Many of us who speak English as a second language have a strong accent, difficulty learning how to pronounce the 12 different vowels, and much more. But with a little effort, we can always learn to speak better. The following tricks will definitely help you improve your English.
1. Record yourself speaking English
It’s that simple. Because when you think about how to say things, it can sound good or almost British in your head… but comes out wrong in real life, or you get tongue-tied. Turn the recorder on and read a text aloud, then listen to yourself and how your voice sounds in English, and you’ll have a better understanding of what you say wrong.
2. Read aloud dialogues in English
This can be combined with the first tip, but doesn’t have to be. Look for dialogues and practice the most common questions and answers. With time, things will come automatically and you’ll start to copy the English way of speaking.
A website where you can find dialogues: http://www.agendaweb.org/listening/practical-english-conversations.html
3. Sing songs in English
While driving, in the shower, in the street… The point is that you become familiar with the expressions, rhythm of words, tone, etc. A good way of doing this is to look up the lyrics of your favorite song and sing it as you read and listen to it until you know it by heart. In addition to understanding it all, you will expand your vocabulary a lot.
4. Watch videos in English, then pause them and repeat what you hear
It sounds difficult, right? Maybe, but what could be better than you putting on a series or a film you like and talking like your favorite characters? If that doesn’t sound good, I’ve found a couple of web channels and websites with videos about English conversation:
5. Substitute the verbs you know with phrasal verbs
There are dozens of different ways to say things in English, so when you know a verb well, go to the dictionary and look up a synonym, learn it and try to use it instead of the one that seems easier. It’s annoying, but the British love to use phrasal verbs. It is a very normal thing to do, so you have to stop talking like a foreigner. Here’s a list: https://www.englishclub.com/vocabulary/phrasal-verbs-list.htm
6. Learn short automatic answers
This is a bit more difficult, but we must make some answers automatic in order to improve. For example, if you are asked where you are from, where you live, what you do… invest some time in finding the most correct way to say it, or even different ways of saying it. This will help you both in interviews and when you meet people for the first time.
7. Practice how to tell stories and narrative sentences
This is related to the previous point. Commit to writing down and translating things that happen to you. In a language school you are asked to write essays about your holiday, talk about your friends and similar things. Even if you have no one to correct you at first, the effort you put in looking for ways to what you want to explain helps you learn about English, so you realize that the things you say without thinking too much don’t sound good in English. So do classroom writing assignments on your own at home.
For starters, you can do some online exercises: http://www.eltbase.com/vtr_refs.php?id=201.
8. Find a famous person you like and figure out what makes them a good speaker
There are great speakers throughout history that know how to motivate people and connect with them through exciting speeches… well, that’s what you have to look for. You can watch anything from a monologue by Ricky Gervais to a speech by Barack Obama: the important thing is that you see how they say things and notice the pauses, rhythm, etc.
9. Practice tongue-twisters
Do you find contractions or speaking quickly difficult? The only solution is to learn and train your tongue with similar but different sounds. An example:
I saw Susie sitting in a shoe shine shop.
Where she sits she shines, and where she shines she sits.
More tongue-twisters: http://www.uebersetzung.at/twister/en.htm
10. Learn to interrupt and ask questions politely
Conversations should go both ways, so participate and give your opinions when you don’t agree with something. But you have do it right and not be rude. Here are some smooth ways that will improve your conversational skills: http://languagelearningbase.com/85072/ways-of-interrupting-someone
11. Listen and read poetry (or rap) to learn about English rhythm and rhymes
If your goal is to speak English proficiently, poetry and rap are two ways to learn a lot of vocabulary, fluency and speaking skills.
100 best poems in English: http://100.best-poems.net/
English Poems (Audio): http://www.poetryoutloud.org/poems-and-performance/listen-to-poetry
12. Learn to paraphrase
In order to practice everything you known about a language and avoid sounded repetitive, you have to use different expressions, words and rhetoric to give information in different ways. Paraphrasing refers to rewriting a given sentence using your own words. That is, the new sentence contains the same idea as the original one but is written in a different way. Besides using different words, you can use different grammar. The main purpose of paraphrasing has to do with being able to use another person’s ideas while writing your own texts.
Exercises for you to practice:
I hope you find this useful. Remember, it’s all about effort and practice!