A lot of people have been asking me how they can improve their English speaking, and they would like to know how they can practice, so in this post I want to give you some tips about how to improve your speaking from my experience learning languages such as Chinese, which I've learned to a very high level. I want to share with you some of the things that have helped me and I hope that they will be helpful to you.
Think about the questions that people always ask you in English
When you meet somebody for the first time, they will almost always ask you questions about your living situation, your studies or your work, your hobbies, your family, your favourite TV shows, sports, movies, and so on.
You can actually think about these questions in advance. Think about the answers to questions like, "Where are you from?" "Where do you live?" "Where did you study?" "What did you study?" Also, think about how to talk about your job, your hobbies, your favourite things and your travel - whether or not you've travelled to an English speaking country, what you want to do in the future.
Think about the answers to all of these questions in English and practise saying responses to these questions, because you're going to have to answer these questions a lot. If you can prepare in advance, you will always have something to say when you come across a native English speaker or you have to use English. You can practice out loud, you can remember the responses. You can write some notes, and then next time you have a conversation you will have things to say.
This doesn't mean that you have to give a speech every time somebody talks to you, but you can use little bits of your prepared answers in conversations. I have found that this is really helpful.
Think through scenarios when you have to speak English in advance
Another way that you can prepare for speaking English in advance is to think about the situation before it happens. For example, if you are going on holiday to the UK and you are going to have to get your way around a city, you might need to think about ways to ask for bus tours and different guided tours around the city.
You can think about the vocabulary that you're going to need on this tour and the sentences that you're going to need to say.
For example, if you're going out to buy a light bulb, you can think about how to ask for a lightbulb in English and prepare before you walk in the shop., so you won't look silly and you won't look like you don't know what you're saying. This will also help you not to feel anxious when you have to start speaking in English.
Get better at asking questions in English
It's really important to be able to ask a lot of questions when you're talking to people in English because conversation is basically made of two parts - talking about yourself / your own opinions and asking the other person for their opinion or their ideas about something.
Therefore, you should always have some questions in your head, like, "What do you think?" "Have you ever been in a situation like that?" "What did you do for your holiday?"
Think about questions that you can ask other people and practise asking a lot of different questions in English, in response to different things. Listen for when people ask questions, and get good at this, because if you can ask people questions in a conversation, you'll be able to keep that conversation moving.
A lot of conversation is listening to what the other person is saying and being able to ask them questions according to what they say. So if somebody says, "Oh, I went to Greece last year," you can say, "Oh, where did you go to?" "How was the trip?" "What did you do there?" This is really important, but don't ask too many questions in a conversation, otherwise, it will sound like you're giving the other person a job interview.
Practise 'thinking in English'
'Thinking in English' means getting into the habit of getting your brain around speaking English. Normally, you might be speaking your own language, whether that's Spanish or French or Hindi or another language. You're not used to speaking in English, and you need to practise this.
When you're speaking effectively, you're converting your thoughts into language. This is a skill that needs to be practised just like driving a car, and of course, practice makes perfect. Always think of how to say things in English. When people are talking, try to translate what they're saying from your native language into English in your head.
Talk about your day in English. Think about what you did today. Can you describe that? Can you talk about that in English? Think about what's around you. Can you describe what you can see in English? Practise talking about a news article that you read in English, telling a story in English, telling a story from a TV show, or describing the plot of a movie in English.
Always try to think "How do I say that in English?" "How would I say that sentence in English?" The more you practise thinking and speaking in alanguage, the better you will be when you have to use that language in a real situation.
Do more listening
The more you listen to English, the better you will be at speaking, because you have to have the words and ideas in you in order to be able to speak them out loud. Listening to a lot of English, whether that's radio, TV shows, videos on YouTube, or courses, it will help you to speak. but don't just listen, you also need to practise speaking yourself.
Practise speaking English as much as you can
Try to find opportunities to speak English. Think about where you live. Are there any places where there are lot of travellers or foreigners, shops that they like to go to, bars where there are a lot of English speaking people, restaurants or universities where there are a lot of foreign students?
Maybe you live in a town where there are some tourist attractions. You could go to those places and try to have some conversations with tourists who speak English.
You could also try practising English with another friend who's learning the language as well. You can try speaking English to each other and giving each other some suggestions. It's always better to try to practise with another person if you can.
If you have kids, you could try to speak to your son or your daughter in English, or maybe your wife or husband.
Other ways you can practise speaking English include recording a vlog or videos in English, making a video diary in English or just posting videos to Instagram in English. You can also record yourself on your phone - even just the audio is okay, then listen to yourself and analyze your mistakes.
You can find a native speaker, teacher or partner to practice with online on a platform like italki or the Hellotalk app. There are a lot of different websites sites and apps where you can find native speakers. Sometimes you have to pay a small charge to have a lesson or speak with them, but it can be really useful.
You can ask native speakers for some feedback after you finish speaking - where did you make mistakes? Native speakers and teahers can give you a lot of advice.