What does it take to learn English successfully? There some common qualities such as diligence and a positive attitude that will help you learn any subject, however when learning a language, there are some more specific tips that will help you reach your goals. Here are our ten secrets to success to help you reach your goals in English.
Break it down then build it up
To speak English well, you need to be able to do several things at the same time: know (and choose) suitable vocabulary, use the right grammar and sentence patterns, and produce the correct sounds, stress patterns, rhythm and intonation. Work on these individual elements separately then practise putting them together to make your speech more accurate and fluent.
Learn to interact
A conversation is an interaction with another person, and involves listening as well as talking. Check that the other person is following, by using conversation strategies like emphasizing key words, rephrasing, or using expressions like ‘You know what I mean?’ or ‘Don’t you agree?’ Give the other person a chance to speak and use their answers and to help you think about what to say next.
Use your body
Non-verbal communication is very important for effective speaking, even for native English speakers. Use gestures, body language and facial expressions for explanation or emphasis, and try to read what the other person’s body language is saying. Think about your posture, too – the way you stand or sit can make the difference between seeming bored or interested in what your conversation partner is saying.
Sing a song!
Music is a great way to improve your speaking skills, practice the rhythm of the language and learn some useful expressions. Look up the lyrics (song words) to your favorite English songs on the Internet, and then practicing singing aloud. If you’re shy, sing at home alone. If you’re more outgoing, get together with some friends and do a bit of English karaoke.
You need the right attitude to improve your English. Look for every opportunity to practice speaking, like talking to people at parties, approaching a foreigner who looks lost, or just putting up your hand when your teacher asks a question. Remember, every mistake is an opportunity to learn, so don’t be afraid of making some slips from time to time.
Think in English
This is a great way to improve your spoken English, and you can do it anywhere, anytime. At home, you can talk to yourself while doing everyday tasks like preparing a meal. If you are on the train or bus, then describe the people around you (in your head, not aloud!), and when you go to sleep, go over the day’s events in English.
Record yourself speaking
Even though you might not like hearing your own voice, this is a very useful way to find out what’s wrong with your spoken English. Record yourself speaking and then listen to the tape, or ask a native speaker for some advice. Look for positive things, too. Make a note of all the things you do well when you speak English. If you are ever feeling unmotivated, look at the things you do well to feel great about speaking English again.
Keep a speaking journal
Record your thoughts in English before you go to sleep at night. You can play the tape at the end of the year to look back on important events, as well as monitor your English progress. If you can’t keep a speaking journal, write it instead. Make a note of all the conversations you had in English along with aspects you did well and things you could improve on. Use this to track your progress throughout the year and set yourself new goals.
Take extra classes
If you feel you need extra practice and want to interact with other English learners, why not join a language class? There are plenty of language schools around, or even online courses. Don’t think you can learn to speak on the Internet? In EF English Live’s teacher-led classes, all you need is a headset and microphone to talk to the world!
Find English-speaking friends
If you are really serious about becoming a good English speaker, you need to meet people you can speak to in English. This does NOT only mean native-speakers, though. English is spoken by many more people as a second language than as a native language, and being able to understand different accents is very important. Start an English coffee club with your friends where you meet and have a chat in English. You can help each other and have fun practising together.
Give each of these tips a try for a week and see which works best for you or, even better, share them with a friend and work on them together.