The Fluency Puzzle: How to become more fluent in English

by | Dec 19, 2021 | Brain-friendly tips and strategies | 0 comments

Fluency puzzle? What’s that?

Before I let you in on my secret to better fluency listen up.

You’ve invested time and money learning English and you’re not seeing the results you expected.

What’s gone wrong?

You feel…

Stuck. Frustrated. Unmotivated.

I get you. I’ve been there learning French, Spanish, Portuguese and more recently Swedish.


Reasons we feel stuck, frustrated unmotivated

There are lots of reasons why we might feel stuck, frustrated or unmotivated when we’re learning a language.

  • you feel like you’re not making progress
  • you don’t have a regular study routine
  • you find the material in the textbooks boring and irrelevant
  • you don’t know where to find the best resources for your level and interests
  • you feel stressed, anxious or embarrassed when you speak
  • you don’t have enough opportunities to practise
  • you just can’t find the time for English in your busy life

Instead of asking What’s gone wrong? it’s much more useful to ask What’s missing?

“because that really allows us to open up our minds, see possibilities, and then take good action, the right action, not negative action, just throw our hands in the air and say we can’t do it.” (Susie Moore, Confidence Coach)

When we identify what’s missing our next question should be: What’s changeable?


What is fluency?

Before we dive into The Fluency Puzzle and look at what’s missing and what’s changeable, let’s take a moment to think about what fluency actually is.

Fluency means different things for different people and nobody (not even the experts) can agree on a definition for it.

But I agree with these guys:

Someone who is fluent in a language can:

  • produce written and/or spoken language with ease
  • speak with a good but not necessarily perfect command of intonation, vocabulary, and grammar
  • communicate ideas effectively
  • produce continuous speech without causing comprehension difficulties or a breakdown of communication.

Richards, Platt, and Weber (1985, Longman Dictionary of Applied Linguistics, Longman)


So the question is, how do we transform from stuck, frustrated and unmotivated to empowered, confident and motivated (and as a result more fluent)?


The Fluency Puzzle

The Fluency Puzzle is made up of 4 parts or pieces. On the journey to speaking English (or any language) easily, well and effectively, we need to focus on all of these.

If we focus on all 4 we have a greater chance of feeling Empowered. Confident. Motivated leading to better fluency.

But the problem is…

Most learners, courses, curriculums, education systems… only focus on one piece of The Fluency Puzzle and miss a huge opportunity to learn more effectively.


What are the four parts of The Fluency Puzzle?

1. The Tools:

Vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation

2. An Action Plan:

Goals, strategies, activities, resources, habits

3. Self-awareness:

The ability to identify and manage emotions and feelings, recognise strengths and challenges, recognise limiting beliefs and mindset

4. A Community:

A place to connect, share and learn together.


Can you guess which part of The Fluency Puzzle we focus on when we’re learning a language?

That’s right, the tools!


Why we need to focus on all 4 parts of The Fluency Puzzle

Learning about vocabulary, grammar rules (and pronunciation if you’re lucky!) is not enough to become fluent in a language.

  • It’s no good if you don’t have the opportunity to use it
  • It’s no good if you freeze and become blocked when you have to use it because you’re so anxious about speaking English.
  • It’s no good if you can’t apply the grammar rules you learnt (and who said learning grammar rules is the best way to become fluent anyway?)
  • It’s no good if you don’t know how to adapt it according to context (especially in our modern global world where we’re using English across cultures)
  • It’s no good if you don’t have healthy language learning habits: a routine that doesn’t provoke stress and allows you to consistently review and recycle.
  • It’s no good if you don’t learn strategies on how to be a better speaker and listener.
  • It’s no good if you don’t believe in yourself

And I could go on, but I’m sure you get the pictureLearning about vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation is not enough!


So next time you feel stuck, frustrated or unmotivated instead of asking yourself What’s wrong? ask yourself What’s missing? and take action!


How many pieces of The Fluency Puzzle do you focus on? 

Not sure if you’re doing the right things to get the best results?

Take my quiz Are you a Smart English Learner?

Happy Smarter Learning! x