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Speaking Advice


Master the art of conversation!

Ideas and techniques to help you improve. Remember: be patient with yourself. Improving speaking is a difficult task. Allow yourself a few mistakes, but be determined to win in the end.

Who Should I Practise with?

Consider the advantages and disadvantages of the following: native speakers, people whose mother tongue is the same as yours, other international English learners.


Native speakers

Meeting native speakers can be difficult in your country, and sometimes in the UK too, as many people tend not to start conversations with a person they don't know unless they have been introduced by a friend. Also, if your level is very low, it may be difficult for you to understand a native speaker, and for him or her to understand you.


However, the challenge and motivation of having a native speaker friend is a huge bonus. You have the feeling of learning 'real English' and you will find your speaking skills will improve dramatically. There may be even bigger improvements in your listening ability.


People with the same mother tongue as you

If you are living abroad, it can be a great comfort to spend time with friends from your country. Friends with advanced English can also answer language-related questions you might have.


However, speaking English with them will tend to feel strange, and you will probably end up speaking your mother with them, which can have a negative effect on your English if too much time is spent with them.


Other international students

Their English might not be perfect, and you may have difficulties with accents from other countries, but English is a common language between you, so talking to other students can greatly help your spoken fluency. Spending time with students of a high level can develop your skills as much as a native speaker. Often, conversation feels very comfortable as everyone feels they are in the same situation and this can create an atmosphere of support and tolerance.


It is advisable, therefore to maximise your time with native speakers and students from other countries.



How can I Make Friends with Native Speakers in the UK?

At first, this may seem like a difficult task. Your study, work or accommodation may create opportunities to meet British people, but if not, you may have to look elsewhere. Be active and sociable, and of course careful too, as you would in your own country. You could consider:



Part-time courses

Part-time work

Voluntary work

Shared accommodation

Host families


Language exchanges

Pubs and parties

Friends of friends of friends!

Visit UKStudentLife for more ideas


Have an Aim for your Speaking Practice

What would you like to improve?


1. Fluency

For this aim, don't worry too much about making mistakes. Just let the conversation flow and enjoy it!


2. Accuracy

This require the opposite approach. Try to think about grammatical rules as you speak, and if you realise you've made a mistake, go back and correct it. This will get you into the habit of using grammar correctly.


3. Pronunciation

Slow down and aim to speak clearly instead of quickly. Being understood is your priority, and speed can come later when you feel more confident with the sounds. Correct yourself if you make a mistake as this will help develop the habit of pronouncing words correctly.


Notice the reactions of the listener. You can often tell if someone has understood or not by looking at their face!


If you are talking to a native speaker, listen to their pronunciation choose one or things to copy.


4. Vocabulary

Use your speaking practice to test vocabulary that you have just learned, to be sure you know how to use it correctly in conversation. Ask the listener from time to time, 'Is that right?' 'Do you understand what I mean?' 'Is that the right word / expression?'


Listen to the speaker too, especially if they are a (good!) native speaker. Pick up a few useful expressions and write them down after the conversation. Try to use them, or check the meaning with a friend or dictionary. If you think an expression is useful, make it your own!


My favourite technique was to listen to the way native speakers use 'conversation fillers'. These are the small (often meaningless) words that are used when thinking (um, well, let me see) and or at the start or end of a sentence (basically, I suppose, mind you, or somethin like that). This is the kind of language you very rarely study in textbooks, and as well as being fun to learn, it can make you sound much more fluent.


Great speakers are often great imitators, and great imitators are often great listeners.


What if I'm on my own?

Challenge yourself to think in English. Believe it or not, this can significantly help your English fluency!



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