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Learning English: keeping speech natural and fluent

This article discusses how to keep speech natural and fluent when learning English, and getting a good score in PTE speaking test items.
Two females and a male international student sitting on a red couchin discussion
© Griffith University

To get a good score in PTE speaking test items, you need to speak fluently, clearly and accurately. It is important to say as much as you can and to sound natural.

Pronunciation

Good pronunciation is very important for good spoken communication. Some sounds may be more difficult for you to pronounce than others, especially if you do not have that sound in your native language.

For example, the /θ/ sound in English, such as in words like ‘this’ or ‘teeth’, is not a common sound in the world’s languages, and many non-native speakers have difficulty pronouncing this sound.

You don’t have to change your accent

The PTE exam is designed to recognise a variety of accents so it is not important to change your accent. However, you do need to speak clearly and naturally in order to be understood. While you won’t lose marks for your accent, you may lose marks if you make errors in pronunciation.

One tool for improving pronunciation is to first understand how each letter or phoneme sounds. The sounds of English and phonemic chart can be viewed here.

Learning about the Schwa in English is an essential aspect of improving your pronunciation. Schwa is the name for the most common sound in English. It is a weak, unstressed sound and it occurs in many words. It is often the sound in grammar words such as articles and prepositions.

Listen to these examples, the schwa sounds are marked in bold:

This present is for my brother. It’s a book about a boy wizard.
To survive the cold weather you have to make thorough preparations.

Listen to the examples

Getting the schwa sound correct is a good way of making your pronunciation more accurate and natural.

Fixed phrases

Native speakers of a language have a large bank of ready-made ‘chunks’ of language that they can use in a variety of contexts and situations. For the PTE exam, it is important that you build up a similar phrase bank. For example:

  • Introductory phrases such as: ‘It is well established that …
  • Phrases that provide examples such as: A good example of this would be …
  • Phrases that conclude such as: ‘On the whole…

You should build up your own bank of fixed phrases. The University of Manchester’s phrase bank is a useful list.

Sight Words

For PTE test items that integrate speaking and reading, such as Read Aloud you must be able to identify words quickly and accurately to decode printed words into spoken language. This involves recognising sight words (common words that should be recognised on sight) and associating spelling with sounds for accurate pronunciation. For example: should, could, here, where, enough.

Remember that the more you speak a language the better you will get. The same is true for English. If you are in a situation where most of the people around you speak your own language, then you need to find other opportunities to speak English. You could join a club. You could start a study group, or you could arrange to have ‘English Only’ days at your house.

If you increase the amount of time you spend speaking English each day, you will start to see an improvement – not just in your speaking skills, but also in your reading, writing, and listening skills.

References

The University of Manchester. (2020). Academic Phrasebank. Retrieved from here.

BBC Learning English. (2005). Pronunciation Tips. Retrieved from here.

© Griffith University
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