Do you feel confident reading English, but find it difficult to speak without hesitating?
If so, you’re not alone. One of the biggest challenges faced by students is learning to speak English fluently. It’s easiest for people who move to English-speaking countries. They have to use English every day: in shops, at work, at college and on public transport.
But if you don’t live in an English-speaking country, you have to be a little more creative if you want to practise speaking English. It can be tempting to focus on reading and listening, but if you really want to become an expert user of English, you need to make speaking the language part of your daily routine. That’s the way speaking English will become second nature to you.
So how can you do it? In this post, we share our top 8 practical ways to practise speaking English. You can use them anywhere in the world, no matter what your skill level.
Let’s take a look at what they are!
1. Change your smart speaker settings
Do you have one or more smart speakers at home? Did you know that some of them will allow you to talk to them in two languages? If yours lets you do this, change its settings so that you can give instructions in English as well as your mother tongue.
Once you’ve changed the settings, you can have a lot of fun talking to your smart speaker in English. For example, if you have an Amazon Alexa speaker, this page has lots of funny things you can ask it, such as:
- Alexa, give me a kiss!
- Alexa, do you know the muffin man?
- Alexa, can you sing in autotune?
Similarly, if you have a Google Home speaker, there are also lots of entertaining things you can ask, including:
- What language do you speak?
- Do you have an imagination?
- What is the meaning of life?
Of course, you can still use English to get useful information from your smart speaker, such as the daily news, weather and delivery status of your online orders. Be creative!
2. Talk to yourself!
You don’t need an audience to practise speaking English. You can talk to yourself at any time!
The big advantage of talking to yourself is that you can choose whatever topic or theme you like. For example, one day you could decide to speak using the present tense. The next day you could switch to the future or past tenses, and so on.
One top tip is to speak to yourself while standing in front of a mirror. That way you can see how clearly you are pronouncing words and phrases. An even better alternative is to video yourself as you speak in English. This lets you play back the footage and get a more objective view of your pronunciation and fluency.
3. Narrate your everyday life
If it’s difficult for you to dedicate time to speaking English, why not narrate your everyday life? As you walk to the shops, take the bus or train, go for a run or do any other activity, try describing in English what you see around you. How many people are walking ahead of you? What different products are on sale in the shops? How many stops has your bus made on the way to its destination? What would advertising posters say if they were written in English?
Of course, you may not be comfortable speaking out loud when there are other people around. But if even if you narrate your day silently, you’ll be thinking in English – and that’s the main skill you need in order to speak fluently.
4. Try shadowing
This tip is great for polishing your accent, as well as improving your familiarity with spoken English. All you need to do is watch an English-speaking film or listen to anglophone radio or podcasts. When someone speaks, try saying exactly the same thing immediately afterwards. By doing this, you are acting as an ‘echo’ or a ‘shadow’.
For shadowing to work best, don’t stop the audio before you repeat the words. Try to keep up. Why? Because this is the technique developed by linguist Alexander Argüelles, who can ‘read about three dozen languages and speak most of them fluently‘!
5. Read aloud
You probably read a lot of English to help improve your language skills. Whether you’re interested in online articles, novels and short stories, magazines or anything else, make a habit of reading them aloud whenever possible. That way, you’ll not only become familiar with the written words, but you’ll get valuable practice of speaking them.
6. Practise speaking with friends
It can be incredibly motivating to learn with friends. So, if you have friends who either speak English or are learning it, be sure to create opportunities to talk to each other. Whether you arrange regular English conversation sessions, decide to speak English when you meet up for a drink, or have regular video chats via WhatsApp, Skype or Zoom, you’ll be helping each other to practise and learn.
7. Play online games
We’ve already blogged about how online gaming can help you improve your English. Games with online text and audio chat are great because they allow you to communicate with native English speakers as you play. You’ll also learn some really fun gaming slang along the way.
8. Take online classes led by a native English speaker
The very best way to improve your spoken English is to spend time learning with an expert native speaker. That way you can get instant feedback on your spoken English, learn lots of idioms and useful phrases, and ask for help when you need it. These days you can access online courses led by native speakers, wherever you are in the world. For example, live online classes with English Online give you the opportunity to take part in small-group tutorials led by an English speaker. Alternatively, you can sign up for one-to-one tuition with a personal English tutor.
Practising your spoken English needn’t be difficult, and it can often be fun. Be creative, make use of what resources you have available to you and – if possible – try and spend at least some time talking with native speakers. One thing we do know: if you make speaking English part of your daily routine, you’ll learn to speak more fluently, much faster.