1. Speaking English fluently and accurately is a goal of many people studying English in China. Fluency can be simply defined as "being able to communicate ideas without having to stop and think too much about what one is saying"; speaking accurately means "speaking without errors of grammar and vocabulary".
2. The problem is that many students find that if they try to speak fast, they make more mistakes. And, if they slow down, there may be fewer errors but it can sound unnatural. So, how do balance accuracy and fluency in spoken English?
3. It can depend on the manner in which one has studied English in the past. People who tend to focus on accuracy may find that they worry too much about making mistakes. This can make them nervous or embarrassed about speaking English in public. As a result, their spoken English might not improve. This means that, although they know English grammar and vocabulary well, they might not be able to hold a good conversation.
4. On the other hand, there are those who really like to talk and are willing to try their language out even if they make mistakes. This willingness to take risks helps them speak more fluidly. But, if they make a lot of mistakes, they may find it difficult to get their ideas across.
5. The debate about which is more important—fluency or accuracy—in the English language has lasted for a long time. Still, one thing is clear: speaking a language well needs both fluency and accuracy. How can we be sure that we can develop both? The following tips could help.
6. Find the problem. What kind of person are you—one who focuses on accuracy or one who focuses on frequency? The first step is to recognize your problem and go to work on it. Think about situations where you've used English and how you felt about making mistakes? Do you always try some new language even though it might not be correct? Or do you feel embarrassed by mistakes?
7. Focus on one problem at a time. When you speak English, find the mistakes you make most often. One mistake Chinese often make is omitting the "s" from the third person singular verb. Or you may speak too slowly as if you were searching for the right word and correct grammar. The next time you use English, try to work on those problems you have identified. If it's fluency, try to focus on it. If you have a problem with the third person singular, try to concentrate on when you make such errors. Don't spend time thinking about other mistakes. By choosing an area to work on, you can isolate problems and help yourself overcome them.
8. Vary your practice. If you go to an English comer or an English club, try to change the types of activities you take part in so that you practice both fluency and accuracy. Public speaking allows you to slow down and be sure you have time to concentrate on the language. Meanwhile, discussions are good practice for fluency, especially if you don't stop each time a mistake is made.
9. Learn the difference between fluency and speed. Some Chinese think that speaking fast is the same as speaking fluently. In fact, speaking fluently involves not only speed. It also involves stress, pronunciation and intonation. If you make a mistake in these, speaking fast will only make it worse. Don't sacrifice understanding for speed.
10. Try recording yourself. Take a tape recorder and record a conversation with a friend or a speech or monologue as you do it naturally! A two-or-three-minute recording is enough. When you've finished, listen to yourself. Can you identify and correct any errors? Make it a regular practice. The more you record yourself, the more confident and natural sounding you will become.