Do you have a difficulty in explaining what you want when you speak to people in English? Your grammar is perfect, your vocabulary is rich and your listening skills are strong, but you still have great problems with speaking. Right?
This is not everything. Because of problems with speaking you feel yourself inferior, shy, angry and/or frustrated. I also felt just like you when I was learning English. I was happy with my grammar and other skills but my speaking was really and really bad. Not a sentence but I even could not connect two words together and kick them out of my mouth. I was so scared and so shy.
But as the days passed by I realized that I should definitely need to act, change and solve my problems with speaking. In this post I will share with you some of things I did when I was at the first year of my university studies and if you have your own ideas, I will be only happy to read them in our comment box below.
Alright, now it is time. Let’s see how you can improve your speaking skills.
1. Be Positive
Be positive? I am not kidding by putting being positive on the first place. Before you start working on your skills and not only, you have to tune and prepare yourself positively.If you are negative, pessimistic and skeptic about the fact that you can improve your speaking skills, you will not succeed.
I am a teacher of English myself with some 10 years experience and I can you tell you that 9 out 10 students, I have at the beginning of English courses I teach, have problems with their speaking skills.It means you are not alone my friend. If you have problems with speaking, I am telling it is perfectly alright.But how can you be positive? Here are some tips for you:
2. Be Flexible with Words
When trying to explain your ideas in English, be flexible with vocabulary. Many students I teach try to find the exact word and get stacked in the middle of their talk.This happens because when learning English they try to translate from their mother language into English.Let me say this.
Your vocabulary of your mother language is quite higher than the vocabulary of your English because you have been learning the words from your mother language since you were born.But what about English? I don’t think it is the same situation with your English, my friend. Right? So what can you do about it?
Here are some tips:If you can’t find the exact words when you speak English to your friends, teacher and/or others, don’t worry because you don’t have to use the exact words.Let me say this again. If you can’t find the exact words when you speak, forget about that word. Instead, try to find a synonym, equivalent or similar words to that exact word you wish to use.
You can also try to explain that exact word you can’t remember using other words. How? Here is how you can do it. Let’s imagine you want to use the word ‘flip flop’ but you don’t know the word ‘flip flop’. You can say:
“It is a pair of shoes people wear when they go a beach and walk on the sand.”
If people you are talking to know this word, they quickly say “Ah you mean flip flops?”
If they don’t know, they will understand what you are trying to say anyway because they already have the picture of ‘flip flop’ in their minds.
This way you keep the conversation going on.
3. Open English Club
I did not feel my speaking skills improved dramatically until I opened English Club and ran free English speaking sessions when I moved onto the 2rd course of my university studies. It was difficult, but it was full of fun with students.
I had to prepare all my materials and including the stages of the speaking sessions before coming to my sessions so that I could manage everything well. I had 2 groups 20 students in each. That means I could speak and practice my English with almost all of them. And they could speak and practice their English with each other and me.
So it was 100 % win-and-win situation where I created the awesome opportunity for myself as well as my students.So if you can open English Club and run free English speaking sessions I can assure you will lose absolutely nothing. Yes, nothing.Wondering how you can open English Club at your school, college or university?
Let me provide you with some tips below but I am planning to write a separate blog post where I want to explain opening English Club in details. Before that, let’s take a look at this:
4. Speak Slowly
Also, many students think that if you speak English fast, then you know English very well.It is totally and totally a wrong conception of English.I know a lot of native speakers from the USA and the UK and many of them actually speak slowly and not because that I am not a native speaker but because they just speak naturally slow.So don’t focus on how fast you can speak. Focus on the following aspect of your speaking skills:
5. Discuss Easy Topics
When speaking English with your friends try to discuss easy topics like foods, weather, homework, studies, friends, teachers, books and etc.Avoid discussing topics like political chaos in Egypt, scientific discoveries, homeland economy and so on. Why?It is because you are not yet prepared for such topics as they require quite an advanced level of vocabulary, complex sentence structures and so on. Don’t worry!
You can discuss them later on when you become quite confident in speaking English.So discuss easy topics and avoid difficult topics.In fact, don’t focus on topics. Focus on speaking and practicing your English. Choose easy topics for which you have a lot of words and practice your English as much as you can with friends. This is what I did, and believe me it worked perfectly well for me.
6. Be a Tour Guide
If tourism is well developed in your city or town and if there are lots of small-budget tourists roaming around, come up to them and offer your help.Usually such tourists feel happy to see local people who want to help them and show them around the city.
I can tell you it is also a win-and-win situation because you practice your English with native speakers, learn about their culture, traditions and quite surprisingly you will also learn more about own culture and traditions. This happens when they ask you questions about the places you show them and so in order to be embarrassed you get prepared in advance. This helps you grow!However, when offering my free touring services to tourists I would not be pushy if they don’t want my help.
If they don’t want, it means they don’t want. Leave them alone. Maybe they are not the first time visitors. Maybe they are looking for some kinds of adventures and so on.Are you wondering how you can offer your help and attract tourists so that you could practice your English? See my tips places where tourists usually hang out.
