Speaking is one of the most clearly recognised language skills.
It is unique among Writing, Reading and Listening because, unlike them, it cannot be done silently.
Speaking means actively producing meaningful sounds with your body: mouth, tongue, teeth and so on, using breath from your lungs.
There are also appropriate facial expressions and hand gestures that accompany speaking.
For all these reasons, Speaking is your most physical language skill.
So, as with other physical skills, such as playing tennis, you have to practise speaking.
The skill of speaking includes a range of micro-skills, including pronunciation of over 40 phonemes, active recall of vocabulary, production of suitable grammatical structures, and social /cultural behaviour such as turn taking.
Let’s look at Pronunciation. Some of the challenges of English pronunciation relate to differences between the sounds of English and the sounds of your first language.
I suggest finding out what these are, being aware of them, and working on what are called ‘minimal pairs’.
You might have difficulty with ‘L’ and ‘R’ for example, which can also affect your listening and spelling, such as ‘collect’ or ‘correct’.
The solution here is the position of your tongue.
Listen carefully to yourself and to other speakers of English.
Your practice should also include working on Fluency.
That is, when you speak at a normal pace and do not worry about small mistakes but keep the conversation going with lots of vocabulary, questions and exclamations, using intonation (the musical rise and fall of your voice) like native speakers.
Fluency practice is like a tennis player actually playing a game, different to working on improving backhand or serving during training.
Mistakes are an opportunity for learning.
This brings me to a final point: how do you respond to error correction, that is, when people ( a teacher or classmate or others) point out an error in your speaking?
Sometimes you might feel discouraged that you have made another mistake ( maybe a persistant one) but try to welcome the correction as an opportunity to learn and improve.
Also, look deeper into this mistake and try to really understand why it happened, or keeps happening.
Then work on a plan for changing it.
You can also correct yourself by actively, critically, listening to your own speaking and reflecting on your conversations later.
I hope you find these tips helpful. Enjoy your speaking!
Gregory Byrnes – Assistant Director of Studies, Sydney School
TOP 10 TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR ENGLISH SKILLS IN AUSTRALIA
EXTRA-ordinary English ONLY
Tips for getting past challenges when “hitting a plateau”
Speak English Only
Why you should make mistakes when you learn English
How technology can help you in your English studies
How do I improve my writing?
Is your vocab drab or fab? – Tips to learn vocabulary