Learning how to speak English confidently is incredibly important for anyone studying the language. There is simply no substitute for using your language skills to communicate in real-time and in real life – and there is nothing more fun. Regardless of your level, here’s how to speak English better in 10 easy steps:
1. Imitate away
When most people think about learning English, they think about piles of books, memorizing lists and studying with cards. All of these are helpful in their own way and shouldn’t be ignored. However, many people forget – or shy away from – the active side of language learning – exploring, playing, listening, and repeating.
Studies show that imitation is one of the best ways to improve your language skills. Listening to others and repeating what they say and how they say it – even intonation, emotion and choice of words – is one of the most powerful and fun ways to make progress.
2. Avoid learning word by word
Are you tired of memorizing lists of verbs and feeling like you still can’t speak confidently? It’s time to change your strategy. This time, learn full expressions – this is calledchunk-based learning.
Think of new expressions as a unit that you can’t separate. Listen and repeat. For a moment, allow yourself to forget about grammar or the meaning of each word until the expression starts to feel natural.
Be practical and “copy paste” what you hear without creating unnecessary obstacles. This would mean learning an expression like “I need water” as a whole, rather than translating word by word and learning how to conjugate the verb “to need” before you do it.
3. Use what you’ve learned immediately
If there is one thing your brain enjoys, it is feeling useful. Our brains dislike wasting time with information we don’t use. (Maybe that’s why you keep forgetting the English words you tried learning yesterday!)
Here’s a tip: even if you are alone in the room, the first thing you should do when you see a new expression or phrase in front of you is reading it out loud immediately. Repeat it several times until you’re able to say it without looking at the paper. If you write down three sentences using that new word, even better. This is the moment when you stop memorizing and start using English!
4. Be an actor
Actors have one mission: to study a text and then make people believe that text is real. They do that by using emotion, exaggeration, repetition and practice. So why not be inspired by your favorite actors and do the same?
Here’s a game. When you are alone, take a piece of paper and write down an English expression – any expression you want to learn. Now, try reading it until you can say it without looking at the paper. The next step is trying to say that expression with different emotions. Don’t be afraid to exaggerate! After a while, you will get used to the sound of the expression without even having to think about it.
5. Listen to others as much as you speak
Many English learners struggle with speaking for three reasons: they areembarrassed by their foreign accent, they don’t remember key words when they need them, and they can’t really understand when people reply back to them, which leads to awkward situations.
Solution: expose yourself to as many songs, series, documentaries, accents and conversations as possible. This will help you understand how English sounds in different countries and how it is spoken by different people.
Bonus – by doing this, you will realize that many, many foreigners around the world have accents but they are still easily understood by natives and can communicate effectively. So…why not you? A foreign accent isn’t the end of the world – it is just proof that you were brave enough to learn something new!
6. Listen to yourself and get feedback from native speakers
Some English students are so shy and nervous that they postpone speaking indefinitely. After months of study, they realize they have never actually heard themselves speak! It is essential that you start practicing basic sentences from day one – out loud. Hear yourself. Listen to how English sounds when you speak it.
A good way to start is recording yourself reading simple texts. This helps you in two ways. First, you start getting comfortable with the sound of English coming out of your mouth. Secondly, you can save your recording to keep track of your progress in the future and see how fantastic your progress has been!
It’s essential that you find somebody to give you feedback on your speaking – ideally a native speaker. One of the most powerful ways to do this is to study English in an English-speaking country where you get continuous feedback – in class, while you’re shopping, out on the town and even from your host family. Learning through immersion is so powerful because it makes your whole life a learning opportunity – and the more you use your English in a natural setting with native speakers of all walks of life, the faster your progress will be.
If this isn’t an option, get continuous feedback from your local or online teacher, a tutor or any kind native English speaker you know.
7. Become visual
Visual learning is powerful – and increasingly popular. Research shows that images associated with words help us recall much more efficiently, and that means less difficulty speaking.
Next time you want to remember a new expression, use one of your own pictures or an image you find on Google Images to represent this vocabulary. Choosing your own images for a flashcard or a notebook is key to remembering these words next time!
8. Narrate your life
Your brain is more likely to remember new vocabulary if you apply it to your own life andmake it as personal as possible. For that reason, it’s smart to take an expression you have recently learned and ask yourself “How would I use this in my personal situation? In which contexts do I see myself using this?”.
This has two benefits: first, you will feel like what you're learning is useful and avoid frustration. Secondly, you will make your life easier because next time you have to talk about yourself, your memories and your experiences, you will be ready because you have already practiced!
9. Start singing
Science has proven that thepart of our brains that engages with music is also active when you process language. English students who often listen to music in English tend to have better pronunciation skills and understand other speakers more easily – English just comes more naturally to them.
Singing is a fantastic way to get in a good mood and improve your English at the same time. Next time you find a song you like, search for the lyrics (text) of the song on the Internet and read at the same time as you listen. Next, sing the song at the same time. Pay attention to the way words are pronounced and imitate what you hear to be as similar as possible. You’ll soon find yourself accidentally singing it without needing the lyrics.
10. Know your priorities
Ask anybody: “Why are you learning English?”. Answers will be different, but most people will say: “because I want to get a better job”, “because I want to move to London”, “because my partner speaks English”, or “because I love English”.
However, do you believe you would hear somebody say “I want to speak English because I want to be perfect”? Probably not! Always remember that your priority should be efficient communication, not perfection. Focus on getting your message across, and that means speaking as soon as you can and as much as you can.