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Top Tips for Speaking

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Top Tips

Click on the headings to read our top tips

To improve your spoken English you simply need to practise. If you have friends or family who speak English at a very high level, practise with them or if you know any native English speakers, take advantage of their language and speak with them. Here at Virtually Fluent, take every opportunity you can to speak to the other course members and to your personal tutor. If you are travelling to an English-speaking country, practise with natives and try not to speak in your own native language.

Be Confident

The key to speaking good English is confidence. If you speak confidently or sound like you know what you’re talking about, then you’ll go a long way in English. Speak loudly and clearly and don’t worry about making mistakes.  

Talk To Yourself

If you have a few moments in a room at home, practise talking to yourself. You may think this is crazy, but have a short conversation with yourself. Ask yourself a question such as “What have you done today?” and then answer the question out loud. This will help you think quickly and practise for occasions when you really need to use English to speak to another person. The great thing about this activity is that you can repeat the same sentence again if you make a mistake because nobody can hear you!

Annotate Your Day

When you’re doing activities, say out loud what you’re doing. If you don’t know the right vocabulary, then research it using one of our recommended translators. If it’s an activity that you do regularly, the likelihood is that you will need this vocabulary in the future in English. For example “I am putting the kettle on now, then I will put a teabag in my mug, then when the kettle is boiled, I will pour the water into my mug and wait for the teabag to brew”. Do this for 2 or 3 activities every day and you will be sure to improve your general spoken English.

Join a Language Exchange

There are numerous Facebook Groups with language exchange events. Type in “language exchange” and your location on the Internet and, if you’re in a big city, I’m sure you’ll find a language group. Language exchange groups are often free and you can meet new people from all over the world. The atmosphere is very sociable and more relaxed, so you may feel more comfortable speaking English. The great thing about English is that so many people are learning it, meaning there will almost always be someone wanting to practise English at a language exchange.  

Pronunciation is probably the most difficult skill in English because the way things are pronounced is completely different to way they are written down. In addition, we have many exceptions to pronunciation rules and there are some sounds which simply don’t exist in other languages.

Phonetic Alphabet

This may be challenging, but learning the phonetic language in English will help you a lot.  At Virtually Fluent, we do use phonetic language at some points in the pronunciation videos. The phonetic alphabet is simply another alphabet in English. We provide various pronunciation courses and an individual course on the phonetic alphabet too, but at The British Council you can use an interactive tool to help. You can hear the different pronunciation sounds for each symbol and see some example words using this sound too. 

Listen To The Pronunciation

A great dictionary where you can hear the correct pronunciation of vocabulary is MacMillan Dictionary. You can click on the audio button and hear the word said very clearly. You should try and repeat this pronunciation as much as you can. When you have the individual video sessions with your personal tutor, practise the words that you’ve been learning so they can correct you.

Read A Transcript

For upper intermediate and advanced students, we recommend trying to read a transcript aloud at the same time as playing the audio. Play the audio and read the transcript simultaneously. As well as being able to hear any pronunciation differences to the audio, this will also push you to speak faster.  This is a very difficult task and you may find that you can only say a few sentences at native pace before you start to fall behind. Keep doing this with one individual listening transcript until you can read it perfectly and at a fast pace.

Learning a language takes time, so patience is the key.  Don’t worry if you don’t become fluent overnight.  

Make Time

Nowadays everybody leads a very busy life and it can be difficult to find extra time to learn English. That’s why we recommend adapting your daily routine to include English. For example, changing the language on your phone/laptop to English, reading the daily news in English or changing your language settings to English on your social media pages. Unfortunately, learning a language does require commitment. If you don’t put the effort into learning the language, you won’t see any improvement in your language. 

Although this advice can be hard to put into practise, we do recommend setting a certain time every week to practise English. If you make this English study session part of your weekly schedule, it will become second nature to you and it will give you the time you need to improve your language.

No Distractions

When you’re studying English, find a quiet space away from distractions. Turn your mobile phone to silent/off and tell people that you’re not to be disturbed. Realistically, we can only focus on one thing at a time and during your English study time, that should be English only. The more you concentrate on English and really study hard, the more improvement you will see. 

Focus On Your Interests

Language academies and textbooks often focus on very general and dull topics, which can make you switch off. You become unfocused and you lose interest in the language. Focus on things that you’re interested in.  If you enjoy science then read a Science Magazine in English, if you love fashion then read a fashion magazine in English, if you’re a music fan then listen to songs in English.  

Set Goals

This may seem a bit too structured for somebody wanting to learn English for conversational purposes, but setting a target for your English will help a great deal and you can easily measure your progress.  MindTools provide some great advice for setting specific goals. Work towards this goal as hard as you can and when you reach it, set another one. This way you can see how much you’re improving in English. 

Don’t Translate

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in English is translating word for word from your own language. Although this can work sometimes for a one word translation, it often doesn’t work for a entire phrase. In order to avoid translating, you simple have to remember all of the English grammar rules. Remember where the verb goes, the conjugation of the verb, the position of the adjective, the auxiliary verbs. If you remember you grammar rules you will find that you don’t need to translate when writing or speaking English. To get a good feel for the language, we recommend reading general news websites or English books to see exactly how native speakers write in English. 

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