September 25th, 2008
If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me how they could improve their spoken English I’d be rich. I’m going to try to avoid wasting time with the most obvious answers: Spend more time studying, spend more time speaking, bla bla bla. Everyone knows those basic things. Let’s look at the slightly less obvious answers.
For the newest information, check out: How to Improve Spoken English
1. Practice saying new things:
It’s easy to get into a habit where you always express your ideas the same way. Native speakers use different ways of saying things to spice up their language. Pay careful attention when you hear native speakers speak English. They will often use phrases that you don’t use. You will understand what they say, but you probably wouldn’t think to use those words yourself. Make a note of what they say, repeat it to yourself a few times, and try to use that same expression the next time you have a chance.
2. Spend more time listening.
Listening to native English will help your spoken English in two ways. First it will give you a chance to hear the expressions native speakers use. It will allow you get a feel for the grammar. The more time you spend listening, the more fluently you will speak. (Of course, listening alone isn’t enough. You really do need to practice speaking.) The second way it will help you with your spoken English is that it will improve your accent over time. It may be impossible to get a 100% pure native accent, but that certainly doesn’t mean your accent can’t be improved. Pay close attention to the way native speakers sound and how you sound. Notice the differences and try to constantly improve them. Many ESL learners get lazy with this, and once they are understood, they stop trying to work on their accent. It’s not necessary that you sound like a native speaker, but remember that you can get closer to that goal if you want to.
3. Read and think out load.
You will probably feel weird while doing this but It could actually help. Just because no one is there to listen, it doesn’t mean you can’t practice. Pretend someone asked you a question, and answer it out load.
4. Record your voice.
Buy a tape recorder and record your own voice. Listen to native speakers say something and then record yourself saying the same thing. Play it back and notice any differences. Record yourself several times, each time trying to sound closer and closer to the native speaker.
Most ESL learners get lazy and don’t take these steps. Try them for yourself and let me know how quickly your spoken English improves.