1. Let go of your ego
The first and most important thing you can do as a language learner is to let go of your ego. Speaking in a foreign language is limiting – you can’t be as funny or as quick as you are in your mother tongue. It’s easy to feel self-conscious about making mistakes, or asking people to repeat themselves, but it’s important to remember that nobody cares about your mistakes as much as you do. Once you lose the fear of making mistakes or looking foolish, you’ll find it a lot easier to speak without inhibitions.
2. Practise, practise, practise
Now that you’re less worried about making mistakes, you can practise speaking – and the more you speak, the faster you’ll improve. There are lots of ways you can practise speaking, even if you’re on your own. You can talk to yourself in the mirror, or read out loud to improve speed and fluency. This post about how to practise speaking English at home has lots of interesting ideas to try. And best of all, it doesn’t matter if you make mistakes – there’s nobody else there to notice!
3. Prepare for conversations
You’ll be much more confident about speaking if you feel prepared, and a good way to do this is to try the conversation out in advance. If you know you’re going to be speaking English in a particular situation, for example booking a hotel, rehearse what you’re going to say. Were there words you didn’t know? Then look up the vocabulary you need and rehearse again. Was there a phrase you struggled with? Then check the grammar and make some notes before rehearsing again.
4. Brush up on your conversational phrases
The exercise above is great for prepared to speak, but an important conversational skill is being able to listen and to reply. One of the reasons is that speaking is so nerve-wracking is that it’s horrible in a conversation when you don’t know what to say. But learning some common conversational phrases will help you speak more fluently in English. You can pepper your speaking with phrases such as “Oh, I didn’t know that” or “I can’t believe it” and it will help to fill in any gaps. Make a list of conversational connectors and keep updating it when you learn a new one, and you’ll notice that it will make a big difference to your fluency when speaking.
5. Attend a language exchange
Language exchanges are a fantastic way to practice speaking English and improve your fluency. It’s a low-pressure environment, where everyone is a learner so it doesn’t matter if you make some errors. There are lots of language exchanges on in a big multicultural city like Barcelona – in fact Oxford House has our very own language exchange every month. Think of some topics you’d like to chat about, then try out our technique in preparation for going along – you’ll be able to see how well it works! For more tips on how to get the most out of a language exchange, check out this post. Even better, if you go regularly you’ll get to know people, and you might make some new friends.
Speaking confidently and fluently is one of the biggest hurdles for a language learner, so often it’s easier to do a reading task, or a writing task. But the quickest way to improve is to have a disciplined approach. So practice speaking to yourself every single day. Prepare for any English conversations you’re going to have. Learn those conversational connectors and phrases. Keep going to your language exchange, even when it feels like hard work. And if you have the discipline to keep making the effort, you’ll see that your speaking fluency will improve in a matter of weeks.
Besides, practice the following chunks: