When you ask a language student what their goals are, almost everyone says “improve my speaking”. When learning a foreign language, you’ll find yourself talking with all kinds of native speakers – your teacher, servers in restaurants, taxi drivers and your landlord, so it’s vital that you feel comfortable. Just like improving your writing, listening or any other skill, there are techniques you can use to improve your spoken English in a targeted way. Here are some tips:
Speak, speak, speak
Yes, speaking. There is no magic pill that would help you speak better. You must put yourself in situations where you are forced to speak in English to get better at it. Start small. Do you live or work at a place where you need to speak English to get by? Great! Take advantage of this situation by speaking to people around you. It could be at your workplace or even at a coffee shop – doesn’t matter where, as long as you can speak.
Listen and read
You need words in order to talk, right? Class time is great for learning vocabulary, but there are other ways you can increase yours: Watch movies, listen to music, the radio and to podcasts. Read books, magazines and blogs. When listening and reading, find new and interesting expressions, slang terms and synonyms, write down this new material and look up anything you’re not familiar with. All this will provide more “meat” for you to use next time you practice.
Think in English
If you already think in English, it takes less time to produce or respond in everyday conversations. No translation needed! A good way to start rethinking is to keep a diary where you express your daily thoughts in English. It does not have to be perfect, it is more about getting out thoughts in English with less and less effort.
Expand your vocabulary
Gleaning new words day in, day out is a good way to widen your vocabulary. Commit to a suitable target: it can be three daily words or it can be ten daily words.
Even if you only have time to learn one new word per day, it is still worth trying. By learning one word every day, after one year you will have learned 365 new English words.
We cannot stress this enough. Regular and consistent practice is the key to success when it comes to speaking English. The tips and suggestions that we’ve described above only work if you use them regularly. So, here’s what we recommend. Start small – spend just 10 minutes every day doing 1-2 of the above things. Maybe listen to a short video clip today and imitate. Reflect on what you learned. Tomorrow, pick up a short article. Read aloud and summarise in your own words. Reflect on what you read and the new words.