Do you feel like speaking English is hard? Like when you speak English your mouth isn’t working properly? This is a very common problem that many English learners have.
And this is very frustrating because learning a language should be fun. It should be interesting. It should be something that you enjoy doing. So in today’s video, we look at five things that you can do to improve your English speaking skills at home for free. Are you ready? Let’s go!
Think about this. You’re trying to speak a language but you don’t know how to make the sounds of that language. Do you think speaking will be easy? No of course not.
That’s why the first tip for today is to learn pronunciation. Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking ‘Shane but what do you mean by “learn pronunciation”?’
When I say ‘learn pronunciation’, I mean you need to learn to make the sounds of English like a native speaker. 80% is good enough. You can do it. Pronunciation is very easy.
Just listen to native speakers and copy them. And when you’re listening, don’t think about your accent, just try and copy exactly what you hear. We are all human so we can all make the sounds of every language but it just takes time and practice to learn.
Now learning pronunciation also includes learning connected speech. Connected speech is when native speakers speak naturally, they sometimes add sounds, change sounds, and remove sounds.
The example I always give is ‘What are you doing?’ This is correct. I said this correctly. But, when a native speaker says it really quickly, it normally sounds like this. Woddayuhdowing? Woddayuhdowing? You see how all of the sounds come together. We don’t say ‘What are you doing?’ They all come together to become ‘Woddayuhdowing?’
We recently put out a video on how you can speak English faster and more naturally. You can check it out right here.
Now, let’s talk about accent. Some people say that accent is not important when speaking English. But I disagree.
If someone is speaking to a native speaker, and the native speaker doesn’t understand that person’s accent, is accent important? Yes of course it is. Because it’s stopping the native speaker from being able to understand.
So if you want to be easily understood by native speakers, you should always be trying to improve your accent. So how do you improve your accent?
Well the first thing to do is to choose an accent that you want to have. Maybe it’s an American accent. A British accent. A Canadian accent. It’s all up to you.
Then, after you’ve chosen your accent, start listening to native speakers from that country and then copy them. But when you’re listening, forget your accent. Forget everything you know about pronunciation.
Just listen to the native speaker and copy them. Try and sound exactly like the native speaker.
For example, in my accent I don’t say ‘water’ or ‘water’. I say ‘water’. Water. So if you want my accent, listen to my pronunciation and copy it.
Now, think about this. You can make the sounds of English like a native English speaker. Do you think speaking English will be hard? No of course it won’t. It will be very easy for you. So if you want to improve your English speaking skills, learn pronunciation.
Let me ask you a question. Can you speak your language easily? Yes of course you can. Why is that? Well it’s because you know how to make the sounds of your language and you’ve been practising speaking for 20, 30, 40 years. However old you are.
When you do something for a long time and you do it every day, you will probably be very good at that thing and it will be easy for you, right?
So that’s why the second tip to improve your English speaking skills is to speak. But you have to make sure you are speaking correctly. In English we have a saying which says ‘perfect practice makes perfect’.
So if you practise something perfectly, you will become perfect.
Speak English every day in every opportunity that you can. Yes of course it’s better to talk to native speakers. But you don’t have to.
There are many other things that you can do to practise speaking. You can talk to yourself. You can listen to the TV and the radio and respond to what the person is saying. You can talk to Siri on your phone if you have an iPhone.
You just have to be very creative about it and you can practise speaking English in many different situations. If you learn your pronunciation and practise speaking English every day, this will improve your English speaking skills.
Do you think you could have a conversation with a native speaker if you only knew 10 words? No of course you couldn’t.
That’s why the third tip to improve your English speaking skills is to learn more words and phrases. The more words you know, the more you will be able to practise speaking English.
And the more words you know, the more you will be able to express yourself in different situations. So how can you learn new words and phrases in English?
Well one of the best ways is to speak to native speakers. Have a natural conversation with a native speaker and be very observant.
This means look to see which words they are using and more importantly, which words and phrases they are not using.
After your conversation, start using the words that the native speaker used. Start using the phrases that the native speaker used.
And more importantly, if you want to sound like a native speaker, don’t use the words that the native speaker didn’t use.
Knowing a lot of words in English is really good. But if you can’t put those words into sentences, then the words don’t really have much use, right?
That’s why the next tip to improve your English speaking skills is to listen to how native speakers use the language and then copy them.
For example, this includes connected speech and linking sounds. We talked a little bit about connected speech at the start of the video. For example, when the phrase ‘What are you doing’ turns into ‘Woddayuhdowing?’ Woddayuhdowing?
Another thing to listen for is contractions. Contractions are when two words become one shorter word. For example, ‘he is’ becomes ‘he’s’. ‘They are’ becomes ‘they’re’. ‘Have not’ becomes ‘haven’t’.
If you listen to native speakers a lot, you will see that native speakers love to use contractions because it allows them to speaker quicker and easier. Another thing to listen for is stress. Stress is about which sound has more emphasis or energy in a certain word or a sentence.
For example, the word ‘photography’. Photography. Where is the stress? Well the stress is on the second syllable. Photography. Photography.
But if you change the stress in this word, the word will sound weird. It won’t sound right. In sentences, which word or words are stressed can change the meaning of the sentence.
For example, If I say, ‘I didn’t say she did it.’ This means I am saying I didn’t say she did it but I might have done something else to show that she did it.
And the last thing to listen for is rhythm. ‘Rhythm’ means the sound of English when it’s spoken. Sometimes pitch goes up and sometimes it goes down. So if you want to improve your English speaking skills, it’s very important to think about rhythm when you’re speaking English.
To learn rhythm, the best way is to listen to native speakers and copy them. You can do this at home when you’re watching a movie or watching TV.
So in summary, listen to all these things and copy what you hear. Forget your own accent. Forget your own pronunciation. Just copy native speakers.
Another thing you can do which can help improve your English speaking skills is think in English. If you think in your language and then translate it to English in your head, this will make your spoken English slow and unnatural.
It may also cause you to have problems in understanding what native speakers are saying to you. And you may have problems answering native speakers because first you have to think about what you want to say in your language, and then you translate it to English and then you say it.
But, if you think in English when you hear something, you will understand it very quickly. If you want to say something in English, you will be able to say it very quickly because you won’t have to translate in your head. This will help improve your English speaking skills.
One thing you can do right now to start thinking in English is to start naming things in English. For example, if you see a bird, think ‘bird’. If you see a tree, think ‘tree’.
Just try to not let your language go into your head. Another thing you can do is write a diary. Write what down what you feel. Write down what you’re doing tomorrow.
And when you’re writing it, say what you’re writing out loud. So if you’re writing ‘Tomorrow, I will go to the gym’, I want you to say it out loud at the same time you are writing it.