Many English, or in fact any foreign language learners, fall into the trap of thinking that they must learn the whole of the grammar book and at least half of the dictionary before they dare to venture into the speaking world.
Perhaps, some are simply lacking the platform or the place to practise their speaking skills, others just don't have the financial means. But more often than not too many are afraid of speaking for fear of making mistakes and looking silly, and unfortunately too many tutors and teachers provide everything except the confidence to speak. Students are merely repeating the classroom language without the spontaneity of real-life conversations, or worse – practising endless grammar exercises again without ever getting a chance to speak. And this is a major problem, since in the first place most of us learn a foreign language to be able to communicate to others, rather than to be able to perform grammar exercises.
I personally have been studying French for sometime and have been certainly guilty of not practising it enough, simply because in my classroom all of the other students were bilingual native speakers and hence at a much higher level than I was, leaving me in fear of speaking with mistakes and sounding silly. But I had to get over this and say to myself that if I want to learn, I need to get over my fear of being judged and speak as much as possible. And so should you get over your fear of speaking. NOW. Today! Because just simply for taking that step in speaking you must applaud yourself.
As with any new skill, we all must start somewhere and your speaking a foreign language is brave in itself. Secondly, you must accept that you will make mistakes – many mistakes, silly mistakes and over and over again even if you practised these on paper. Because spoken language does not compare to writing- you have much less time to process your thoughts in a real life conversation and there is certainly no edit button to modify what you said. Which is why, practice is a must to improve your speaking skills.
Here are a number of options I personally recommend, which you can follow to start honing your verbal skills.:
Practice with another learner
A great way to practise is with another fellow student learner. A great advantage is that this will not cost you anything and the support you provide each other will be of great value as a motivating factor. Plus, it’s unlikely you both will be making the exact same mistakes, so there is a good chance of correcting each other. However, the obvious pitfall is hearing other student’s mistakes and not being able to tell that this is incorrect English and, as a result, picking up a number bad speaking habits.
Find a speaking club
An additional platform to practice your speaking skills is to join a speaking club, which usually is either free thanks to the volunteers or are at a lower cost than lessons and are merely for speaking, leaving all the books aside. You will be able to converse to others on a number of topics, and hopefully, if the speaking club is managed by native or native level speakers, you will get invaluable feedback.You can also find interests groups, for example to discuss foreign language books with others in the target language – a great option if you are a reading fan. Can't find such a club? Create one! Internet offers access to the whole world so surely you can connect with like-minded English learners who would be more than happy to join in.
Speak to yourself
A less obvious and perhaps a slightly crazy sounding idea is to speak to yourself.
Yes you heard me correctly. Because that’s what thoughts are – speaking to yourself. So if you manage to convert the language of your thoughts from time to time from native to the one you’re learning, this will be a great way to practice, albeit without feedback. One of the techniques I recommend to my students is to prepare a talk for a few mins and to record themselves – as when you listen to what you have recorded, you will spot a number of mistakes and hopefully will be more aware of these the next time you speak.
The best option( in my humble opinion)
Finally, the most efficient and effective, albeit the most expensive option is to practise individually with a native or a native level speaker, preferably a teacher, as you get immediate feedback and 100% attention. But again, your choice depends on your goals and hence the time pressure you are under. If you’re preparing for an exam or an interview, this means that your goals are very specific and you will need as much support, feedback and flexibility as is possible which a (good) private tutor is in the best position to provide. Or, you can simply supplement your other speaking options with this one and so you will yield much greater results from your private classes.
I hope this short article was useful to you. If you’re thinking of becoming my student, please do not hesitate to contact me. Otherwise best of luck in your foreign language studying endeavours. And if you’re on Instagram, do follow my profile for useful English tips.