Note: This PTE oral fluency article contains some complex English vocabulary. Many of these vocabulary words are linked to dictionary.com so that you can check their meaning while you read. Make sure you click on a hyperlinked word if you don’t understand its meaning.
Lately E2Language has received a lot of questions from students asking how to increase their PTE oral fluency score and their PTE speaking score in general. The good news is that fluency is easy to build; you just have to persevere through your insecurities. And trust me – everybody has insecurities about speaking in a foreign language! I have enough embarrassing French pronunciation stories to put you to sleep, so I won’t share them here. Just know you that you’re not alone!
First off, we need to draw a big distinction between two concepts that get confused a lot. These concepts are: fluency vs. accuracy.
Fluency is your ability to speak continuously in English without unnecessary pauses or fillers (umm, ahhh etc.), no matter how many grammar and vocabulary mistakes you make. Being fluent doesn’t mean you are speaking perfect English, it merely means that you are speaking comfortably and others are able to understand you. In my opinion, anyone can be fluent in English with enough practice and confidence.
Accuracy is your ability to speak fluently in English without making mistakes. Here is what you need to understand: fluency comes first and accuracy follows. You will never speak English with accuracy if you are not fluent first. And obviously, the more fluent you are, the more accurate you will become with practice.
So remember: When it comes to the PTE speaking section – and specifically – PTE oral fluency score, the test assessors are interested in how natural your speech sounds, how well it flows and how comfortable and confident you come across. They are not interested in counting the number of mistakes you make while you speak.
With this important distinction in mind, let’s get to some key PTE oral fluency tips!
PTE Oral Fluency Tip: Get a conversation partner
This is an incredibly helpful way to build your fluency over time. The key here is to pick a partner who is dedicated to simply having a conversation with you. This person should not correct you every time you make a mistake, nor should they give you any tips about the way you speak (at least not until the conversation is over!). Find someone who speaks fluent English and who has interesting things to say about topics you want to discuss. Talk about the news, the latest movies or your relationships – whatever you find riveting! If you are interested in a topic, you are more likely to forget about the mechanics of the conversation and focus on enjoying the actual content.
Here are some do’s and don’t’s:
Do: pick an interesting conversation partner who is a native or near-native English speaker.
Do: talk about topics you are actually interested in, not just something related to PTE material.
Do: ask your partner to tell you what they notice is improving about your fluency after the conversation.
Don’t: ask your partner to correct you or give you language tips while you are talking.
Don’t: forget to have a two-way conversation with your partner, rather than a monologue of you practicing your English!
If you don’t know any native speakers of English or feel uncomfortable practicing with a friend, try conversationexchange or a similar website to find your conversation partner!
PTE Oral Fluency Tip: Build your vocabulary
One of the major reasons why people find it difficult to speak without pauses and fillers is because they are constantly searching for the correct vocabulary. Vocabulary is built over time, but there are a lot of ways to boost your repertoire on a daily basis. Check out our great PTE vocabulary article for some helpful tips about how to do this. And make sure you always follow these two important rules:
Rule 2: If you’re engaged in a conversation and don’t know a word, describe it to your conversation partner. Don’t stop talking! The person will likely supply you with the word you need and you can continue the conversation without interruption.
You: “I was walking past this place yesterday, it’s a place where people go when they don’t have anywhere else to stay and they live on the street…”
Conversation partner: “A homeless shelter”
You: “Yes, a homeless shelter. Anyway, I was walking past this homeless shelter and I realized that I really wanted to volunteer there.”
PTE Oral Fluency Tip: Use English every single day
It doesn’t matter if it’s in the shower, to your cat, to the mirror or in your car. Use English as much as you possibly can. Some non-native speakers use English at work, with their friends or with their families. Even these people can benefit from chatting to themselves in the shower while they get ready for work or practicing a speech in front of the mirror. Practice builds confidence. The big advantage of practicing by yourself is that you can’t get embarrassed if you make a mistake. A little bit of practice every day could make an enormous difference to your confidence and – by extension – your oral fluency. So:
Do: Set aside time to speak in English every single day, even (and especially!) if you are all alone. Make it a habit, like brushing your teeth!
Do: speak about whatever comes to mind without worrying about grammatical mistakes.
Don’t: Beat yourself up about not knowing how to say something. Rather, try to look it up online or in a dictionary.
Don’t: Talk to yourself in public in front of strangers. You might get some strange looks! 🙂
PTE Oral Fluency Tip: Listen, listen, listen!
When you listen to people speaking English, stop worrying so much about what they are saying and start noticing how they are saying it. English has rhythm, tones and patterns that you might not be picking up on right now because you are so concerned about getting your grammar right! A large part of becoming a fluent English speaker is being able to mimic the way native-speakers talk. And at first it really will just be about mimicking them, because you won’t understand why people choose to talk the way they do. But after a while, you’ll start recognizing patterns and you will be able to identify when it is appropriate to use a certain tone or inflection in your speech.
Here are some more do’s and don’t’s:
Do: listen to the radio, TV shows and people around you for clues about how people talk in different contexts.
Do: practice mimicking the way native-speakers use their voices to convey meaning.
Don’t: be so concerned about getting your grammar right that you end up talking like a robot.
Confidence is Everything
Overall, oral fluency is improved when you immerse yourself in English as much as possible and let go of your insecurities about making mistakes. It’s hard to let go of your fears, but as soon as you do, fluency becomes achievable, as does accuracy. Believe me, it’s easier than you think.
If you’re an E2Language student, make sure you’ve downloaded our app, E2Pronounce! It provides you with valuable feedback about your pronunciation and helps you build your academic vocabulary accurately. Also, make sure you check out our free PTE pronunciation and oral fluency activities!
Written by Kaia Myers-Stewart