“How can I improve my English speaking?” is one of the most common questions I get asked as an English teacher, so I’m going to let you in on a few activities you can complete in your free time to help you improve this skill.
Practise makes perfect
So many English learners get really scared of speaking a foreign language and don’t actually practise it. They sit at the back of the classroom not saying a word or press mute in their online classes. Don’t be worried about making mistakes, English teachers are trained to understand what you’re saying even if it’s not said perfectly. So, practise, practise, practise. Without even practising this skill, let’s be honest, it’s going to be very difficult to improve!
If you’re not really sure how to practise speaking and prefer a more structured way of learning, why not join our conversation courses.
Read out loud
Reading out loud can really help with mouth placement and “getting used” to speaking in the language. When speaking in English conversation there is so much to think about – grammar, sentence structure, pronunciation, vocabulary. I often find that if you eliminate the thought process and focus on the actual speaking you can really benefit from it. One of my favourite ways to do this is simply reading a text, but out loud. We have numerous texts available through our blog that you can read or you could choose a book or magazine article. Find something that interests you! Read this out loud in a quiet space and really focus on the correct pronunciation of each word and connecting all the words together. If you don’t know the correct pronunciation, use an online dictionary (if you’re one of our students, you can use our translation tool with audios).
Have a conversation with yourself
You may sound a little crazy but having a conversation with yourself, or even debating with yourself can prove really useful. If you have people around you, they may think you’re a little mad. Ask yourself a question – What did you do today? What are you doing next weekend? and respond. This way, you’ll get the chance to practise speaking and if you’re a naturally shy person, you don’t have anyone around to listen in. If you want to make the situation more realistic, try sitting in front of a mirror and imagine it’s another person you’re conversing with.
If you have friends, family or teachers to converse with, that’s even better!
When reading a text out loud or having a conversation with yourself, record it. Almost every phone nowadays comes with a built-in recording device. It’s difficult to listen to yourself at first but you will eventually get used to it. Listen to the recording and error-correct yourself. If you didn’t understand something you said, try and correct it or if you weren’t sure about the pronunciation of a word, research it. Knowing how you sound is essential to fluency, you want your listener to be able to understand you. If you have English classes (group or private) with us, we record all our classes and you can easily watch them back! Our individual courses also provide an online video forum, where you can upload video or audio recordings to conversation questions and get feedback/corrections on your speaking.
Listen and Repeat
When watching films, TV series, online videos or listening to English-speaking music, stop and repeat individual phrases. This can become a lengthy activity if you stop and start after every sentence, so I recommend doing this for phrases you don’t know or understand or just for the first few minutes of the programme/song. You can repeat in the exact same way you heard it in the film, TV series, online video or song.
One of the biggest difficulties my English students have is that they’ve learnt new vocabulary but don’t know how to use it in phrases. If you learn a new word, that’s great news, but you need to be able to use it in conversation. Try researching a phrase online or look at the example sentences provided in the dictionary. In most of our online vocabulary courses, we teach “useful phrases” with a series of questions and answers so you’ll learn exactly how to talk about each topic in conversation. You can also check out our basic phrases course with the most essential phrases needed in English conversation.
Although conversations are free flowing and difficult to predict, a lot of our English speaking is in a situation that can be prepared for. It may be on the phone booking an appointment, ordering food in a restaurant or booking tickets for a tourist attraction. All of these situations can be easily prepared. Brainstorm questions that are typically asked in these situations and prepare your own answers for them. Similarly, in the workplace, if you’ve got a big meeting coming up or are giving a presentation, you can prepare. We have numerous online courses to help guide you through these topics with “perfect” responses in common situations.
Another great activity is to narrate your everyday life. As well as practising the present continuous tense regularly, you’ll get to learn vocabulary for essential activities in your life. When you wake up in the morning, say out loud “I’m waking up, I’m brushing my teeth, I’m putting my clothes on”. You’ll discover new, essential vocabulary that is specific to you and you’ll be practising your pronunciation when saying these phrases out loud. Alternatively, at the end of the day you could practise your past tenses by describing what you did that day. “Today, I woke up at 8am, I went to work at 8.30am and I did a presentation”.
There are numerous apps available nowadays to help you improve your English speaking skills. One of my personal favourites is ELSA, which is free to download, although you need a paid upgrade to access everything. This focuses on the American English accent so there are quite a lot of limitations and at beginner level, it only focuses on individual words, which I don’t recommend. However, it can be great for focusing on problem areas and you can have automated conversations with a robot for a little bit of practice.
Set A Timetable
If you’re practising English randomly and just whenever you have time, it’s going to be difficult to see any improvements. For this reason, many students prefer to attend private classes or an English academy, which provides them with regularity. If you’re good at creating a schedule and sticking to it, then I highly recommend this. Set yourself a learning plan and what your goals are for each session. If you find self-discipline more difficult, come and join our academy or find an English teacher who will provide you with the guidance that you need.
Hopefully these activities will help you feel more confident with your speaking and provide you with the right tools to advance quicker.