How to improve your English speaking skills (by yourself)
How to Improve Your English Speaking Skills
Speaking is often the hardest of the four language skills. It's one thing listening and understanding, or even reading and writing, but it's another talking to a native speaker and not getting all flustered and experiencing brain shutdown. But with the right tricks (and constant diligence), you can get over the learning curve with ease.
Improving Your English at Home
Record yourself.When you're by your lonesome, you have no reason to be nervous. You can let your brain flow freely -- so record yourself now! Your English is going to be at its best. Find a book on tape or a clip online that you can mimic. Does your English sound the same?
- Or record yourself reading from a book. You'll be able to actually hear yourself (which we surprisingly have trouble with in real time) and be able to pinpoint the quirks in your English and where you slow down and have trouble. Then rerecord it and see how you've improved!
Read aloud.If your hands are full or you don't have a recording device, simply read aloud -- ideally, every day for at least 15 or 20 minutes. You'll get used to speaking for longer periods of time and forming long sentences won't phase you. And you'll run into words you can add to your vocabulary.
- It's best to choose books with lots of dialogue. The language is generally more real and a bit simpler; after all, dialogue is conversation. Being able to read poetry is great but conversations are a much more practical skill, you know?
Listen to mp3s, podcasts, and the news.We live in such a digital age; even if youthinkyou don't have native speakers at your disposal, you actually do. Scientific American, CBC, BBC and Australia's ABC Radio are great mp3s to get started with, but there's also a million podcasts out there and handfuls of news stations, too. And the best part is that these people generally speak clearly and have pretty generic accents.
- Another bonus? You'll have interesting things to talk about in English! You'll be up on all the news - even if you're just repeating what you've heard (not like anyone will know!). You're improving your English by expanding your knowledge. Two birds with one stone, really.
Listen to music, too.Alright, so it's not as good as listening to spoken news/podcasts/etc., but itisgood. If you can concentrate on one song a day or so, even better. Just make sure you actively try to understand it. Google the lyrics and sing along!
- It's best to stick to ballads -- songs that go a bit more slowly. Pick one a day until you have it mostly memorizedandunderstand what the words actually mean. It's a great way to learn idioms and slang, too.
Watch TV and movies.An integral part of speaking is hearing or listening. Because of this, the easiest way to involve yourself in a conversation without actually having one is to watch English TV and movies. If you absolutelyhaveto, turn the subtitles on -- but try to resist!
- Movies are great because you watch them over and over; the more you watch them, the more things you'll pick up. TV is good though, too, because you develop relationships with the characters and you grow accustomed to how they talk and the quirks of their speech.
Narrate your world.As you go about your day-to-day, talk to yourself. What are you doing? What are you feeling? What do you see, taste, smell, hear? What are you touching? What are you thinking? Right now you're reading wikiHow. You're sitting in a chair (probably). Maybe you're listening to music or have the TV on in the background. The possibilities are limitless.
- Think the future and the past, too. What are you going to do next? What did you just do? You gotta get to thinking in English consistently to truly get better. The more you think in English, the faster it'll come out.
Part 1 Quiz
What is the most important reason to record yourself speaking English at home?
Improving Your English with Others
Mimic the rhythm.Every language has a musicality about it. You can have absolutely perfect grammar and if you don't have the rhythm down, you won't have that native sound. So whether you're talking to English speakers or you're watching on TV, look for emphasis, intonation, and emotion. How well can you mimic it?
- In every sentence, there are parts that are longer, louder, and said at a higher pitch. In the phrase "rock and roll," saying "rock AND roll" sounds very strange. But "rockin roll" sounds a lot more natural. This is the icing on the English cake!
Observe their mouth movements, too.Just as every language has a musicality, it has a tendency to use certain mouth movements as well. You could be making the right sound, technically, but if your mouth is in the wrong place, it won't come out correctly. That's your lipsandyour tongue for the record!
