never use in your life.
Let’s say, for example, you’ve learned the following expression: “Ringed with chain link, topped with razor wire”
The chances are, you’ll never use it in your life unless your line of work is related to the military and defense structures – in which case, this phrase is going to come in handy for you.
But the message I’m trying to get across to you, my friend, is the following – the less frequently you use a specific English phrase, the less it contributes into your fluency.
You Can Actually Achieve Fluency With 25 English Phrases…
Yes, I know it may sound like a stretch, but just look at these 25 English sentence starter phrases.
Believe me – you can use one of them EVERY TIME you open your mouth!
Still not convinced?
Well, let me just come up with a random question right NOW as I’m writing this article…
So, here it is: “Are you sure you haven’t seen my car keys?”
And here’s a phrase I just took from the 25 common English sentence starters: “Well, frankly speaking…” – and that’s how you can form your response to this question. Just add on a few more words: “Well, frankly speaking I haven’t seen them, sorry!”
Another random question: “Do you know when Jonny is coming home from his vacation?”
And here’s another generic phrase: “Well, as far as I’m aware…” which can be easily incorporated into the answer: “Well, as far as I’m aware he’s back next Monday!”
Not to mention very general phrases such as “As a matter of fact…” or “To be honest with you…” – you can use them ALL THE TIME thus sounding like a completely fluent English speaker!
Could you be accused of using unnecessary means of expression too often?
Well, I guess the answer is “yes” – but then again, why should you care? IGNORE if anyone criticizes you for that!
The only thing you should care about is your ability to say something in English no matter what!
… And You May Be Still Struggling With Fluent Speech Having Learned 200 Phrases!
Yes, it’s a fact.
If you only learn very specific English phrases, even 200 is not going to cut it.
I mean – it’s not going to ensure you have SOMETHING to say in any possible situation.
Sure enough, you would still be doing a great job just because of learning PHRASES instead of INDIVIDUAL WORDS, and all that phraseology would be of great value for certain situations, but your OVERALL fluency wouldn’t experience a significant improvement.
You can learn hundreds upon hundreds of industry specific English phrases and collocations, for example, but it’s not the same as learning a phrase such as “Well, as a matter of fact,…” which can be used in THOUSANDS of various situations.
So Here’s the Bottom Line:
- There’s no exact number of English phrases that will make you into a fluent English speaker – but if I had to guess, the number could be even as low as 20 if we’re considering your ability to say SOMETHING in any situation as a sure sign of fluency.
- The best way to go about your fluency improvement is to learn generic English phrases applicable to pretty much any situation first – HERE’s a list of them.
- And obviously, keep learning phraseology that suits YOUR personal needs! If you’re working in some service industry, for example, learn service industry related English phrases. If you have to do frequent presentations in English – learn the relevant phraseology.
P.S. Interested in more phrases? Just check out this category on my blog!
P.S.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!