Look around and if you notice any tourists staring at their maps or looking around wondering what to do, just come up to them and say:“Excuse Sir, I see you have a little problem with orientation in our city. I can help if you like. Where do you need to go?”
“Oh well, hi, thanks. I need to go to … Is it far away from here?”
“Mmm… not really. Let’s go with me. I am kind of free today and can take you there”
“Oh great. I appreciate that.”
While you guys are going together, you can ask the tourist if he wants your help during the next few days. If the answer if ‘yes’, it is good for you. If the answer is ‘no’, it is still good for you because you have already managed to practice your English and gained some experience in both speaking and attracting the tourists.
Find another one now. =))
7. Volunteer in Projects
Another great opportunity for you to improve your speaking skills is to volunteer in different projects which may run at your school, college or university. Get involved, be active, help around and practice your English.You may think that you are working a lot without getting paid. Well, don’t worry there lots of hidden benefits here. Let me open them up for you.So if you volunteer in various projects, you …
I myself volunteered 3 years when I was a student and a recent graduate. I volunteered 2 years running English Club at my university and 1 year working as an office manager at Uzbekistan Teachers of English Association.
I can say it was only and only helpful both to practice my English and enjoy the benefits I have enlisted above.
8. Assist Your Teacher
Whenever possible, help your teacher of English both before and after the lessons. I can tell you that most of the teachers feel happy when some of their students offer their help voluntarily without being asked.
Again let me remind you that I am a teacher and oftentimes we get tired carrying all the materials, equipment or trying to arrange the furniture in the classroom.So offer you help and enjoy speaking with your teacher in English in an informal and friendly atmosphere.You feel much more relaxed because there will be no one except you and your teacher.
So if you make mistakes when speaking, it is OK because nobody can hear them.Besides if you teacher points out your mistakes, you can ask him to explain and clarify your doubts. Anyway, let me provide the list of benefits of helping your teacher below: So if you help your teacher, you can …
Use Basic SentencesI have already mentioned about discussing easy topics above. I should also tell you that you should use basic sentence structures.Don’t act like you are the smartest guy on this planet by trying to create complex sentences and so on.
Because if you just started speaking English, I am sure you will make mistakes anyway.They say originality is in simplicity. So be simple. Use simple, easy-to-construct and easy-to-understand sentences so that you feel easy to speak and your companion feels easy to understand.
When you feel you are confident in speaking English, you can always start using complex sentences, don’t worry.So start from the easy one.
9. Use Technology
Whenever possible use technology to record yourself when you speak. Then replay the record and listen to the way you have spoken. You will notice many of your own mistakes and next time when you speak, you can try to avoid making them again.
Relax and speak English without worrying too much about your grammar mistakes. Also when you try to speak English, don’t feel yourself as if somebody is watching you over your shoulders. Because if you do, then you lose your concentration and can’t remember your ideas. If you can’t remember what you wanted to say, then you can’t speak because you will have nothing to say.
11. Avoid Translating
Never try to translate directly from your own mother language into English word by word because the level of your native language is quite high. For example, if your English is Elementary or Pre-Intermediate, I am sure your native language is at Upper-Intermediate level, at least.Watch English MoviesWatch movies in English as much as possible.
You may argue that when you watch films you only improve your listening and pronunciation skills.Well, yes that’s true. I have nothing against that. But before you speak to people, should you first listen to their conversation or question and then speak?For that do you need to improve your speaking skills? Yes, you need. How? By watching English movies.Before your use the words, should you know how they are pronounced by native speakers of English?
Yes, you need, otherwise how you can learn pronunciation? Don’t tell me, you can check out your dictionary?
12. Run Presentations
Run presentations whenever there is an opportunity because, in order to run a presentation, you will need to make a little research on that topic, structure and practice your speech. This helps you learn how to speaking publicly with confidence in the front of the people.
13. Read Books
Yeah, I am saying read books because when you are reading, you are not only reading. You are also enriching and changing your worldview. You are learning new words. So if your worldview and vocabulary are rich, you can express your ideas very easily and clearly.
14. Focus on Ideas
Focus on your ideas in your mind while you are speaking not on your grammar. If you focus on your grammar too much, then you lose your freedom. When you lose your freedom, you can’t feel relaxed. When you are nervous, you can’t do anything, can you?
15. Hang Out With Stars
Find and hang out with star students whose English is almost excellent. Invite them over a coffee break or dinner and make them speak to you in English.
16. Work on Your Pronunciation
Work on your pronunciation because if you pronounce the words correctly and clearly, people will not stop you and say, “Sorry, did you say excuse me or squeeze me”Also if you can pronounce the words like Americans or British people would, you will feel yourself kind of proud and this will motivate you to speak English all the time.
By the way, there is no difference whether your pronunciation is like American or British. Just make sure you pick one and stick to one accent only.If you use both, you will be frustrated later on.
About the Author
My name is Akmal. I’m an English language enthusiast, blogger, writer and entrepreneur. In addition to being the founder of English Club Pro I’m also a teacher of English with more than 10 years experience. I love helping aspiring English learners to master their English.
English Club Pro helps you enjoy learning English, reach your goals faster and change your life once and forever.