How to be fluent for the IELTS speaking, using connectors in your speech…

My post today came out of two things, one is to answer a students question about how to be fluent, and another is to reflect on a lesson I had a couple of days ago. To mention the lesson first, the student in question has taken the IELTS before but only got 4.5 for his speaking, as I was told. I was asked to talk to him by one of my associates in China and give the student some advice. While we were speaking I understood why he had only scored 4.5 before, he made some grammar mistakes among other things, and he didn’t paraphrase much, and he had certainly memorised a couple of answers (which is something I will write about in a subsequent post). What stood out most however, was his lack of fluency, I know fluency refers to the ability to speak without undue hesitation, etc, but the reason that fluency and cohesion are put together in the assessment criteria is that they are closely interlinked. To be fluent, you have to be coherent and vice versa, and you can achieve this in some way by using so-called cohesive devices, connectors, conjunctions, etc. Such as, “well”, “actually”, “so”, and many more.

So to return to my student, what he did was he made some very short and simple sentences without using cohesive devices, or connectors, to join his ideas together. And as we know from the assessment criteria, complex sentences are a good way to increase your band score.

IELTS Speaking descriptors

Compare the difference between band 4 and 7 above….

So what do I mean by making complex sentences? I mean using linking words and expressions, conjunctions, etc, to join your sentences together, which has the added benefit of increasing your fluency score as well as mentioned above. To illustrate, consider the example below.

For example, “In my town the public transport system is not so good”, “The transportation is mainly buses”. I think the public transport needs to develop”.

Instead of, “You know, in my town the public transport system is not so good, what I mean is, we only have buses, to my mind we really need to develop our public transport so as to benefit everybody”.

Or something similar, this is just by way of an example but I hope you take my point. Now to go back to my first reason for this post, as I wrote, someone wrote to me asking about fluency. Specifically, they said that they had to give a presentation speech at their school, and they were concerned about how to sound as fluent as possible. So I gave him the same advice as I give everybody, this applies to the IELTS but also to his purpose of giving a presentation. The advice is to be as “natural” and “native-like” as possible, and as I wrote above one way to do this is to connect your speech with conjunctions, and linking words and expressions.

For example, there are seven coordinating conjunctions: but, or, so, and, yet, for, nor.

  • so – for showing the consequence of something
    He was very hungry, so he ate all the cake.
  • but – for contrast
    I eat cake, but I never eat biscuits; I don’t like them.
  • for – for explaining why [more formal and less common than because] He’s overweight,for he eats too many cakes and biscuits.
  • and – the same, similar or equal; without contrast
    His favourite snacks are cakes and biscuits.
  • nor – for two non-contrasting grammatically negative items (not + not)
    He doesn’t eat cake, nor does he eat biscuits.
    [= He doesn’t eat cake and he doesn’t eat biscuits.]
  • or – before an alternative
    Would you like cake or biscuits with your coffee? 
  • yet – contrast, despite something [synonyms = nevertheless, but still]
    He’s overweight and feels terrible, yet he continues to eat lots of cakes and biscuits.
    [He’s overweight, but still he continues to eat lots of cakes and biscuits.]

Have look at the list below for some more examples of connectors…

well, – this has a lot of different uses, but mostly at the beginning of speaking in response to the other speaker
ex. “Well, I would say my favorite trip was the one I took with my family to the UK for the first time.”
actually – used to state a fact or reality, or for stating a correction, or sometimes to signal that what you’re going to say may be unexpected
ex. “Actually, I think it was the first time for my parents to go back to their home town in about 20 years.”
as for – used in the same sense as “regarding” or “in regard to” which can be more formal
ex. “As for the food, I found it to be really fresh and  light.”
basically – when you want to simplify or summarize a complicated or lengthy story/idea
ex. “Basically, we were there to visit relatives my parents hadn’t seen since they were young and for me to get to know my parents’ home town.”
I mean – used to clarify what was just said or say it in different words
ex. “It wasn’t at all what I expected. I mean, I thought I knew a lot about the culture and the food, but it was so different being there.”
on the other hand – used to introduce a different view or alternative opinion
ex. “The big crowds on the streets made it really difficult to walk around. On the other hand, it made it exciting to be surrounded by so many people.”
anyway – to move on to another point or close the conversation
as I was saying – to bring the topic back to the original point
the thing is – to raise an important point
ex. ” The thing is, I think the trip was just as memorable for my parents as it was for me. They were so proud to show off their hometown.”
at the same time – used to contrast what was previously said
ex. “It was fun enjoying summer weather during Christmas. At the same time, it didn’t really feel like Christmas to me.”

OK, I hope this will be useful to you. To sum up, always try to make your sentences complex and link your ideas together whenever possible. Fluency does take a lot of practice, you need to be speaking every day realistically, and also you can try using these connectors as much as possible. If you want more examples, then you can watch some TV shows or films, podcasts, broadcasts, whatever, of natives interacting with each other and see what they do, and how do they connect their sentences. As always, any questions, send me a message…

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