I often create these posts because I feel like it bears repeating and also because others may be new to the site. I keep getting asked how long it will take for a person to speak better. Well, there is no short answer for this because everyone is different. It is also important to keep in mind that you might have advanced grammar skills but be beginner for speaking skills. This can be frustrating. The reverse, by the way, can also be true.
The problem is that if you are looking to advance YOUR OVERALL LEVEL you need to have all of your reading, writing, grammar, and speaking skills start to match up. For example, a teacher might tell you that you are C-1 when all they have done is speak to you. TAKE NOTE OF THIS: when someone tells you that-- and if they have only spoken to you once or twice, it DOES NOT MEAN that you are C-1 OVERALL (all of the time). I could write a whole post about levels, but this is about how you can improve in a short time. If any of this sounds like you, read on.
So are you someone who can read and write well in English but cannot speak fluently?
Remember, improving English speaking is not like learning History or Biology. You can’t learn English speaking by learning theory. You have to practice with native speakers and learn how to speak naturally without mental translations. This is how people who move to English speaking countries improve English so fast. They “talk” with Native English speakers.
1.) Learn Real Conversational English, rather than the “proper” or book-taught language. Native speakers do not speak textbook English. They use a lot of idioms and slang and figures of speech when they speak.
2.) Use TED talks or Podcasts to listen to English regularly. Turn on the subtitles if you feel it is necessary and listen as much as you can. You must be able to understand English when spoken to be able to speak back.
3.) Keep a diary in English. Learn to express ideas in English. You brain needs to learn to “think” in English, not your native language.
4.) Avoid studying things such the international phonetic alphabet (IPA). Learn pronunciation through the “ear”. No one ever improves pronunciation and accent by watching someone else’s shape of the mouth!!
5.) Learn as much Colloquialisms and Idioms as possible.
Colloquialisms and Idioms vary a lot depending on whether you are learning British English or American English.
6.) Never memorize vocabulary. Rather learn how to actively absorb new words. Look at phrases and slang and full sentences instead.
7.) Build on your vocabulary gradually, beginning egocentrically. That is, begin with words needed to communicate basic needs and wants. Then build your vocabulary outward, ultimately realizing the ability to express abstract thoughts and ideas.
8.) Never memorize grammar rules. This is a complete waste of time.
9.) Most Native English speakers don’t know 80% of grammar rules. You don’t need grammar to speak English.
10.) Read good English articles from websites such as the New York times or the Washington post. You can pick articles that are close to your profession. For example, if you are an aspiring finance manager, you can find posts about stock markets and mortgage rates.
11.) Read out loud and compare the recording to native English speakers. You will understand where the gaps are. Also, hearing your own voice talking in English will make you feel more confident.
I hope these tips continue to help you. Remember, to work hard and be consistent and make sure that you have a REAL, preferably certified, teacher helping you, and testing you regularly so that you can see your improvement, and above all else, do not believe anyone that tells you that you are at a specific level if they all they have ever done is speak with you. Request a placement test if your teacher does not offer you one. Levels are generally determined by a test that looks at reading, writing, speaking, listening, and grammar.