Do you have a good grammar knowledge but struggle to put it into words? Do you get lost in the middle of a conversation with native speakers? Do you worry that you’ll never be ‘fluent’ in English?
You’re not the only one.
Even most fluent of English speakers hit a mental barrier at some point, when learning the language.
Having taught English in several very different countries around the world, I’ve compiled a list of ten things that you can try to get over the barrier of not being able to fully express what you want to in English.
P.S: If you find this list useful, follow ‘Very English Books’ for more articles and a fantastic new book focused on the subject of this article: speaking!
- Stop translating! Translating a new word may seem like a quick fix if there’s a word you’re unsure of, but trust me, you probably won’t remember it. This is the reason most good language school have a strict policy of teaching only in English. My suggestions – download an Oxford dictionary and learn the words for yourself,
through definitions. Alternatively, you could make a note of some words and ask a friend and/or teacher about them.
- Get creative! Apply the English language according to your interests. If you like making video blogs, try one in English. If you like singing, learn an English song. You could even try providing your own commentary of a football match! The more variety of contexts in which you speak English, the better.
- ‘Immerse’ yourself! You don’t always need to be ‘learning’ English in order to lear
n. Something that some of my students do is have the radio on in English, without
even listening to it. This is a great idea because, while not needing to pay attention, you are getting used to the sounds and the flow of real English (click here for Radio 1 live!)
- Choose the right language school. If you decide to attend lessons, make sure they’re catered to your needs. From my experience, a person with a high level of vocabulary but struggles to turn it into fluent sentences needs small class sizes, close teacher attention and, imperatively, to learn with the communicative method.
- The BEST website to improve your speaking skills! Conversation Exchange is a tool I’ve used in Spain, Italy, China and even Siberia. Make a free profile, contact users in your area, and spend time exchanging your native languages.
- ‘Mimic’ your role models. Choose a famous native English speaker you love, and, very simply, watch videos of how they speak. Then try to repeat it. Take Obama,
watch him giving a speech and pay attention to word stress, mouth movements and even hand gestures. Then, try to replicate it. Why not film yourself and com
pare the two?
- Expand your vocabulary (without learning too many new words). Try limiting yourself to five new words a day. But when you learn them, don’t just learn one form of the word. Take the verb ‘relax’ for example. Think of the adjective form
(relaxed/relaxing). Think of the noun (relaxation). This simple technique can really improve your vocab without you even realizing!
- Learn some idioms! This can be confusing at times, but great fun. What’s even more important though, is that you’re thinking in English when you’re working out a new idiom. Eventually, try to incorporate the ones you’ve learnt into conversation. For my book on 101 of the most important British idioms, click here!
- Give yourself a time-limit. ESL speakers often go round in circles trying to get their point across. This can become incredibly frustrating for everyone. So, choose a topic (e.g.) the best movie of 2016 so far, set up a 1-minute countdown timer on YouTube, and try to get your opinion in an as clear and concise way as possible. This will hopefully help you learn how to articulate yourself in English.
- Ask questions and speak where/with who you’re most comfortable! Try to engage yourself as much as possible in a conversation. Give yourself something to focus on. And finally, I recommend that as you gain confidence try to slowly expand where and who you speak English with. Don’t take on too much at once!
Thanks for reading and let me know what works for you!
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