How To Improve Your Speaking Skills
You are unlikely to learn to speak a new language perfectly, but perfection should not be your goal. Your main goal should be effective communication. I am not perfect in any of the languages that I speak, but I can communicate, and whenever I communicate in another language I’m satisfied. I also know from experience that my ability to speak and to pronounce well will only improve with time, as long as I remain alert to what I hear and read, and how I use the language.
Here are the steps I take when trying to improve my oral skills:
Listen a lot
I mean more than one hour a day, just about every day. Search our language libraries on LingQ for content, find items that interest you and download them. Transfer them to your phone or MP3 player and study on the go, wherever you are, and whenever you have the time. Just listen and listen. You will start with short, easier content and graduate to longer more interesting content. Just keep doing it. Ideally listen to material where you also have the transcript so that you have a better chance of understanding it.
Read a lot
Reading, and especially saving words and phrases from your reading at LingQ, is the best way to increase your vocabulary. To express yourself you need words. To communicate you need to understand what the other person is saying, and this requires even more words. Reading and LingQing will give you the vocabulary you need to become a confident speaker. The combination of reading and speaking will enable your brain to become used to the new language, and this will build up your potential to speak well.
Listening when combined with reading will fill your brain with phrases you recognize and will eventually be able to use. You may want to imitate out loud the odd word or phrase, even as you are listening. This is sometimes referred to as shadowing. But you need even more practice at getting the words out. Listen a few minutes to content for which you have the transcript, and where you like the voice and the way the person speaks. After listening, read the same text out loud trying to imitate the way the person speaks. Focus on the rhythm and intonation. Don’t worry about words that you mispronounce, get the rhythm and flow. Do this over and over.
Writing is a great way to start producing the language. You may not really feel like writing much at first. The dictation function at LingQ is a great way to get into the writing habit. You will only be writing out the words and phrases that you have saved. Hopefully that will give you the confidence to write more. Submit your writing for correction at LingQ if you want. The main thing, however, is to write to get used to expressing things in the language, without the pressure of speaking with someone.
Use of words is more important than pronunciation. However, we all like to work on getting closer to the pronunciation of the native speaker, although we won’t quite get there. In order to work on pronunciation, you can practice recording yourself every now and again, perhaps once or twice a month but not too often. Find content of interest at LingQ, listen to the audio, then read the same content out loud and record yourself. Listen for the differences. This is your chance to work on specific sounds. It is important to notice the words that you mispronounce and then try to notice these sounds when listening to the language. If you can notice them, you will have a better chance of pronouncing them correctly.
If you can find someone to speak to where you live, that is great. However, there are many online sites, as well as LingQ, where you can find native speakers to speak with. Don’t worry about your mistakes, even encourage your partner not to correct you while you speak. Our tutors at LingQ send learners a conversation report with a list of words and phrases that caused trouble. This report can be imported as a lesson. The main thing, however, is to speak more and more, ideally on subjects of mutual interest to you and your native speaker partner.
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