Every time I find myself with a group of new students, I am often asked the same question. I have been asked this question so often that I have begun to wonder if the word is out that I have the answer. (Which I do.) And that it is some kind of secret. (Which it isn’t.) The question I am so often asked? quite simply: “How can I learn to speak English?”
Speak in English
The only way to learn how to speak English is to…
(I’ll write that again to make sure you are paying attention.)
The only way to learn how to speak English is to…
(Are you paying attention?)
The only way to learn how to speak English is to… speak English.
- You will never learn to speak English through reading (although you will learn more words).
- You will never learn to speak English through listening (although you may learn better pronunciation).
- You will never learn to speak English through watching movies (although you may fall in love with your favourite Hollywood star).
I’m sad to tell you that the only way to learn how to speak English is to speak it.
Learn to accept that you will make many, many mistakes. (Mistakes are human and how we learn.)
Learn to accept that you will not be perfect. (I expect you to be perfect on the same day that I am… so you haven’t got anything to worry about!)
Learn to accept that speaking English is a long road. (But like all good road trips, it can be fun along the way!)
Ask Questions in English
It’s too easy to ask questions in your first language. Don’t take the easy road… take the English road! (Which will become the easy road the more your practice).
What questions should you ask? Learn to use these:
“What’s that in English?”
“How do I say that in English?”
“Did you say this or that?” (Like: “Did you say 13 or 30?”)
“How do you spell that?”
Never ask these questions in your first language. Always ask them in English.
Faster than you think they will become normal and easy for you. The more you question in English, the more you will speak in English. And the easier English will become.
Get Answers in English
There is no shame in not knowing, there is only shame in not telling someone you don’t understand. If you need an explanation…ASK!
Ask your teacher, ask your professor, ask you friend, ask your mother, ask your sister, ask your brother, ask the bus driver, ask anyone!
If you still don’t understand… Ask again!
Try to remember: If you don’t understand, it’s not your fault. If you don’t understand it’s the fault of the person explaining… So ask them again!
Speak in English to Anyone
Starting with yourself… say the following: “I speak English.”
(No really… say it.) “I speak English.”
(Now don’t just read it… say it.) “I speak English.”
From now on, every morning just before you brush your teeth I want you to look at yourself in the mirror and say it again. “I speak English.”
Everyday (yes… even holidays and especially on your birthday) speak to someone in English.
Say, “Hello” to the bus driver.
Say, “Good morning” to your mother.
Say, “Hi” to your friends.
Ask your teacher, “What did you do last night?”
Ask your boyfriend/girlfriend, “What should we do tonight?”
Speak to everyone you meet in English… say something… anything.
Don’t worry about mistakes. (I promise, you will make many.)
Don’t worry about looking foolish. (I promise, you do… but that’s okay!)
Don’t worry if people think you are crazy. (You are! Crazy for learning English!)
Don’t worry about being perfect. (You can be perfect when I am… so… never.)
Don’t worry if you have the right word or the best pronunciation. (With practice that will come.)
Speak something in English to every person you meet and you will see each day it gets easier and more normal.
Speaking to everyone can be fun. If you live in a non-English speaking country..all the more fun!
- Ask the shop keeper, “How much is this?” (They might become a new English speaking friend.)
- Ask the person on the bus next to you, “Where are you going?” (If they move away… you get more space! If they stay and talk you get an English partner.)
- Ask the Police Officer, “What seems to be the problem?” (Well… maybe don’t bother the police officer! But you should get my idea.)
Each time you speak to a new person the easier it will be the next time. The more you speak the more comfortable you will feel.
Are you a little afraid to speak to other people? Well, again, start with yourself.
Talk to yourself as you get ready in the morning. Tell yourself what you are doing. “I am taking a shower.” “I am getting dressed.” “I am looking for my school books.” “I am walking to school.” etc. etc. etc.
Think in English
This can be hard, but it’s worth it.
When we speak in a new language, most of us start by thinking in our first language and trying to translate.
Most of us do that.
Most of us are wrong.
To be able to speak normally, we need to learn to think in our new language. How do we do that? Practice.
When you are alone, try to think in English. When you are siting on the bus on your way home… look out the window and try to tell yourself a story about what you see.
Think: “That is a tree.” “That is a dog” “That is a woman… she is beautiful.”
Think: “It is 10 minutes until I get home.”
Think: “Tonight I will eat my favourite food for dinner.”
Think: “I want to study tonight.”
Think…Whatever you like, but think it in English. Don’t worry about grammar. Don’t worry about mistakes. Only worry if you don’t do it.
Make a game in your mind…
Think: “I want to find ten blue coloured things on my way home.” And then find them and try to remember the list… “The blue car, the blue sign, the blue water, the blue bird, the blue dress, the blue book, the blue bus, the blue truck, the blue…”
Think: “I want to find ten things that begin with the letter ‘C’ on my way home.” And then find them and try to remember the list… “C is for car, c is for cat, c is for church, c is for cleaner, c is for crossing, c is for…”
Think: “I want to count the number of blue cars and the number of red cars I see on my way home and try to remember the list… “1 blue car… 2 blue cars… 1 red car and 2 blue cars… 1 red car and 3 blue cars…. 2 red cars and 3 blue cars…”
Sing in English
What should you sing? Any song you know in English…
Yes, maybe some of the songs seem childish. (They are childish, but isn’t it fun to be a child?)
Yes, people will look at you strange as you sing down the street. (Be sure to smile at them.)
Yes, maybe you don’t have a great voice–neither do I. (And if you do have a great voice then you better be singing now!)
Some ideas… and these are only ideas… if you have better ones… let me know.
Did you learn: “The Alphabet Song“?
Did you ever sing: “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes“?
Have you ever tried any of the Schoolhouse Rock/Grammar Rock songs?
Or sing your own favourite English language pop songs… If you like rap… sing rap. If you like rock & roll… sing rock & roll. If you like country… sing country. if you like hip hop… sing hip hop.
What ever you do… always speak English.
- The more you do it… the easier it will become.
- The more you practice… the better you will speak.
- The more you speak… the more comfortable you will be in English.
The only way to learn how to speak English is to speak English.
Last updated: September 2, 2013 at 1:06 am