Speak as much as possible
The best way to improve your speaking and learn to speak naturally without translating and thinking is by speaking as much as possible. It doesn’t matter what level you have. You need to start speaking from day one. Take a look at some ideas we have for speaking activities.
Self-correction is one of the best skills you can develop. Just like learning English, it is not something you can learn from a book. It is a skill that you develop through training. Here are some things that you can do to help train this skill.
- Keep a special notebook or list of your specific mistakes. You might need a teacher or an English-speaking friend to help you find these mistakes. Remember to prioritise your mistakes. This means that you should first focus on the mistakes that stop you from communicating clearly.
- Review this list as much as possible. It is especially useful to review your mistakes just before starting a speaking activity.
- Don’t run away from your mistakes! Try to speak about things that will force you to use the particular grammar or vocabulary that you usually make mistakes with. The only way to learn to self-correct is to notice when you are making the mistake and know what is correct. So force yourself to use your ‘problematic’ phrases.
- Pay close attention to English speakers. One of the most natural ways to learn to self-correct is by listening to English speakers a lot. You will start noticing that what you say doesn’t sound right.
- An additional resource to help you self-correct is to find a book of ‘typical mistakes’ made in English by people who speak your mother tongue. This can help you identify other mistakes that you might be making.
Focus on clear communication
Mistakes are a normal and important process of learning English. There is not a single person learning a second language who doesn’t make mistakes. Your priority should always be to focus on making sure your communication is clear. Your message is the most important thing.
This means that you need to prioritise. You should focus your energy and attention on reducing the mistakes that block your message. The other extra mistakes can wait! By doing this you should also start to speak more quickly because you won’t be as focused on trying to speak ‘perfectly’.
How you feel affects how you speak
Have you ever found that when you’re nervous you speak worse in your mother tongue? Think about when you have given a presentation or spoken in front of many people. It’s just the same in English. How you feel in a particular situation or in general about your English will really affect how you speak. It’s really important to think about how you’re feeling. Try to relax, focus on the message and remember that it’s completely normal to make mistakes. Nobody expects you to speak perfectly. So you shouldn’t either.
Prepare for specific situations
If you need to speak better for a specific situation, for example a job interview, a presentation, or a trip, then focus your time and energy on preparing for that particular situation. Prepare explanations, responses and questions for it and focus on what is really important and relevant. Remember, when we do something that is relevant to us, our brain naturally works harder for us!