Speaking is probably the most challenging aspect of language learning for most students. There are a few reasons for that. First, speaking requires an output – it means you produce the language yourself. It’s more difficult as opposed to input – when you absorb the language through books, TV or any other source. Producing a language is not the same process as absorbing it – it requires much more brain work to produce sentences out of thin air than to read a paragraph.
Secondly, even students who excel at reading, writing and listening might not be that good at speaking. Even though their grammar skills are on point and their vocabulary is quite rich, they somehow have trouble forming sentences without much thinking. There could be many reasons for that, but usually, it’s simply… too little speaking practice.
But how can you improve your English speaking skills? Below, you will read about 5 tips that hopefully will help you polish your speaking skills in English!
1. Speak to yourself
Obviously it’s best if you have a language partner or a teacher to talk to, but sometimes it’s just not possible for some reason. In this case, you can just talk to yourself! If you feel confident enough, you can do that even in a public place, although some people might find that awkward and strange. If you are one of them, try to speak at home! What should you talk about? Anything is fine really – what are you seeing, what are you doing, how was your day, etc. You can also speak of a topic you particularly like, or describe a movie you watched recently. Still feeling weird talking to yourself? You can start off by thinking in another language. We think 24/7, and it’s usually in our native language – how about reversing that and thinking in English for 10-30 minutes? That’s a perfect start to the “talking to yourself” practice.
2. Write a journal
Writing is a second way of producing a language apart from speaking. While those are slightly different processes, writing is a brilliant practice of forming sentences – which is what you’re doing when speaking. Don’t write anything too “posh” – simple sentences with simple words will do! Write about things that matter to you, about your daily life, maybe describe your family or your pet. The point is, when you write, you see which aspects of the English language you should work on. Which grammar points seem to be murky? Which words are you missing? Writing will show you what you should practice further.
3. Mimic English speakers
There is a really cool learning technique called shadowing, which is all about mimicking English speakers. To keep things short, you need to find an English material – a video or a podcast – and learn it so that you are able to speak it 1:1 together with the original speaker. For starters, just pause the recording and repeat what has been said, then resume it and do it all over again. How does mimicking help you with your speaking? You improve your pronunciation and your rhythm of speaking. You learn how to accent English words. If you choose the right video, you will learn and remember commonly used phrases. Then, you won’t be thinking too much when using them – they will come to you naturally. Try doing this alongside your regular study class, for at least 10-15 minutes.
4. If you don’t know a word – don’t look it up
Before we get to the point, think – when you speak your native language, do you really know every single word in that language? If you speak with a friend and cannot find the right word, do you tell them “wait, I need to check a word in a dictionary”? How strange would that be, right? You just try to find another way around to explain your thoughts or describe that thing “you know, that big thing used there and then” or “it’s when you do this and that”. So why are you not doing this in English? Students tend to feel bad about their English. The first thing they do when they forget a word is to check the dictionary. Feel free to do it while writing, but please don’t do this in a conversation. It’s not natural, and it disrupts the flow of speech. Instead, try to rephrase your sentence, or explain to your partner which word you are missing. If they know it, they will tell you. It’s much more natural to converse like that, and the chances are you will remember this word much better than if you looked it up in a dictionary.
5. Try to relax
Being relaxed is pretty important when talking, it doesn’t matter if you are talking in your mother tongue or in English. Just a tiny bit of stress might also be good, and it might enhance your speaking skills short-term (for a presentation or for an exam). However, too much stress backfires and there is no way around it. If your mind is clouded with fear and anxiety, your speaking skills deteriorate significantly – you will confuse the grammar aspects, forget words and make irrelevant points. So, don’t be nervous! Yes, we know, easier said than done. For starters – think why are you so nervous when speaking? Does it make any sense to sweat before having a friendly chat with that exchange student? Most people don’t care about your mistakes – they are happy and excited that you can speak the same language as they do. So, take a few deep breaths and keep your stress under control – you will be surprised by the results.
If you want to receive feedback regarding your English speaking, or to simply find a conversation partner, book a trial class with italki’s English teacher! What are the benefits of having a personal tutor? You will receive professional guidance and feedback, on top of that each and every class will be adjusted to you, your needs and your schedule. A hectic schedule is not an excuse anymore, as you can learn English online from any place and at any time you want.