This is the question that I am most frequently asked by students.
Last week I created a post for my social media sites '5 Ways to Improve Speaking', immediately after posting I received a number of messages from language learners asking for recommendations and links to websites. So, what better way to start 2017 than to get back to blogging and write a post to try and answer this question in more detail!
In order to improve your English speaking skills, it is extremely important to practise regularly. I recommend spending at least 10 minutes every day doing something you enjoy in English. Here are some suggestions of ways to practise and examples of activities that will help you to improve your speaking skills:
Make friends with English speakers and use social media to connect with other learners or native speakers. Use platforms like How Do You Do, Lingoglobe, Speaky, Easy Language Exchange and Meetup. Chat about current affairs, learn about each other's cultures and exchange ideas about language learning.
If you are living in an English speaking country, speak to anyone, speak to the cashier in the supermarket or your taxi driver (they usually love to chat). Use every opportunity to practise your speaking skills and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. The more you practise, the faster you will improve and the more confident you will feel.
Speak to yourself
Speak to yourself in the shower, in the car, whilst doing the dishes, anytime, anywhere, speak and speak aloud. Speaking aloud will help you to practise and improve pronunciation and fluency. Keep it simple, use short precise sentences, express your thoughts, ideas, try out new words and expressions, sing English songs. Be vocal and build confidence.
Speak to the dog
If you have a pet, make a conscious decision to only speak to that pet in English. Have a chat with your pet in the evening, tell them about your day, tell them about your plans for tomorrow and talk to them about anything you like. I'm sure they will love the attention and they'll never interrupt you.
A good listener communicates better
Use the internet or your mobile phone to develop listening skills. Listen to podcasts like the BBC’s 6 Minute English, ESL Aloud, A cup of English, Podcasts In English or tune into one of the podcasts on Player FM. Use websites like ESOL Courses, English Central and watch TED talks (I recommend choosing short 0-6 minute talks). Watch TV shows, news reports and short documentaries on VOA News.
Listen to the pronunciation of words and learn new expressions. You will improve your ability to comprehend different accents. Exercise the skill of not translating as you listen, learn to grasp the general meaning of what is being said and learn not to panic when you don't understand every word. Improving your listening skills is an essential part of learning English, and not only will it improve your ability to understand, it will also help you to communicate better.
The more you read the more words and expressions you are exposed to. Reading is essential for language acquisition. When you read a lot, you increase the possibility of seeing the same words in different contexts, this will help you to retain the language (to remember it). Choose books that are interesting and suitable for your level. Ask friends or search online for book recommendations.
Read up-to-date news articles that are graded according to level on the Breaking News English website. Knowing what’s going on in the world and having the vocabulary to talk about it will help you to communicate in social situations and make small talk.
Read language learning blogs, London Language Lab introduces an authentically British phrase each day and English with a twist shares practical business expressions for more advanced learners. Learning authentic phrases and expressions will help you to communicate more naturally with native speakers.
Do things you love in English
When we participate in activities that we enjoy, our focus is on the activity and not on the language, it makes it much easier to learn and takes less effort. If, for example, you love cooking: read food blogs to learn authentic language, join an English Facebook group, try out the recipes that are shared, share your own recipes, write comments and give feedback, create a YouTube channel, make a video, make new contacts and chat or Skype with the members of the group. Surround yourself with English while doing things you enjoy.
Take regular online lessons
Taking a lesson with a professional, qualified teacher is probably the best way to improve your speaking skills. An online teacher will encourage you to speak and you won't feel so nervous about speaking online (if you are really shy, you can even switch off your video). However, your teacher will be there to listen, to give feedback and to correct. When you have a one-on-one online lesson, you will get maximum speaking time which guarantees that you will improve fluency and pronunciation and you will progress faster. When your progress is noticeable, you will feel more confident, you will feel relaxed, and you will communicate more successfully.
Talk2Me English specialises in helping students to improve their spoken English. Your personalised online course is created by gathering information about you, your interests, your language needs, your current level and your language learning objectives. The lessons are topic based, practical and interesting. You'll do most of the talking and you'll receive the correction you need in order to progress quickly. After every lesson, you will receive a detailed report containing: the lesson materials, feedback, new vocabulary and corrections, pronunciation tips, and activities for self-study. See what Emma’s students say about her lessons.
Italki offers professional lessons with qualified teachers and informal lessons with community tutors (native speakers). Verbling offers lessons with qualified teachers and also free practice groups with fellow language learners.
As you can see, it's all about the practice. So be practical, practise often, be vocal and most importantly speak, speak, speak.