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  • Writer's pictureFrank Doogan

Why drilling is so important. Watch the video here or read the blog.

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

The most important measure of fluency is how little work your listener must do to understand you.

When you are learning a language (or are relatively advanced in one) the biggest challenge is to know how to quickly adjust the phrases you have learned to express what you mean and signal your fluency.

The longer it takes you to adjust phrases, the less fluent you are.

You are likely taking a long time to think about phrases because you're not sure of how to manipulate a structure. And, if simple manipulation of phrases is consuming your mental bandwidth then your capacity to express anything complex after that is reduced.

It is absolutely normal when you need to think more about meaning that your voice speed will slow, and that's acceptable, but if your voice speed slows for relatively simple meaning then what you are signalling is your lack of fluency.

If, however, in the course of your fluency development you have done regular and fast substitution drilling for phrases or sentences (utterances) across statement forms, negative forms and question forms, with substitutions across subject, verb, object, adverbs, adverbials… then you will be fine.

You will have automated the grammar on these, and that means the speed with which you speak (a fluency indicator) improves.

Strangely, many schools and language centers do not understand why drilling is so important because a) they don't know how to do it and b) when they try to do it, they do it in a way which is uninteresting and unchallenging for the learners.

So just to reiterate the point: we know that fluency is about the speed with which you speak, the clarity of the meaning you make, your response time, and paramountly about how much work you're making your listener do.

If your command of phrasing is good because you have done a significant amount of regular substitution drilling, then the overall signalling that you give to your listener is of your fluency: you are a competent speaker and they can relax and focus on the conversation and not worry about having to second guess you, and feel anxious they may have guessed wrong.

If you would like to enroll in a specialist fluency course, contact us at

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