- You can't exactly stop someone and ask them about the current position of their tongue. But it is something you can be conscious of in your own language. If you hear someone say a word and you can't mimic it perfectly, experiment! Maybe it just needs to be a bit further back or higher in your mouth. It's in there somewhere!
Keep a notebook and pocket dictionary with you.Whenever you're speaking to someone or hear others speaking and you catch a word you don't fully understand, write it down and look it up (you have the spelling skills, right?). Instead of thinking to yourself later that night, "Man, what was that word again?" you'll be able to flip to your notebook and remember. Boom. Learning!
- It's good enough to write it down and look it up, though. Oh no, no, no. You gotta make it a point to use that word you just learned! (Or you'll forget it.) So later that night or the next day, work it into your speech. Make it part of your own.
Take different kinds of classes.If you're in a class that meets every day, that's pretty good. You need exposure as often as possible. But you know what's better? Being in two classes so you're speakingall the time. One could be a big ol' group class that teaches you grammar and all that boring stuff and one could be a one-on-one course that gives you that individualized attention and concentration on your speech. Weekends aren't freebie non-English days, either!
- There's also accent reduction classes, business classes, travel classes, and many other topicalized English classes. Heck, if you're into cooking, take a class (in English) about cooking. Maybe there's an intramural sports team or gym class you could join? If you find something you're interested in, you'll be interested in it in English, too.
Create reasons to speak English.In order to become more than just a mediocre speaker of English, you have to take control of your life and force English into it. You have to let it infiltrate every domain of your life -- not just school or in your class. All of them. How to do that? Here are some ideas:
- You have friends that are studying English too, right? Form a study group. Even though they're not native speakers, just getting your mind thinking in English is useful. You'll learn from each other and provide a non-stressful environment for learning.
- Set up your home as a welcome place for tourists and foreigners looking to get situated in your county. There are a number of websites you can get into like AirBnB, Couchsurfing, Hospitality Club, BeWelcome, and Global Free loaders. Then you'llhaveto speak English at home!
Find others online.But when the tourists aren't knocking down your door, what do you do? Get on chat rooms, of course! (The safe ones, please.) So many people are just looking to talk. And if you find a friend, you can do video or voice chats, too.
- There are chat rooms dedicated toeverything. You do not have to enter a chat room called Strangers 101. Pick an interest of yours and do a quick search for those chatting about it.
- Not your cup of tea? Then how about interactive video games like World of Warcraft or Second Life? You can assume an identity and still hone your skills.
- Get a penpal! PenPal World and Pen-Pal are two sites you should get to checking out. The person on the other end is probably looking for the same thing you are.
Part 2 Quiz
The most important reason to mimic the rhythm of English is so you can:
Training Your Brain
Aim for new phrases every day.If that pocket dictionary and notebook isn't being used, you'll need to find another way to start expanding your vocabulary. In the books that you read, the Internet sites that you visit, the TV you watch, pick a couple of words to write down and to make a conscious effort of using. It's the only way you'll remember them!
- If you don't use it, you'll lose it. Have all these words in a notebook that you can refer back to whenever you need. Take the time to go through it on occasion and have those lightbulb moments of the words you've forgotten.
Learn phonemic script.It may seem tedious, but it'll be totally worth it. The International Phonetic Alphabet is a system of symbols that correlate to sounds. If you run into a word you don't know how to pronounce, all you gotta do is look it up. The IPA is right there, you can read it, and tada! You know exactly how to pronounce it. It's almost like magic.
- Since English is so messed up -- being the child of German, French, and Latin (and sprinklings of around 247 others) -- learning the IPA is primo. It's not such an issue for languages like Spanish where the sounds are fairly consistent. C'mon, "cough," "rough," "through?" What is going on?!
Consider rewards or penalties.It sounds a little harsh, but give it a second. Let's say you set up an "English only" rule at the dinner table at home (a really good idea, by the way); how long will it last? Probably not very long. But if you have some type of incentive program (if we speak only English for two weeks straight, we'll go out to eat, etc.) or punishment ( for every time the native language gets spoken, say), it'll be a lot more likely to stick.
