I work with high-level English as a second language learners, helping them excel in business and work situations in English.
And for these people, speaking English at an advanced level is important.
But what is the key to advanced English conversation?
Here are the two main things:
- Understand what it means to be “advanced” in speaking
- Understand the concept of the “LKC Triangle”
Let’s break these down:
Understand what it means to be “advanced” in speaking
Basic knowledge of advanced English does not make an advanced speaker. Advanced knowledge of basic English does.
This is especially true of vocabulary, as the research discussed here clearly shows.
People tend to try too hard to sound intelligent in English, but get it totally wrong. They use big complex words or rare grammar patterns and tenses – whereas good speakers use simple language to explain intelligent ideas.
Understand the concept of the “LKC Triangle”
You need more than language (the words, phrases and expressions of English) to speak a language well.
Yes, you do need language (L).
If you don’t have the words, phrases and expressions you need to express the ideas you want to express… you won’t do very well. But this by itself is not enough.
You also need knowledge (K).
Content in your head to talk about. Ideas. Interesting things to discuss with people. Knowledge of what you’re actually talking about (I can talk about English education and linguistics in English and my second language, Japanese, better than almost anyone because it’s my profession – politics? I can’t speak about that well in ANY language).
You also need to understand culture (C).
Most of the “big” mistakes people make that upset people are cultural (I mean, it’s how wars start). This isn’t just country-level culture (e.g. Japanese vs. British, though that is important), but is also really related to how certain people and groups of people think and behave. When I talk about my research with my clients, for example, it’s very different from discussing it with another academic.
But if you don’t want to look dumb in English, these things are far, far more important than the typical surface-level stuff most people worry about: how many words you know, their accent… etc.