We all want to know how to improve spoken English.
But for some of us, there’s a big obstacle.
To improve English speaking, the best thing to do is to talk with a native speaker. But not all of us have that option!
What if you don’t know anyone who speaks English? What if you don’t have time? What if you simply don’t feel confident enough yet to practice with a native?
How can you practice speaking English without anybody else to help you?
Don’t worry. You can still improve your spoken English, even without a speaking partner.
We’re going to explain how.
No speaking partner? No problem!
How to Improve Spoken English (Without a Speaking Partner!): 20 Incredible Methods
1. Think in English
Sometimes, the difficult thing about English speaking isn’t the language itself, but how you think about it.
If you think in your native language and then try to speak English, you’ll always have to translate between languages. Translating isn’t an easy thing to do! Even people fluent in two or more languages have trouble switching between languages.
The solution is to think in English.
You can do this anywhere, anytime. Try to use English when you’re thinking about your day, or when you’re trying to decide what food to order. Even try to use an English-to-English dictionary to look up words. That way, you never have to use your native language and translate words. You’ll notice that when you think in English, it’s easier for you to speak in English.
2. Talk to Yourself
Whenever you’re at home (or alone somewhere else) you can improve English speaking with your favorite person: yourself.
If you’re already thinking in English, try speaking your thoughts out loud. Read out loud, too. Practice is practice, and even if you don’t have anyone to correct your mistakes, just the act of speaking out loud will help you become more comfortable speaking English.
3. Use a Mirror
Whenever you can, take a few minutes out of your day to stand in front of the mirror and speak. Choose a topic, set a timer for two or three minutes and just talk.
The point of this exercise is to watch your mouth, face and body language as you speak. It also makes you feel like you’re talking to someone, so you can pretend you’re having a discussion with a study buddy.
Talk for the full two or three minutes. Don’t stop! If you get stuck on a word you don’t know, try expressing your idea in a different way. You can always look up how to say that word after the two to three minutes end. This will definitely help you find out what kinds of words or sentences you have trouble with.
4. Focus on English Fluency, Not Grammar
When you speak in English, how often do you stop?
The more you stop, the less confident you sound and the less comfortable you become. Try the mirror exercise above, but challenge yourself to speak without stopping or stammering (taking pauses between your words) the entire time.
This might mean that your sentences won’t be grammatically perfect, and that’s okay! If you focus on speaking fluently instead of correctly, you’ll still be understood and you’ll sound better. You can fill in the correct grammar and word rules as you learn them better.
5. Try English Tongue Twisters
Tongue twisters are series of words that are difficult to say quickly. One example is: “The thirty-three thieves thought that they thrilled the throne throughout Thursday.” Try saying this a few times! It’s not easy.
Word games like this will help you find the right placement for your mouth and tongue, and can even help your pronunciation. You can find a list of great tongue twisters here.
6. Listen and Repeat
Following along with TV shows, YouTube videos or other natural English speech to practice sounding natural, too!
Find a short clip that you like, or that uses words that you’d use in real life, then repeat it line by line. Try to match the tone, speed and even the accent (if you can). It doesn’t matter if you miss a few words, the important thing is to keep talking. Try to sound just like the native speakers.
It’s easier to use this tip if you have good-quality videos with subtitles—and that’s exactly what you’ll find on FluentU.
Unlike traditional language learning sites, FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the English language and culture over time. You’ll learn English as it’s spoken in real life.
FluentU has a variety of engaging content from popular talk shows, nature documentaries and funny commercials, as you can see here:
FluentU 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'll 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 is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning and recommends examples and videos to you based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video.
You can start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, by downloading the app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
7. Pay Attention to Stressed Sounds
English uses stresses in words and sentences. That means when you speak English you’ll need to stress, or emphasize, certain words and syllables (sounds) to give words and sentences different meanings.
Listen to where native speakers place the emphasis when they speak. Try to repeat it the same way to improve English stress in your own speech.
This won’t only help you speak English well, it might even reduce misunderstandings. Sometimes, placing the stress on the wrong syllable completely changes the word. The word ADdress, for instance, isn’t the same as the word adDRESS. ADdress refers to a physical location where someone lives, and adDRESS means to formally speak to a group of people.
Learn to hear the difference!
8. Sing Along to English Songs
Rap is a great way to practice English because often the words are spoken like regular sentences. However, the rapper uses a stronger rhythm and faster speed. Some of the words might not make sense, but if you can keep up with the rapper then you’re on your way to becoming fluent!
9. Learn Word Forms with New Words
Some practice comes before you even open your mouth. Make speaking easier by learning the different forms of any words you learn. You should do this when you’re learning new vocabulary. For example, if you just learned the word write, you should also learn some other forms like wrote and written.
Knowing the correct way to use a word in any kind of sentence is important. This knowledge will help you while speaking. You won’t have to stop and think of different words—you’ll know exactly when you need to use that word while speaking.
10. Learn Phrases, Not Words
An even better idea to improve English is to learn word phrases, not just words.
You might be using correct grammar and vocabulary, but it’s still not how a native speaker would say it.
For example, you can say “how do you feel today?” but a native speaker might say “how’re you doing?” or “what’s up?” instead. Phrases and expressions can be helpful for sounding more natural when you speak.
11. Learn Your Most Common Sayings
Take some time to really notice how you speak in your native language.
What words and phrases do you use the most often?
Learn how to say your most commonly used phrases and words in English. Knowing them in English will help you speak as well in English as you do in your native language.
