How to expand your English Speaking Skills - BELS Malta

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Use our self-study guide to improve your English-speaking skills

Why is it important to improve your English speaking skills from the first stages? Many learners measure their learning success by how well they can engage in a conversation in English. Most students see speaking as the goal, not as a learning strategy. Yet speaking is arguably the key to English language learning and probably the fastest way to develop your overall level of English.

Before going into how to develop your speaking skills, let’s understand what it involves.

What does speaking in English involve?

In an English language school, four types of communication skills are taught: speaking, writing, reading, and listening. These language skills are also known as productive (speaking and writing) and receptive skills (listening and reading). Speaking and writing are considered productive skills since they both involve linguistic output, but reading and listening are considered receptive skills. Alternatively, the producing skills may be referred to as active skills and the receptive skills as passive skills.

That means that when you are speaking in English, you’re actively switching between receptive (listening) and productive (speaking) skills. On top of that, your brain is also relying on your knowledge of the language in terms of grammar, vocabulary, word order and pronunciation. And that’s why it can be so challenging.

10 Tips to improve your English speaking skills quickly

We interviewed our professors to compile the ultimate list of tried-and-tested techniques.

1. Start speaking in English

You should start speaking from the beginning – whether you’re a beginner or advanced level student, you need to make time to develop your English speaking skills at every level, in the same way, you develop your grammar skills. Make simple sentences and small dialogues. Also practise small conversations in your head. You can also talk to yourself or record yourself. It’s best to download an app that helps you speak. Sometimes these apps also have a chat function so that you can always talk to someone if there is no one to listen to you.

Language learning doesn’t work without speaking – that’s for sure. And speaking is the ultimate discipline because it forces you to use language spontaneously. When we learn a new language, we form blocks in our heads: Vocabulary blocks, grammar structures, and much more. Speaking means using these blocks to create your own language creation. When you link all the elements together, you can easily have a conversation.

2. Identify areas where you can improve

As you use your new language, you will quickly realise where your gaps are. For example, imagine you are having a conversation with a friend and you want to tell them what happened at the weekend. You may find that you need to review the past tense verb conjugation.

3. Put your knowledge into context

Speaking puts your theoretical knowledge into context with the real world. Maybe you are learning the English terms for fruit and vegetables. Go to a supermarket and try to find the English terms on your shopping list. You will link your knowledge with practical experience.

4. Learn from your mistakes

As you speak, you will notice your own mistakes and learn how to improve them. You will also notice that some words just don’t sound right. In the best case, the other person will help you and tell you how to pronounce the word correctly.

5. Improve your pronunciation and speed

When you speak, you automatically learn to adjust your pronunciation, intonation and speed. These elements are important if you want to improve your speaking skills. Look at other people’s speaking styles, you may be able to pick up their accent or melody. Also train your throat and mouth muscles to improve your intonation. The more you speak, the more confident you will become and the more you will sound like a native speaker.

6. Improve your listening comprehension

Conversations are interactive. In a conversation, you not only practise your speaking skills, but also your listening comprehension. So work specifically on your listening comprehension. Pay attention to what others are saying and try to understand them word for word. Our guide to improving English listening skills can be helpful here.

7. Feel the language

When you speak with native speakers, you get a natural feel for the language. It will happen more and more often that things sound wrong or right to you – certain expressions and word sequences will become so ingrained in your mind that they become a kind of routine. Have a look at this video to learn about how body language, speed and facial expressions can help you become a better communicator in English.

8. Let your English become more and more fluent

The more you speak in English, the better your fluency will become. You will become more fluent as you speak, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make mistakes. Fluency means “how smoothly and efficiently you can speak on a range of topics in real time.” It can only be achieved by speaking.

9. Trust yourself

How do you feel after your first 10-minute conversation in English? Happy and proud probably. The feeling of having achieved something is great. And there is still so much you can learn and achieve. Seeing that you are able to use the language during a conversation is like a booster for your motivation. And again, the only way to increase your speaking skills in English, is by keeping up your motivation. So keep trying and the little wins will result in fluency in no time.

10. Give meaning to your language learning process

To learn your new language effectively, you need to give it meaning. You can do this simply by speaking. Once again, language learning only works if you use the language. Only in conversation will you realise the great benefits of the new language. If you know English, it will be much easier for you to travel the world. English is spoken almost everywhere in the world and you can use it to communicate around the globe. You will suddenly be able to talk to people from different cultures and you will find that language is a very useful tool.