Learning a new language can be a lengthy process. It is all well and good to add vocabulary words, and practice conjugating verbs, but there is still a long way to go before you are fluent, or even conversational. Classes in pronunciation can be a great place to start, but how do you begin to bring your spoken English beyond the classroom and into your everyday life?
There are lots of fun ways to rehearse and improve your English speaking skills while incorporating them into your life. The more you use English in your day to day activities, the more natural it will become for you to speak, and think ahead in your new language. Use this guide for some fun suggestions on how to improve your spoken English, and begin building confidence and accuracy.
Read Children’s Books
You may feel a little silly borrowing books from the library intended for children, but these can actually be a great way of expanding your English skills. Books written with children in mind often have short sentences, simple words, and pictures to help illustrate an idea. Even though you may not have read a children’s book in years, now is a great time to begin again. When you approach language from the perspective of a child learning a new language, you can build upon it more logically. We all started with children’s books when we were learning our native language, and now we can do it again to learn a second or third language too.
Label Objects Around Your House
Grab a marker, and some tape, and begin writing down the English names for all the things you use every day. From your toothbrush, to your coffee mug, to your phone. Having these continual reminders are an excellent way to reinforce a good vocabulary. It can also help to get you thinking in English a little bit. Seeing these words repeated will allow you to know them without having to think too hard. Once you have your everyday objects memorized, you can begin adding in new words easily.
Watch Television Shows and Movies in English
If you feel like you can keep up with a fast moving conversation (or if you want to practice trying) watching TV or movies in English is a great way to train your ear in your new language. Sometimes, you might feel nervous about holding a conversation in English with a native speaker, because you are afraid they will go too fast, or use too many unfamiliar words. Watching TV gives you a chance to observe conversations at a regular pace, without having to answer anyone. You could even begin by watching some movies you are already familiar with, and see if you can follow along with the scenes in English. If you have a good idea of what the movie is about already, this can be a great way to begin thinking about English dialogue before you have to try it out in person.
Try Out Simple Activities in English
Try doing a short activity where the instructions are all in English. For instance, you could get directions to a nearby store, and see if you can follow them using only English terms. For fun, you could also try to follow a short recipe written in English, or see if you can make a small list for the grocery store. The simple steps ought to be easy to figure out, and require minimal checking. Completing small tasks in another language is an excellent way to begin incorporating it into your life.
Listen to Music in English
Some of us have a much easier time memorizing songs, than we have memorizing written text. Songs sung in English are a great tool to help you become familiar with new words and phrases. When you find music you like, listening to it over and over again is fun, but it is also teaching you some valuable English lessons too. Listen to how the words are being pronounced, and listen to how they fit together with other words and sounds. Sometimes, music can be the best teacher for a new language, especially if you are already a music lover. It doesn’t even feel like work!
Read English Out Loud
When learning a new language, it is especially important to say the words out loud. This is because the way it sounds in your head might be different from the way it sounds when you say it. Speaking and reading aloud can help you discover if there are certain words or sounds you struggle to pronounce. Keep a list of the words you find difficult, and keep them aside for later practice. Also, the act of speaking out loud is a great way to keep your mind engaged with what you are learning. We all know how our minds can wander when reading a book or a newspaper. Speaking the words out loud can help you remain focused on your studies, while also getting you used to the new pronunciations.
Talk With Native English Speakers
As you learn English, you will probably begin to make some English speaking friends along the way. This is a great opportunity for you to practice conversations. That list of words you have been having trouble with? Bring that along, and ask your friends to help you pronounce them correctly. Speaking with friends is usually a low pressure situation, so there is no need to be afraid of making mistakes in front of them. Ask them if you can practice important discussions you may have coming up. If you are planning a meeting or an interview in English, ask your friends to rehearse it with you, so that you can feel more comfortable when the time comes.
Teach the People Around You Some Basic English Words
The more you can immerse yourself in a new language, the easier it becomes to learn. If you are living with children, family or roommates, consider teaching them a few English words to use. Some basic greetings like “Hello”, “Good afternoon”, and “How are you?” are all easy and fun ways to get the people around you speaking English with you. Help them learn the names of a few everyday objects like “Car”, “Tree”, “House”, and “Store” and make a game out of saying the words while you are out. This is good practice for you in terms of both speaking and listening.
Keep Up on The News
Many international news broadcasts are in English, and this can be a good way to practice listening and understanding. Usually, a news broadcast is accompanied by either a video, or pictures of what is going on. This can be a chance to see if you can follow what is happening on screen, and match it up with what the reporters are saying. News reports sometimes use the same words over and over again, so this can be a good guide to pronunciation too.
Set Improvement Goals
Decide how quickly you would like to see improvement, and set goals for yourself. Perhaps you would like to learn one new word every day, and try to use it when speaking. You may also want to make your goal more long term, and you could choose something like “Read a novel in English by the end of the year”. You know best how to pace your learning. Too much can be stressful, and too little can let you fall out of practice. Keep a list of your goals handy, and remind yourself to always work towards them. As you begin to meet your goals, you will get a concrete sense of how much you are improving.
There are many programs available which can help you with everything from translation to spelling to pronunciation. Do not be afraid to use these programs heavily at first, when you are just beginning to learn. A good test of your skills might be to gradually reduce the amount of technology you use to help you, and see how much you can understand without it. It is definitely a good idea to turn to technology if you get stuck on a difficult word or phrase, but as you continue to learn, you will find that you need to rely on your computer or phone less and less.
Travel to English Speaking Countries
If you are able, taking a vacation or holiday to a country where English is spoken can be a really effective crash course. All of the signs will be in English, along with everything on TV and the radio. You can practice simple conversations in stores, or while out sight seeing. Asking something easy like “Where is the museum?” and then listening to the response is a easy way to participate in language practice without feeling nervous. Plus, you get to take a wonderful trip to somewhere new!