Speaking English confidently is an important goal for many. Often, we hesitate because we are afraid of making mistakes or embarrassing ourselves in front of others. Sometimes mistakes are unavoidable. But like any other skill, you can improve your spoken English if you practise regularly and follow these simple techniques.
Speak, speak, speak
Let’s start right off by saying that there isn’t a magic pill for better speaking. That would be too easy, right? Basically, the best way to speak better is to, well – speak! Commit to practicing often and with as many different people as possible. Do you already live or study overseas?
Take advantage of the thousands of native speakers in your immediate community, such as your friends, their families, your coworkers, classmates, employees at the coffee shops, supermarket, post-office and other places you visit. If you’re learning in your own country, increase your practice time by meeting your classmates after class, finding a language exchange partner or joining an online community of learners.
Reflect on your conversations
After your conversation is over, take a moment to reflect. How did it go? How much do you think you understood? How comfortable did you feel with that subject matter? Did you encounter any unknown words? The mere act of thinking about it in this way will increase your confidence for the next time you speak (and give your targeted things to work on, for example vocabulary you didn’t understand).
Find people to talk to speak to improve speaking skill
OK, so you want to practise, but who can you speak English with?
Do you know anybody in your network who speaks English? Maybe you have friends or colleagues at work that you can speak English with.
If not, look for ‘meetups’, social events for people interested in practising languages. Or what about a language exchange? You find someone who is learning your language, and in exchange they speak to you in English. A language exchange app can also be a great way to find a conversation partner. (Remember to stay safe when connecting with new people in person or online.)
Practising English socially is fun! You get to know new people. You use your English for real communication. You adapt to each other’s level and direct your own learning.
All this means you learn the skills and language you need fast. And you don’t forget them.
Record yourself speaking
Listening to a recording of your own voice can feel strange. Especially talking in English.
But, once you get used to it, recording yourself speaking can be a powerful tool for improvement.
The big thing it helps is confidence. I bet you, the first thing you notice when you listen back is that you speak English better than you thought! Another thing is pronunciation, or just feeling the words in your mouth. Speaking a foreign language is a physical workout for your mouth, and you want to get in the gym!
You’re also practising fluency. Next time you have to talk about that same topic, the ideas and words will flow more easily. By training yourself to notice and correct mistakes, you’ll improve your accuracy too.
Watch movies in English
Watching series on Netflix might not exactly improve your debating skills or formal register, but it helps you to understand the language better, get used to colloquial, conversational forms of English and implicitly get a feeling for the language. Also, you could try to pick out words that sound highly informal and look up their more scholarly counterparts. Of course, there is also a plethora of documentaries (try anything by David Attenborough to start you off) to be found online as well. Being exposed to a language for the length of a movie might help you to actually start thinking in English.