What makes an excellent English speaker?
Is it confidence? Is it a wide and varied vocabulary? Is it knowing lots of slang and informal words?
To be a good English speaker is to find the balance between rhythm, cultural understanding, pronunciation and a number of other factors that contribute to fluency.
That is why it is so important to take a complete and broad (covering many areas) approach to English speaking.
The importance of verbal communication in the English language cannot be ignored.
It is a basic skill that takes commitment.
But, with the right guidance and resources, you will be able to master English speaking in no time.
Let’s get started!
Why Is English Speaking Important?
Sometimes, it can be a good exercise to look at our goals and motivations and to remember why we first started on this English learning journey.
With this in mind, let’s look at some of the many reasons why basic English speaking is so important.
It is the most spoken language in the world.
In terms of global speakers, English ranks number one. These statistics can sometimes be confusing because you might find languages ranked in terms of native speakers. The language with the most native speakers is Mandarin Chinese. For our purposes, we are looking at the most speakers across the entire globe.
In fact, check out this stunning infographic that beautifully outlines 100 of the most popular global languages, as well as their ranking. No matter where you are in the world, you will probably be able to find somebody to communicate with in the English language.
Money talks! English is the global language of business.
English is considered the global language of business, trade and commerce. Due to massive (a lot of) growth in the last two centuries, America and the United Kingdom have emerged as leaders in the marketplace. Because of this, English has become the key language for business. Think global giants like Amazon, Apple and Disney, and you will find that they are all based in California in the United States.
While things are slowly changing towards a more globalized world and, hopefully, a wider use of various languages, for the time being, English is still at the top of business. This means that if you are wanting to work in a big company, move overseas or be an entrepreneur, English speaking is essential.
It is helpful when traveling.
Of course, one of the key reasons that we choose to learn another language is to speak it in a native context. And what better way to do that than to travel to an English-speaking country? Take a look around the map, and you will see just how many different options are available to explore. You can take your English speaking skills all around the world, explore unique and different places and, best of all, communicate with the locals!
It opens the doors to moving and working abroad.
If you are looking to immigrate to an English-speaking country, there may be certain requirements that must be fulfilled. More often than not, this will include some type of English test. Take a look at the US citizenship English test and some useful resources that will help you on your journey. This will give you a basic idea of what level of English is required. The British Government mandates (requires) an approved B1 level if you want a work visa.
Of course, once you are working in your new home, you will want to be able to communicate effectively and efficiently in the English language in all aspects of your life.
You will be able to pass an English exam for work or school.
If you have read the previous paragraph and are confused by the significance of “B1 level,” we are going to look at it now. It is an English level earned by taking an accredited English exam, such as the TOEFL speaking test. These exams have a number of uses, including being needed for visas, jobs, university admission and more. Higher-level tests can even be specific to a particular industry. For example, you may need to take a business English exam or a test to teach English.
It will help you with public speaking and social events.
Of course, one of the great reasons to learn English is so you can meet new people, explore different cultures and be able to speak English at social events with ease. In this way, you can become the life of the party (somebody who is the center of attention and enjoying themselves). There are other benefits of speaking English in this context. For example, you will be able to maintain a fluent and interesting conversation in a restaurant. Once you continue learning and increase your English level, you can also become comfortable with English public speaking (giving speeches, presentations, etc.).
One amazing way to sound natural in social situations is to use phrases native speakers use themselves. FluentU’s English YouTube channel has this video on phrases American use all the time:
FluentU English has many more videos like this. Subscribe to the channel and improve your speaking skills one engaging video at a time.
You can fulfill industry requirements.
Continuing our discussion regarding immigration and work, it is important to note that English is a required language for specific jobs. For example, English is necessary for pilots and air traffic controllers. Other industries that will require English skills include tourism, diplomacy and research positions. This means that English may be vital (necessary) for your career.
How to Improve Your English Speaking Skills
As we have already discussed, English speaking is an important skill. It will give you the freedom to find a new job, make new friends or travel. Now, we will look at how we can improve our English speaking abilities. These tips will help you regardless of your level.
