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Whether you find it difficult to get fully involved in simple English conversations or giving speeches in front of a group of people, the same basic rules of effective English communication apply in virtually all situations.
Without further ado, let’s look at the 3 basic rules of effective English communication:
Rule #1: Know WHAT you want to say!
Rule #2: Have EFFICIENT vocabulary and phraseology!
Rule #3: PRACTICE as much as you can!
Sounds too simplistic?
I bet you’ll be surprised to find out how much there actually is to these simple 3 rules!
Yes, it’s common sense that one needs to know WHAT to say, but if you think about it in depth, you’ll realize that on way too many occasions you’ve actually tried to say something despite NOT HAVING A CLUE as to what exactly you’re going to say!
The rule about having efficient English vocabulary, however, is multifaceted. While superficial thinking might result in a simple conclusion: “Yes, of course I need to have enough means of expression to explain myself properly, what’s so surprising about this?”, there’s another dimension to this problem. Namely – the average foreign speaker often lacks confidence and isn’t aware of how much he or she actually knows, and if you know how to use your English vocabulary right, you can talk about almost any topic!
This brings us to the third rule – frequent practice. Yes, also a very simple and common-sense suggestion; yet way too many foreigners expect to be effective communicators without trying hard enough. Just because you’ve spent years studying the language doesn’t mean you’ve become a fluent English speaker, and frequent practice is paramount when it comes to English fluency!
Rule #1: Know WHAT You Want to Say!
When you strike up a conversation by asking a question or engaging in simple small-talk, quite obviously you have an idea of what you’re going to say; you wouldn’t open your mouth and say a couple of words without having a clear concept in your mind, isn’t that right?
Of course, it is possible to speak spontaneously, changing subjects constantly, and improvise as you go along, but as a general rule, any human being would have a clear picture of what they want to say before they open their mouth.
The same goes when you respond to someone else’s question. You have to KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY so that you can provide a meaningful answer!
So far it’s common sense, right?
Then tell me – how come that so many foreign English speakers complain about their inability to communicate effectively with other English speakers when they’re trying to speak without knowing what they want to say? 😡
You think what I just said is non-sense?
Believe me – it’s not! I’ve witnessed it happen on way too many occasions, and here’s how I know it:
- when a fellow foreigner starts speaking too fast and is obviously exited about the conversation, he runs the risk of information overload; basically the brain seizes up and the person totally LOSES FOCUS on the matter at hand. As a result, they don’t know what they want to say any more because their head is buzzing with a thousand different thoughts ❗
- when a foreign English speaker answers a question, but he keeps hesitating, saying things that don’t make much sense and making silly English grammar mistakes. It’s a clear indication of the fact that he or she either don’t have an opinion on the subject, or they need some time to think about it before they can give a sensible answer. Either way, they’re FORCING themselves to speak, and the resulting speech is far from being fluent.
First and foremost – preparation. Whether it’s preparing for an interview, a speech or just thinking over an answer to a question, you may find it hard to form a coherent English speech without thinking about the subject first!
In real terms it means that sometimes you’ll have to take your time when speaking, but that’s totally OK. It’s 100 times better to speak somewhat slower and making the conversation partner wait than rushing it and make a fool out of yourself!
Rule #2: Have EFFICIENT Vocabulary and Phraseology!
At the first glance, you may think I’m talking about learning massive English vocabulary lists so that you can speak about any topic in English like a native speaker.
Well… While having sufficient vocabulary indeed entails knowing enough English words to describe the surrounding world, items, concepts and actions, it’s not our main concern.
I’m blogging for advanced foreign English speakers who’ve been studying English for years. Therefore, English vocabulary shouldn’t be a problem for you – except for the occasional specific English term you may need to look up.
The problem – at least my experience tells me so – is grasping the following two concepts:
- you actually KNOW MORE THAN YOU THINK. Most foreign English speakers are capable of speaking fluently using vocabularies they already have!
