We surprise a lot of our students with our unique Conversational approach when they start classes with us. When ESL students think of English lessons they think of intensive grammar lessons and complex phonetic charts. We don’t do any of that, at least at the hardcore theoretical level. However, we have helped over 1 million students in improving Spoken English. How do we do this?
Here are some key attributes of our secret recipe to improving Spoken English:
Practice with native speakers as often as possible – Improving Spoken English is all about practice.
It is impossible to be really fluent in English without practicing with native speakers. You can memorize thousands of words and you can know all the grammar rules by heart, but if you don’t practice speaking with native speakers you will never become truly fluent.
Lot of ESL students expect to learn grammar and simply be able to speak fluently. While comprehending grammar may be simple, understanding how to use it and how to use it appropriately and quickly in real conversations is the most difficult challenge for many English learners.
How do we get over this challenge? Practice as often as possible preferably with native English speakers. Immersion is the best way to learn English and if you can practice more with native speakers you will become fluent faster.
Learning to speak English (or any language for that matter) is about understanding the flow of the language. There are a lot of elements in the English language that makes it function but also make it difficult to learn. English speakers need to get an intuitive feel how these components sync with each other.
Things such as prepositions, figures of speech, and slang, are impossible to master by just memorizing theory. This is where learning to speak English becomes different from learning Biology or History. Theory becomes useless unless you have an intuitive understanding of the application. Practice is the key to improving Spoken English.
If you goal is to be really fluent in English, don’t start with grammar. If you goal is solely to pass an exam such as TOEFL or IELTS and if you only have very limited time, then it makes sense to just cram grammar rules as part of exam preparation.
Let me explain.
When you start learning a language, specially English with grammar, you are setting yourself up for failure. If you try to process all the grammar rules in your head and try to speak, you will not speak much! English grammar has so many of inconsistencies in its rules. For example, the possessive of “John” is “John’s” but the possessive of “it” is “its,” not “it’s,” which is a contraction of “it is.” You can’t simple memorize and apply all the grammar rules in English.
A better approach is to start speaking first and then improve grammar along the way. Think about it. This is the same way you learned your first language.
Both pronunciation and enunciation are very important aspects of learning English. Both are often overlooked or not given much time or importance in the typical ESL classroom. Proper pronunciation allows you to be understood well. It will make you feel more comfortable having conversations in English, resulting in a higher level of confidence.
What is the best way to improve pronunciation and enunciation? Lot of English teachers incorrectly take the speech therapist approach and try to get into actual mouth and tongue movement exercises. This should be the last resort not the first.
Lot of times, pronunciation, enunciation and tempo will improve once you start speaking English with native speakers. Your brain will adjust to the pace and tempo they speak. Your ears will adjust to the way they stress certain sounds. All these cues will help you unlearn and relearn the right way of pronouncing words in the English language.
So want to start improving your pronunciation? Find a Conversation partner first, not a speech therapist.
If you want to improve from a beginner level to an upper intermediate/advanced level in English, you have to make learning English a daily habit. Just like you go to the gym, create a learning environment where you improve different aspects of English daily. Watch movies in the English language, learn recipes in English, listen to English music, watch TED videos, listen to audio books, listen to podcasts, attend a club or church service in the language you are learning etc. The more your mind gets used to using English, the easier it becomes to communicate in English.
Like all habits, improving English becomes a process that gets easier once you start becoming more and more confident. So make sure you start speaking without been shy or embarrassed – you will be surprised how fast you can improve.
We see a lot of students who come to Spoken English Practice who are not confident to speak English at the start.
Some of them can even write fairly well in English but they get nervous when it comes to speaking. Our first suggestion is to stop “teaching” English and just starting conversations with them. Pick a topic that is of interest to them (E.g science, sports, cartoons etc) and have a conversion. Don’t correct mistakes. This process will eliminate some of the fear they have of making mistakes. Letting them hear their your own voice is a great way to start installing confidence.
Start “thinking in English” early. Start having conversations. You will get better in English even without realizing it.