It’s an undeniable fact that English, today, occupies center-stage position as the language that spells success. And almost everyone wants to improve their speaking skills, knowing that it will make a big difference to not just their success quotient but to their over-all personality. Speaking English fluently lends sheen to one’s personality and does wonders for one’s self-esteem. So let’s discuss some strategies that will ensure that our proficiency in speaking this language gets better with every passing day.
One thing to remember is that like all goals in life (SMART) this should be realistic. So we should not aim at speaking like native speakers, rather we should try and improve the areas where we lack e.g. grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary and build on those. Speaking well means speaking clearly,correctly and concisely and not with a‘fake’ accent. Do remember that you won’t be speaking only to native speakers: as many as a billion people speak English as a second language, and what’s more, it is a second language for us as well!
Speak in English
The next thing to keep in mind is to speak the language as much as possible, even if you’re not very sure of the accuracy. Practice makes perfect is a time-tested theory and applies to any and every field, without exception. So why shouldn’t we apply it to acquiring this particular skill? The more we speak, the better we get. So grab the opportunity to speak – with family, friends, on phone, in social set-ups, at the market place, in the mall-everywhere.
This tip comes with a corollary. Wherever possible, ask you companions to correct you every time you go wrong. This may not always be possible, but do this in your circle of friends or within the family or when with teachers. Develop a built-in mechanism for imbibing feedback and keep working on your mistakes. With every passing day, you will speak better and your confidence will grow.
Become an active Listener
Like two sides of a coin, speaking comes hand-in-hand with Listening. If speaking will help improve your skills, listening to English sounds, programmers, discussions, songs, even watching movies, will go a long way in helping improve your language. Listening gives us insights into the subtle nuances of sounds, the rhythm and the music of this beautiful language. While we should not try to emulate the example of native speakers, we can definitely pick up a lot on intonation and stress pattern by being active listeners.
And an avid Reader
Another excellent method for constant improvement is reading, but unfortunately, this beneficial habit is fast losing popularity. People don’t read any more or at least, not enough, but if you can cultivate this habit and read a good newspaper every day (especially the Editorial page) and progress to reading books of any kind that interest you, there’s no better way of improving your vocabulary. Please remember that just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, good vocabulary isn’t acquired overnight and can’t be learn’t by rote. Good reading habits invariably help in inculcating a rich vocabulary. So consciously build on this habit.
Work on building Vocabulary
When Reading’s here can Vocabulary be far behind? No tips on language improvement can be complete without some good vocab-building strategy. The best, as usual, is the simplest. While reading (or even otherwise) if you come across a word that’s unfamiliar, note it down in a small notebook or even your phone. Once free, check the meaning, usage and note this down. (Maintaining an excel sheet is a great idea and works wonderfully)however, doing just this is not enough. What you must do next is try and use this word because only when you do this will it be internalized. An experience I’m sure we’ve all had is when we hear a word for the first time, it doesn’t register at all. But as soon we look up its meaning and become familiar with it, we notice the same word being used within the next one or two days! That is the magic of learning new words!
However, a common myth that needs to be exploded at this junctureis that good speakers should use long-winded, complex words. Avoid using such words, you’re not expected to be a walkie-talkie dictionary! Long, complicated words are unnecessary when a shorter word will do and short sentences work better than ‘perambulatory expressions.’ KISS – keep it short and simple, is a very well-known maxim that we should stick to.
Speaking well and sounding proficient can happen only when our sounds are good. Therefore working on one’s pronunciation is another critical factor to great language skills. It’s here that having good listening skills stands us in good stead. For listening intently and picking up the subtleties of sound and diction is the best way of teaching oneself. When you listen to any good speaker-news reader, talk-show anchor, commentator-be mindful of their pronunciation. If you hear someone who is a good speaker pronounce a word very differently from the way you have always pronounced it, chances are you’re wrong. Without any hesitation, check the pronunciation and confirm who is right. If it’s the speaker, make sure you correct your pronunciation then onward, if it’s you who’s right, give yourself a big pat on the back!!
It’s good to know that syllable-stress and word stress play a significant role in English pronunciation so whenever there’s opportunity, learn a little about these aspects of sound but you don’t need to lose sleep over it. To start with, getting all the consonant and vowel sounds right is fine and you must be careful about sounds that you have a tendency to mispronounce (e.g. pronouncing examination as eggjaminasun) and keep working on them. With practice, you will be able to overcome this.
Another point to be kept in mind is avoiding the use of slang’s, especially in a formal situation like in an interview or at work. Even otherwise, it can lead to miscommunication if the person you’re talking to doesn’t know the particular jargon and is clueless about what you’re saying.
Following all the above tips means half the battle won. What remains is what we started out with: grasp every opportunity you have to speak with people in English. Talk to friends who are also learning English. Go out together for coffee and only speak English to one another!
Record your Voice
Recording your voice helps a lot so read out loud and record your voice. Also give yourself topics to speak on, record your views and play it back to see how you sound. This is a very effective method as no one’s a better critic of you than you yourself.
Watch yourself Speak
Talking in front of the mirror is another good tactic as it gives you valuable inputs on your facial expressions and body language. So do this or better still, get a well-meaning critic to listen to you speak and provide feedback.
One cardinal rule you must keep in mind is never be afraid to speak or of making mistakes. Remember, we all make mistakes in one area or the other, so the fear of going wrong should not deter us. It’s good to keep in mind that every error teaches us something, so look at them as stepping-stones to success.
And finally, one word of caution, don’t ever be harsh on yourself. Be patient and open to learning and these painstaking efforts will surely lead to success.
But keep striving and do not rest on your laurels. For, as Ralph Arbitelleverywisely said, Success is a journey, not a destination.
- A word a day
- Record your voice
- Use a dictionary
- Read aloud
- Speak before a mirror
- Watch International channels everyday
- Learn through games
- ‘Think’ in English