- to communicate effectively, we need to know how to operate with cliché phrases, expressions, short word chunks and popular phrases which form the biggest part of our conversational language. It’s the connections between your English vocabulary words that matter, not so much the size of your vocabulary ❗
Efficient vocabulary, therefore, means being able to use your vocabulary at 100%.
It’s been proven many times over that the above statement holds true, and here’s the easiest way you can test it.
Listen to some TV program on, let’s say, Discovery Channel. Mythbusters would be a great example! The English language used in those types of programs is quite simple and understandable for everyone. You know nearly ALL that vocabulary, right? So, in theory, you should be able to communicate effectively about everything they talk about in the program. I mean – once you know all that vocabulary, you should be capable of speaking as fluently and effectively as the native English speakers on TV!
Well… the chances are, none of us, foreigners, would be as good as the native speakers.
The good news is – we can come pretty close to it, and the more efficient we are at using our vocabularies, the better communicators we will be. To achieve that, we need to create mental associations among our English vocabulary words, and here’s a very relevant article you should definitely read: 5 Ways of Learning Natural English Collocations and Creating Useful Vocabulary Associations.
Rule #3: PRACTICE Spoken English As Often As You Can!
You know what you want to say.
You have efficient vocabulary and you can explain yourself properly at all times.
What you mightn’t have is – THE CONFIDENCE to make it all work.
It has happened to me a hundred thousand times before – when I go over the speech in my head, I know exactly what I’m going to say and how I’m going to deliver the speech. When it comes to the actual conversation, I just blow it. I stress out, I lose the ability to create a coherent speech, I forget certain English words, and I make mistakes…
And I can assure you – it’s not just me or you. Thousands upon thousands of other English speakers are having the same communication problem, and the key to dealing with it is as surprisingly simple as it’s tough – PRACTICING ENGISH SPEECH.
No amount of preparation and vocabulary building will work if not strengthened by hundreds of hours of speaking in English, simple as that ❗
To think that it’s possible to become an effective communicator without having been speaking A LOT about similar topics before is science fiction.
* I don’t have any English speakers around me to speak with!
So what? I’ve been speaking English with myself for years, and I still do it very regularly! It’s a great way of strengthening contextual vocabulary associations and experiencing stress-free English speaking environment thus preparing yourself for real conversations!
* I’m afraid of making mistakes… I’ll be laughed at!
Well, is that all you’re afraid of? There are much worse things that may happen to you when you’re making mistakes when speaking in English – here’s a list of them! Putting the jokes aside – the secret is to IGNORE everything – starting with the attitude of others and ending with your own fear – and JUST DO IT!
How to Implement these 3 Rules in Real Life
Say, you’re having a job interview coming up.
Now, let’s take all 3 effective English communication rules one by one and see what they mean in terms of attending the job interview.
1. Know what to say! It means you have to prepare for the interview so that you’re ready to give answers to any common job interview question. You have to keep the number of questions that might surprise you to a minimum, so you’d better do a proper research beforehand!
It also involves writing down the answers while preparing them, which brings us straight to the next step:
2. Have efficient vocabulary and phraseology! You have to learn commonly used phrases by heart. When the interviewer asks you – “What do you expect from this position in terms of carrier growth?” – you simply have to know related terms such as “corporate ladder”, “excellent track record” and similar so that you can communicate effectively.
Basically write them all down, memorize them and then proceed to the last step:
3. Playing the interview out! Imagine you’re being interviewed, and repeat all those answers a dozen times each before attending the real interview.
Also do some improvising to prepare for possible unexpected developments in the interview process, and use the different idiomatic expressions and industry terms in different contexts so that you become really comfortable using them.
Practice, practice and practice some more!
When the interview comes, you’ll be all prepped up and you’ll definitely be a more effective English communicator than if you didn’t follow the 3 rules and just went with the flow!
P.S. Would you like to find out why I’m highlighting some of the text in red? Read this article and you’ll learn why it’s so important to learn idiomatic expressions and how it will help you to improve your spoken English!
P.S.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!