- Do not be afraid to get started and make mistakes. The first and perhaps most important step is to begin! This is easier said than done as we have all experienced embarrassment and shyness when speaking in our non-native languages. Basic speaking exercises can help you to overcome this early nervousness. The more you speak, the more the embarrassment disappears and your confidence builds. Your first goal should be simply looking at tips for how to improve spoken English. Another great piece of advice is to experiment with the language. Try lots of different approaches, new words and styles. Make yourself comfortable.
- Try shadowing. Of course, if you are new to English, you could consider shadowing as a starting point. Shadowing is when you repeat real-world audio that you hear. It can be from a film, podcast, short story or any other form of spoken English you find. Shadowing works because it helps you form a style and pattern of speaking English. There are some great resources for shadowing native English speakers.
- Talk to yourself. Really! Speaking to yourself is a great way to get your brain thinking in English. It is also a great method as it is pressure-free. You can record your speech, read written English out loud or even have small dialogues with yourself. This is one of many basic approaches that you can take to start your English speaking journey. There should be no excuse, as there are many ways to improve spoken English without a partner.
- Practice stress, pronunciation and accent. These may be for slightly more advanced learners. But, when you are comfortable speaking in English, it is important to increase the level of difficulty. If you want to speak English like a native, you should be focusing on the smaller parts of English speaking, such as word stress, difficult pronunciation and different accents.
- Make it a family affair. With the help of modern technology, we are able to practice our English speaking skills from the comfort of our own homes. This means that you do not need to face native speakers immediately. In addition to this, you can create an environment for English learning with the help of friends and family. For example, speaking English with kids is a great way to benefit both your own personal English skills and those of your children.
- Surround yourself with English. The final tip is to simply immerse yourself as much as possible. A little goes a long way when learning the English language. For example, simply play some English music in the background. If you are stuck worrying about how to speak English fluently, then just try to include English in your life as naturally and as much as possible.
It goes without saying that English pronunciation is one of the most important aspects of your English speaking skills. You can memorize the entire dictionary, but without correct pronunciation, you will find yourself being misunderstood by native English speakers across the world.
Is pronunciation really that important?
Yes! Pronunciation is a very important part of your English speaking skills. It includes a number of different pieces that all contribute to correct and fluent-sounding speech. In fact, take a look at this introductory pronunciation guide to see just how many parts make up English pronunciation.
English has around 20 different vowel sounds and over 100 different regional accents! This means that there is a lot of variation, which is why it is so important to choose an accent and stick to it.
As we have discussed, even if you have a deep and varied vocabulary, if your pronunciation is incorrect or difficult to understand, you will seem like a beginner or lower-level speaker. This will impact all aspects of your English speaking goals, such as exams, work and general English interactions. You will find yourself having to re-explain things after making errors. It is very important that we avoid these common miscommunications by understanding the importance of learning English pronunciation.
It is essential to follow simple strategies to improve your pronunciation. English, like all languages, has a musicality (the way it sounds) that must be learned through practice and exposure. This musicality also comes from understanding all of the little rules that help us pronounce English correctly. Let’s take a look at some of the more important elements below.
The 5 basic elements of English pronunciation
Check out this infographic to learn the five elements of pronunciation and what you need to study to master this important skill.
Please note that English is a language of exceptions! In your journey, you will come across many confusing and contradictory rules. This is, unfortunately, part of the English language experience. However, there are many great tips to help you improve your English pronunciation. And, studying the five basic elements of pronunciation will give you the foundation with which you can grow as you come across more complex parts of English speaking.
How to practice English pronunciation
Because pronunciation is a big part of our English speaking, it is very important that we study this fundamental skill with the right method. Speaking includes practice with many different types of English skills, including reading and listening. This is why you must use a variety of activities and approaches. Let’s take a look at some great ways to practice our English pronunciation.
- Look for clear and slow listening practice. Start with simple listening activities that will help familiarize your ear with the sound and flow of English. You could use famous speeches, stories or even children’s cartoons. Make sure to repeat listening to the same content and take it slow. There is no rush to this process.