12. Prepare for Specific Situations
Are you learning to speak English for a specific reason? For example, are you learning English so you can get a job in an English-speaking company? In that case, practice English that will help you in an interview. Are you learning English so you can make friends in America? Then you’d need a different kind of English.
Before you go to a place where you have to speak English, you can practice what you might have to say. If you’re preparing to go to a restaurant, what might conversations in a restaurant sound like? Answer the questions a waiter might ask you. Try talking about food and menus.
You’ll feel more confident if you’re prepared!
13. Learn Exceptions and Use Them
If you’ve been learning English for a while, you probably know English is full of exceptions to its rules.
A lot of learners will get angry at this, but here’s what you can do: Use those exceptions to speak English better!
It would be impossible to learn all the exceptions of the language, but you can focus on groups of exceptions and learn one or two groups every week.
The next step in this tip is to use the exceptions you’ve learned. In order to do this, you can use any other tip on this list. Just take the exceptions and use them as much as you can in your conversations, and soon they’ll be so common for you that you’ll just use them naturally.
Some examples of exceptions or irregularities you can learn are: irregular plurals, irregular verbs, exceptions in pronunciation, “i before e except after c” exceptions and so on.
Don’t miss “The Chaos of English Pronunciation” poem if you want to see hundreds of pronunciation exceptions in a couple of minutes. Would you be able to learn it by heart? Now, that’s a challenge!
14. Learn the IPA Alphabet
A great tool you can use if you want to pronounce “The Chaos” poem perfectly is the International Phonetic Association (IPA) alphabet or, to be more precise, the IPA chart.
The IPA alphabet is a chart where all the sounds that exist in all the languages in the world are included! Needless to say (of course), you only have to learn the sounds of English, but once you do that, you’ll be able to pronounce without hesitation every phonetic transcription you see.
Learning the IPA alphabet can seem very difficult, but it is totally worth it. Next time you see the transcription [trænˈskrɪpʃən], you’ll just know how to pronounce that word perfectly.
15. Take Online Speaking Courses
You may not have a speaking partner, but guess what you have? Free online speaking courses!
Learning online is becoming more and more popular. Besides, the offer is so huge (very big) that many times the price is actually zero.
There are literally thousands of courses online that can help you improve your English speaking skills. I’ve selected three that I’m sure will help you with that:
- Speaking and Writing English Effectively. Boost your writing and speaking skills thanks to the techniques included in this amazing course.
- Speak English Professionally. If you need to improve your conversation skills for work, this is the perfect course for you.
- English for Doing Business in Asia—Speaking. Many of us don’t need to do business in Asia, but Asia is just the setting. This course focuses on speaking and business English, and its main goal is to teach you how to deliver the perfect oral presentation.
16. Be Creative
Improving our English speaking skills can be fun if we have a little bit of creativity.
Whatever “fun” means to you, use it to your advantage and include English in it.
For example, try sitting on your couch and looking around. Find an interesting object and try to describe it in English. If you’re just starting, you might use easy vocabulary and short sentences. But the better you get, the better you’ll get at this little exercise!
Something else you can try is creative journaling in English. A lot of people think that journaling is the same as keeping a diary, but it’s so much more! The sky’s the limit—as long as the sky is in English.
Finally, try to make your own life difficult. No, I’m not crazy. Have you ever had a situation where you were trying to say something in English but you got stuck because you couldn’t remember a word? Do that on purpose! Try to talk about something without using specific words. It’s like a real-life game of “Taboo,” but you make the rules.
In other words, be as creative as you want, and use English all the way.
17. Narrate Your World
Something similar to describing objects is to describe what you see when you’re outside. If you’re walking to the grocery store or commuting to work, try to describe what you see. It’ll be like having a guided tour of your own surroundings, but the narrator is you!
You don’t have to talk out loud if you don’t want to or you can’t. Do it in your head, instead, and listen to your inner voice. The more you practice this, the easier it’ll be to have a real conversation with other people. It’ll also help you get into the habit of thinking in English!
18. Read in English
Do you want to improve your speaking skills? Then you have to start reading, as well!
It’s impossible to improve one area of a language (like speaking) if you don’t practice and improve other areas, as well.
Reading helps you to improve your speaking skills because it makes your brain work. When you read, you probably listen to your head or inner voice pronouncing the words. Besides that, you’re able to learn new words in context that you can use later in your conversations.
Finally, when you read (newspapers, books, graded readers, poetry…), you’ll mostly have contact with correct, well-structured English. The more you read, the faster your brain will start recognizing patterns and groups of words that normally go together. When those patterns are already in your head, you can use them in your conversations without hesitation.
You can be your best helper or your worst enemy when learning to speak fluently! We know it’s hard, but you should try not to worry about how you sound when you speak. Just relax!
If you get stuck or confused, just take a big breath and start over. Speak slower if you have to. Take time to pause and think about your next sentence.
Do whatever it takes to become more comfortable with speaking English.
20. Tell a Story from Your Language in English
Here’s a fun way to test how well your spoken English has developed: Choose a story that you know really well and tell it in English.
Remember to think in English as you’re telling your story. Focus on speaking fluently instead of correctly. Say every sentence out loud to yourself.
Even if you have nobody to talk to in English, you can still build confidence and master fluency on your own time.
In some ways, practicing speaking is even easier by yourself! Now you know exactly how to improve spoken English by yourself and should feel confident doing so!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.