Have you ever felt like you just can’t speak?
If you’ve ever had this problem, you might have asked yourself…
“How can I improve my English speaking power?”
The problem might not be your English at all. You might just need more confidence!
Become a More Confident English Speaker
But how can you do that? You can become a more confident English speaker by…
- Working on your pronunciation. Practice speaking in front of a mirror, saying the lines along with a video. Follow the tips given in this FluentU blog, or this one (trust me, they’re good!).
- Improving your fluency. Fluency is how well you can speak without pausing or stopping. Focus on getting your meaning across, instead of every single word. You can practice this with FluentU.Give it a free try and you’ll see yourself many steps closer to fluency.
- Learning new words. The more words you know, the easier it is to speak to others about anything!
- Using fun public speaking exercises that build confidence!
Of course, you can’t practice your exact responses to every question you might be asked during the day. But you can practice how to breathe, speak correctly and, most importantly, improvise—make things up!
Let’s start with something you probably don’t even think about: breathing.
Improve Your English Speaking Power with 7 Powerful, Proven Techniques
1. Practice breathing
Do you know how to breathe? Of course you do! You’re doing it right now.
Breathing is an important part of speaking—it can help you relax, and it can help your fluency (if you run out of breath in the middle of a sentence, you have to stop!). Many public speakers, actors and other people who use their voices a lot practice their breathing before they do their speaking.
To practice breathing, stand (or sit) up straight. Count how long your inhales and exhales take. Try making the exhales (breathing out) last twice as long as the inhales (breathing in)—this is also a basic yoga relaxation technique. Do you feel more relaxed yet?
Warm up your throat by humming as you exhale. Move your tongue around in your mouth. Your mouth needs exercise too sometimes!
2. Make vowel sounds
Prepare your mouth for speaking by making the sounds of the vowels A, E, I, O and U. Make a shape with your mouth as you make these sounds. Exaggerate the sounds and shapes—that means make them both very large and obvious.
This exercise will help your pronunciation of the sounds, since it makes it easier to hear the difference between a cat and a cut (a cat can give you a cut, but a cut can never give you a cat! That’s just silly).
3. Fast and slow speech
Find a short paragraph that’s at your reading level. You can find lots of short reading passages at different levels on this DePaul University Center for Urban Education page, or open your favorite English book to a random page and choose a paragraph or two.
Record yourself reading the passage out loud in two different ways—first as fast as you can, then very slowly.
Listen to the recordings. How do they sound? You should have felt a difference when you were speaking, too. Speaking slowly helps you work on pronunciation and enunciation (how clearly you say things). Speaking fast helps you work on your fluency, since you’re not worrying about every single word you say.
Improvisation (or improv for short) means making things up in the moment. There are a lot of really fun improvisation ideas that are even more fun in a group (one improv exercise is all about acting like an animal—it won’t help your English, but it sure is fun!).
Here are two improvisation ideas that you can do on your own:
- Choose an ordinary object (like a pen) and make up a story about it. Talk about how important it is to you, how it helped you find your long-lost sister or how it saved your life. Make something crazy up!
- Choose a letter of the alphabet and speak as long as you can while starting every sentence with this letter. Or start with the letter A and go through the alphabet as you speak. It’s harder than it sounds!
Practicing improv is a good way to get more comfortable speaking with others, since it teaches you to speak without preparation.
5. Speak for two minutes
This is another kind of improvisation, which can help improve your fluency and increase your confidence.
Set a timer (on your phone or clock) for two minutes. Choose a random topic—you can find everyday topics to talk about at Conversation Starters or more thoughtful prompts (ideas) at Writing Exercises.
Now speak about that topic for the full two minutes without giving yourself time to think about it.
The first minute might be hard, but hopefully by the second minute you will start to speak more confidently and comfortably. Try this as many times as it takes to get comfortable within the first minute.
Next time someone asks you to tell them about yourself, you’ll be ready!
6. Say tongue twisters slowly
Tongue twisters are phrases and sentences that are difficult to say quickly. They’re meant to be said fast for fun, to see how fast you can get before your tongue gets confused.
Saying them slow, though, is an excellent way to work on your pronunciation and how clearly you speak.
Choose one of the many tongue twisters found on this site and say it slowly, making sure to correctly and clearly say every word.
7. Speak in gibberish
Now that you’ve practiced being understood, it’s time to say some nonsense!
Speaking in gibberish means speaking with made-up words that don’t mean anything. Sit or stand in front of a mirror or another person, and try to have a conversation without using any real words. You can say nonsense words, or even say the ABCs.
How could this possibly help your English skills? Speaking is not just about the words—your body and tone (how you say things) make a huge difference in how well you are understood.
As you speak in gibberish, use your hands, body and tone of voice to make the nonsense words into something meaningful. Try showing that you’re sad, angry, happy, confused. See how much sense you can make when you’re not even using real words?
It’s important to know English well in order to speak it. But it’s also important to know how to speak. These exercises will make a big difference in your confidence and how well you speak English. And you’ll have fun while you do them, too!
And One More Thing...
If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:
The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It recommends examples and videos to you based on the words you’ve already learned. You'll have a truly personalized experience.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or from the Google Play store.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.