I have quite a few students describing what amounts to being nervous when they speak, lacking confidence, being afraid that they will make a mistake. These are all common issues, but here are some steps you can take into consideration and remember the next time you do not feel confidence speaking English.
Set time aside for your English each day and make it a priority because the more you know, the more confident that you will feel.
Any time you spend on your English should be seen as an investment in your future fluency. Many small steps will help you travel a long distance over time. Having a clear idea of exactly why you need English and what you will gain as a result of being fluent is important in order to see it as a priority in your busy life. The amount of time you choose to invest in your English is up to you, but this should be a regular commitment and it will directly affect the speed at which you gain fluency.
Actively introduce more English into your daily routine. Immerse yourself.
Make a conscious effort to inject more English into your typical day. Try the following: read one BBC news article on your iPad while you’re having breakfast each morning, listen to an English audiobook or radio station on your way to work, do a 10-word vocabulary test during your lunch break using a mobile app, write an email to a foreign colleague or friend, watch a 5-minute Youtube video from a learning English channel, study a little grammar from a textbook some evenings, attend a Skype English class a couple of times a week, organize an English film night at home once a month with a friend, etc.
Use your native language less
If you spend 99% of your time speaking your mother tongue and only 1% is left for English, improving your fluency is always going to be an uphill struggle. Are there situations in which you could use English instead of your native language? This technique is called “replacement” and examples might include: changing the language on your mobile phone to English, watching TV in English 50% of the time or choosing to read a book in English instead of in your native language.
Stop thinking of English as just a “textbook subject”
Try to view English more as a way of life and less as a school subject. Any contact with the language will help you to speak English more fluently over time so why limit yourself to just traditional classrooms and textbooks? Taking a broader perspective is likely to make the learning process far more interesting. Native English speakers have regular contact with the language in a wide range of contexts – so should you! Verbling is a perfect place to start speaking.
Find some study buddies!
Involve those around you in your efforts to become more fluent in English; ask them to help you practice, to test your vocabulary or to correct your writing. Those who are close to you can play an important role in supporting and maintaining your new “English lifestyle”. However, also be aware that some could resent your time being spent on English so may try to prevent this positive change.
Don’t look for a quick fix – there isn’t one!
We are living in a world where advertising teaches us to believe everything can be gained quickly and easily with a minimum of effort. In reality, the best things in life are often gained by working consistently to achieve a goal over time. This is certainly the case when learning how to speak English fluently. If you go online, you’ll find lots of books and websites with catchphrases like: “how to learn English fast”, “speak great English in just 3 weeks” or “the easy way to learn English”. However, achieving fluent English is never easy or fast and learners who fail to acquire good English are usually those who a) look for a quick fix solution, or b) do not make enough of a personal investment in their studies in terms of time, effort and money. If you really want to know how to speak English fluently, avoid the gimmicks, take responsibility for your own progress and follow the advice in this post.
Set realistic goals and allow adequate time for improvement
Many learners set unrealistic targets for themselves, fail to follow their own study timetable and are then disappointed by the end result. Do not let yourself fall into this trap!
Start by setting a series of small and achievable goals in the short-term (e.g. next 3 months). Write down your current commitments and decide how much time you have each week to dedicate to your English. Then compare your list of study goals with your availability and create a realistic plan.
Remember that fluency in English is a “percentages game”
Accept that you may never become a native English speaker, but that this is not the goal. Work towards improving your respective skills step-by-step over time. It is unlikely you will ever gain a 100% native English accent, but perhaps 90% would be enough. Keep your goals clear in your mind – e.g. with accent the main thing is to be understood by everyone and that means clear, standard pronunciation with minimal confusion between similar sounds. This principle also applies to your other English skills.
Visualize your progress to appreciate what you have achieved so far
Motivation often comes from seeing the result of your efforts. Testing your skills from time to time can help you visualize your progress so you feel positive about your English. For example, try setting yourself a 20-word/phrase vocabulary test at the end of each week. A larger vocabulary makes understanding the language a lot easier and also helps you speak English more fluently.
I hope these tips helped you. If you are being consistent and doing these things, you will notice a difference. Remember that there is NO substitute for speaking with native people. The more you speak (3-4 times a week, at first), the faster your conversation confidence improves.
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