- Repeat what you hear. Repeat whatever you listen to out loud. We have discussed this approach previously. It is known as shadowing and is a great way to improve both speaking and pronunciation, especially at a beginner level.
- Use technology. As you can imagine, there are a number of apps designed to assist English learners with their pronunciation. Using Android apps to help your pronunciation is a great way to practice on the go. This means that you can practice on the train or the bus or while waiting at the doctor’s office or wherever else you have some free time to squeeze in a bit of study!
- Say tongue twisters. Once you are comfortable with your pronunciation level, it is important to keep “pushing” yourself. This means that you need to challenge yourself and take on new tasks to improve your pronunciation. One of the best, most fun and cultural ways to practice difficult pronunciation is with English tongue twisters. For example, try saying the following tongue twister: She sells seashells by the seashore! As you learn tongue twisters, you can start to increase your speed and search for more difficult ones.
- Pay attention to small details. There are technical parts to English pronunciation that will allow you to achieve a higher level when it comes to your speaking capabilities. These include learning English consonant clusters, which are groups of consonants that create unique sounds, and learning minimal pairs, which are similar-sounding words that differ in only one sound. These types of details are the final pieces of the speaking puzzle. While you progress, you should be looking at these smaller parts of pronunciation, as they are no less important than any other step in our journey.
- Record yourself. Recording yourself speaking and playing it back can be a great way to do a quick self-assessment of your current level. You should be listening for breaks in fluency, pronunciation errors and any other slip-ups (mistakes) that affected your speech. Then, you can do it again!
- Have an at-home immersion holiday. Input (exposure to authentic language) is very important. This means that creating an environment where you are exposing yourself to lots of input is a great way to develop both your listening and speaking skills. Things like watching the news, listening to podcasts, listening to music and so on are all great ways to maintain this environment of learning. If it is something that you could be doing in English, then pick out a few days of the week and make a complete switch to English!
Of course, English speaking practice and the strategies that we use will also depend on the level of English speaking that we have.
Some resources might be too advanced for a beginner speaker or too easy for an advanced speaker. That is why it is so important to examine our level and goals and choose the right resource to ensure that we are developing this important skill. Below, you will find speaking resources organized by learning level!
English Speaking Resources for Beginners
English speaking courses
Of course, a great option for a beginner English speaker is to enroll in a course. This is for several reasons. Firstly, the course will follow an organized structure. Secondly, information is regularly updated. Thirdly, you will be able to measure your progress and assess your level. Finally, online options for English speaking courses offer a great opportunity to go at your own pace and feel a sense of accomplishment once completed.
Not only for travel, phrasebooks are also very handy (useful) for beginner learners. This is because they include key phrases and conversational English that you can use immediately to start basic conversations. In addition to this, phrasebooks will often include different ways to say the same thing, as well as pronunciation tips. They are a portable and convenient resource for any English speaking learner. Plus, you will have the added bonus of practicing your reading skills!
Short conversations in films
One of the best ways to practice English speaking and conversation is to listen to English speaking and conversation! By using films, we are able to listen to spoken English in a conversational context. It is easy to do this by using a platform, such as FluentU, that supports this learning method.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.With FluentU, you are able to listen to an entire library of curated video and film content. With the interactive captions, you can hear specific vocabulary words said aloud and then repeat them. You can also pause the videos at any time to review vocabulary words and listen to their pronunciation. Watching short film conversations in English and other videos on the FluentU platform can boost your English speaking skills at any stage. As you continue to learn, you can increase the difficulty level of the program’s videos.
Simple books (read them out loud)
We have already talked about the importance of reading out loud to practice our speaking skills. It helps with our diction (word choice), pronunciation and vocabulary. Eventually, it will also help with the flow and clarity of your speech. If you are searching for beginner materials, then there are plenty of options available for you to use, including children’s books, fairy tales and simple poems. If you want to practice your pronunciation, you can record yourself reading these basic materials and then play it back. This is one of many basic English speaking exercises.
If your ultimate goal is to learn conversational English and speak like a native, then it is advisable to search for a teacher or a language instructor. The benefits of this approach are self-evident. You will be able to receive immediate feedback, practice specific parts of English speech and receive native input. By using a professional English teacher, you will also be able to check your progress as you develop your skills and have a personal interaction with somebody who genuinely wants to see you improve!