- These should be rules for your home, definitely -- you want to avoid slipping back to your native tongue as much as possible -- but they're good ideas for your classes or study groups, too. Maybe in your study group if someone doesn't speak English, they're bringing the food next time!
Don't overthink it.If you do get in the presence of an English speaker, it's so easy to just have your mind freeze up, your body freeze up, and have every single word of English you know escape you. You end up stuttering if you can get anything out at all and leave feeling terrible, never wanting to speak English again. Rest assured it's not just you!
- This happens to all of us. All. That's 8 Ls. The only way to avoid it is just to realize that it's not that big of a deal, it'll end shortly, and no one's going to judge you for it. English is becoming so prominent all over the world that even native speakers are used to hearing all different levels. You won't say anything they haven't heard before!
Be patient.Above all else, you need to be patient. Learning a language is a process that can takeyears. If you get frustrated with yourself, you risk quitting. That would yield the worst results of all! So don't be so hard on yourself -- it'll come. It will. You gotta trust.
- The easiest way to not get super fed up with all of this is to have a good way to check your progress. That means keeping the same notebook, filling it up, rewatching those shows that you have mastered now, and once in a while revisiting things that used to be difficult. The reminder of how awesome you're getting will be quite the boost!
Part 3 Quiz
Why should you learn the International Phonetic Alphabet?
QuestionI'm pretty good at writing English, but when it comes to speaking, I get all mixed up and do poorly. Is there a way I can improve?Community AnswerThe best way to improve your spoken English is by practicing a lot. Sing along with English songs, read articles out loud, and, most importantly, converse with other native or non-native speakers. Another thing to keep in mind is to not strain or hurry yourself. It is perfectly fine to speak a bit more slowly or pause to formulate a sentence if you have to.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I improve my pronunciation?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerWatching movies or listening to audiobooks or radio in English is the best way to improve pronunciation.Thanks!
QuestionI want to improve my speaking at home, what is a good daily schedule?Top AnswererJust practice as long as you can and whenever possible. It's important to practice around someone else who knows or is learning English.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I avoid grammatical errors?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerBuy grammar books and practice all exercises related to verb tenses, articles, pronouns, etc. Speak with fluent English speakers as frequently as possible and ask them to correct you when you make mistakes. There is no quick/easy way to perfect your grammar, it takes a lot of practice.Thanks!
QuestionI'm all good with writing and also speaking English when I'm with my friends. But when it comes to teachers, I've noticed myself that my English becomes poor. What shall I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerDevelop confidence in yourself. Listen and read more, and this will help you to develop the quality of your speaking.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I improve the flow of my speaking?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt just takes a lot of practice. Maybe try finding an English speaking partner who can help you practice your conversation skills. You could also try watching more English movies to observe patterns of speaking.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I prevent grammatical mistakes?Community AnswerIf you want to be good at grammar, you are going to need to memorize the rules via English classes and grammar textbooks. Reading English-native newspapers, magazines and books can also help you identify and recognize the patterns.Thanks!
QuestionHow long will it take to become a perfect English speaker?Top AnswererIt depends on how well you speak English now and how hard you want to work at it. The average person might take five years or more to become a very skilled English speaker.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I improve my vocabulary and pronunciation?Top AnswererImprove your vocabulary by reading as much English writing as you can. Improve your pronunciation by copying native English speakers. Also, published dictionaries provide written pronunciation guidance for every word, and some online dictionaries offer spoken pronunciation guidance.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I improve my speaking skills for a school speech test?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerMaybe you can ask your teacher to help you or give extra homework, or you could hire a tutor or ask for help from a friend that speaks fluent English.Thanks!
- If your family doesn't speak English, take the opportunity to teach them a few words here and there. If they understand the basics, it'll be easier to speak at home.
- If you feel like you're not confident enough to speak English in front of teachers, then try it with friends first. This will help increase the confidence level in you. Listening to others while they speak this can be helpful too.
Sources and Citations
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