You have studied. You’ve worked hard. You think you know your stuff, but you open your mouth and things still don’t seem to come out right. What is the problem?
Learning about the grammar and pronunciation rules, new vocabulary, and reading and listening skills is one thing...but then we go to produce our language either in writing or speaking and feel challenged. Why?
There are tricks and tips but the most important thing when it comes to speaking...is to practice!!!
Your confidence will improve the more you speak. If you are uncomfortable speaking to people, try reading something in English aloud at first. Hear your own voice in the safety of your own home. Do this with different types of text. Read the lyrics to songs, an article from the newspaper, even the directions to a recipe can be read out loud. Read at a level that is comfortable or easy to start, and later move on to more complicated pieces. When you are more comfortable, read aloud to a family member or friend. This will remove the surprise of what you sound like when you speak, and you will have more confidence when you speak to others.
Do you live in an area where English is spoken? If so, there is always some way to practice. Don’t worry about being perfect. Just speak!
Speak to the person in the produce area of the supermarket, ask them a question. Say hello to your neighbours, talk about the weather. Speak with classmates or coworkers during breaks. If there are native speakers all around you, take advantage of their experience. Interacting with them will not only give you practice time that you need, but will also provide you with access to the pronunciation, rhythm, intonation and mannerisms of the native speakers in your community.
If you are learning somewhere else and don’t have immediate access to native speakers in your community, use other people to practice with. Are you taking an English class? Connect with fellow students and chat with them. Is there an English speaker in your community you can spend time with? Plan on specific times to meet either in person or on the phone. Is there an online community of learners you can practice with? Reach out to them. There are many people in the same boat who also need to practice their skills.
Then, once you have created those opportunities, please be kind to yourself. You will make mistakes. We all make mistakes. Mistakes help us learn, they make us grow.
“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to continually fear you will make one.”
There are other hints and tips that will help along the way, and those we can explore in another blog. For now, just go out there and use what you have, wherever and whenever you can. Remember, practice makes perfect.