How to Improve Your English Speaking Skills
Whenever I ask someone who is studying English which skills they would like to improve the most, the answer is usually ‘speaking skills’. However, I know from experience that improving your English speaking skills can be quite difficult as it might be difficult to find time or people to practise your speaking with and you also need the confidence to speak in a language you are not fluent in.
My first piece of advice is to be clear about the English you want to speak. This may sound strange; however, with the influence of Globalization, many different ‘Englishes’ have evolved. If your business is international, you may not actually speak to anyone from the UK. A Brazilian may speak to an Italian who then may speak to a German who then speaks to someone from China and so on. Therefore, the kind of English we speak depends very much on what the person we are talking to, does; (they probably won’t be English or come from an English speaking country). With this in mind, learning idioms or slang is not that useful. Acquiring complex vocabulary is also a waste of your valuable time. We need to learn simple yet effective transactional English: to understand what is being said and to be understood.
Here are some tips:
- Don’t speak your language unless you really have to. If you try and speak two languages, your brain has to work very hard to translate from one to the other. Stick to the language you are learning and practise, practise, practise.
- Find someone to practise English with. If there is no-one local you can practise with, you could find someone to speak to on Skype or you could try to find a language exchange group.
- Watch as much British/American TV and films as you can. At first, you may not understand much but with time, your brain will become accustomed to the rhythms and intonation of English. You could also watch English TV programmes with English subtitles to begin with and then gradually remove the subtitles.
- Be hungry!!! Not for food but for more vocabulary and expressions. You can do this by carrying a notebook and writing down anything you hear that you don’t understand then practise saying what you hear.
- Read English books, newspapers and magazines. This will really help you to expand your vocabulary. If you find a word that you do not know, you can try to guess the meaning from the rest of the sentence or you can look it up in a dictionary. If you use an online dictionary they often have a button you can press to hear the pronunciation (e.g. http://dictionary.cambridge.org/).
- Practise the sounds of English, especially, those words which have sounds such as mouth, breathe, think or a long vowel sheep, beat, treat etc.
- Be pro-active: on a bus or in a queue, listen to people talk. You can also try to start a conversation with someone by asking the time or speaking about the weather. This will give you natural intonation.
- Find other English language learners to practise with. Although having a conversation with a native English speaker may be helpful as they will be able to correct your mistakes, it is often easier to build up confidence by speaking to other students as they are in the same boat as you.
- Join an English language school like Bloomsbury International and practise your English speaking in class and on social activities with your fellow students.
- Most importantly, don’t be scared to make mistakes! Most native English speakers will be impressed that you are learning a second language and they will often try to help.