English Speaking Resources for Intermediate Learners
English speaking apps
By using apps for English speaking, you are creating a pressure-free approach to your learning. Apps, such as FluentU, are flexible, meaning that they can be used for pretty much any level of English speaker. With additional features, games, quizzes and endless other learning opportunities, the key to unlocking English speaking fluency really is in the palm of your hand. You can start to form a healthy English speaking habit as some of the most popular English speaking apps are both innovative and highly effective.
Trips to English-speaking countries
This tip is for adventurers! This is where we talk immersion. It is the practice of placing yourself in an environment where you are entirely surrounded by English.
If you have been planning a holiday or are looking at exchange programs with your university or school, then why not make it both a fun and educational journey? The options are endless, with opportunities to learn English in the USA, practice speaking skills in Canada, study in England or join programs in any of the more than 50 English-speaking countries across the world. Best of all, you will be learning about culture and history and meeting plenty of new people!
The clue to why this resource is great is in the name: talk shows. A talk show, or what is sometimes known as a chat show, is a conversational-based TV program that usually involves interviews and types of speaking games. Because of this, it is a great opportunity to learn more about the art of English conversation.
There are many different ways that you can learn English conversation with talk shows, such as repetition, interaction and listening. Best of all, it is a way to learn basic English conversational structures and interview techniques.
Finding a language partner is a fantastic way to supplement your English speaking skills. A language partner is an individual who is also studying the English language and wanting to practice in a social setting. This is a simple yet very effective method to take part in real-world conversation practice and informal language use. Best of all, by finding a partner, you are able to discuss common issues that you are having, as well as share advice on how to overcome these language problems.
You will be surprised by how many conversation classes are available in your local area. You can do a quick online search, check the local university, look for Facebook groups or even scroll through forums to find conversation group meetups or classes in your area. You can even combine this strategy for English conversation practice with some English chatting apps to keep studying with your new friends!
English Speaking Resources for Advanced Speakers
Native speaking partners
This approach differs slightly from finding language partners, as mentioned for intermediate learners. Finding a native speaking partner is included in our list for advanced speakers, as you will be able to focus on specific areas of your English speaking, including slang and informal language, as well as maintain a fluent conversation. For this reason, finding a native English speaker online is a fantastic method for advanced speakers to not only maintain but push their speaking capabilities even further.
Once you reach an advanced English speaking level, one of the biggest challenges is finding new and different ways to continue the learning process. English conversation games are a great way to continue developing your skills and keep the conversation interesting. Grab some friends and have some fun while you learn!
There are unlimited options—both online and in-person—available when it comes to practicing English in today’s society. Why not consider practicing your language skills in an informal setting, such as an English club? This is a club where members gather to engage in basic English speaking, and it is a perfect way to focus on English conversation practice. Not only can you practice social English with other learners but you can make new friends along the way.
If there is not a club in your area, you can always look for online options or start your own club. You never know how many people are out there looking to practice English!
One of the best ways to help yourself is to help others. While this is not for everybody, if you are an active user of social media, then it could be a fun exercise to create short content in English to help you practice. You could create a YouTube channel about how you learned conversational English. Or, you could post videos on Instagram about your favorite vocabulary words. You could utilize TikTok to engage with English speakers across the globe.
Using social media can be an entertaining, unique and deeply-rewarding method to practice English speaking at home while engaging with thousands of people!
Specialized English courses
Rather than just search for basic English courses, if you are an advanced speaker, you should be looking for more specialized areas to focus on. These will help boost your vocabulary and ensure that you are breaking free from your comfort zone.
For example, why not take an English business speaking course? Or a tourism course? Anything that will change up your learning methods and language exposure to keep pushing your English development is worth trying. You can even choose to study a topic that you are interested in, as this is a key way to develop your advanced English conversation skills.
Take a breather (small break). Learning to speak a second language is something that you should be proud of. While it may seem overwhelming at first, with simple steps, effort and confidence, you will be speaking English like a native in no time at all!
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