「I can’t seem to improve my English speaking skills…」
It is a path that everyone who learns English must go through.
It is frustrating when you try various learning methods but your speaking does not improve at all.
I was the same way, and I saw many of my friends who had the same problem while studying abroad.
The biggest trick to improve your speaking is to “talk with native speakers (naming “natives”).
I have been learning English for more than 10 years since I graduated from high school, and I have used apps, books, online English conversations, and other English materials from one end to the other to improve my speaking.
What I found most effective was “speaking with native speakers” and “watching and listening to native English speakers.”
I have learned firsthand that you need to practice speaking while actually moving your mouth.
In this article, based on my own experience, I would like to introduce “5 ways to improve your English speaking” in order of difficulty. The higher the difficulty, the more effective they are.
If you are struggling to improve your English speaking ability, don’t know how to study, or want to improve your speaking ability for study abroad or work, we hope that the methods we introduce will help you improve your speaking ability.
This course is suitable for students with a beginner to intermediate level of English. Basic English grammar skills and other skills are assumed to be at the junior high school level or above.
5 Ways to Improve Your English Speaking Skills! In order of difficulty!
① Watching English Movies ☆☆☆☆★
Seeing and hearing native English speakers is one of the most effective ways to improve your speaking.
This is because speaking begins with the ear. When you are actually having a conversation, you cannot speak unless you first understand what the other person is saying. And the English you learn by ear is directly useful for speaking.
By listening to native English speakers while watching a foreign movie, you can not only practice listening, but you can also enjoy yourself while learning useful English for speaking (during conversation).
【Tips when watching English Movies】
✔︎ It is easier to input if you choose a movie with a story you know.
✔︎ Start with “Japanese audio + English subtitles” at the beginning, and then change to “English audio + Japanese subtitles” for the second time.
✔︎ Genres such as comedy, romance, drama, and children’s are easy and user-friendly.
✔︎ Don’t try to listen to everything suddenly, but learn from reactions and short English phrases.
✔︎ English words and phrases that are used many times in the movie but not understood are worth looking up and memorizing. (Often used in conversation.)
I was originally assigned to the Intermediate level class at the start of my study abroad program because I was good at grammar even though I did not watch many foreign movies. On the other hand, my friend watched a lot of foreign movies but was not good at grammar in general, so she was placed in the lower level class.
However, my friend actually had better listening and speaking skills. Whenever I talked with locals or friends from other countries, my friend always understood what I was saying, but I couldn’t understand a word. When I asked my friend why he could understand, he said, “I think it is because I watch a lot of foreign movies.
In English conversation (listening and speaking), it is clear that “how much English you hear and say out loud is more important” than having more than basic classroom knowledge or qualifications.
English conversation starts from the ear, so building “English ears” is the most important part of speaking.
I call native English speakers every day, and I often notice a difference in the smoothness of the conversation on the phone when I watch a foreign movie with Japanese subtitles before the call, and when I don’t. If you are a beginner, start by watching a foreign movie.
If you are a beginner, start by watching English movies!
② Sing English songs ☆☆☆★★
Singing English music is a way to improve your speaking because you move your mouth and imitate the same pronunciation as the song.
【Tips when singing English songs】
✔︎ Pretend to be the singer and sing your favorite song.
✔︎ Imitate the same pronunciation as much as possible.
✔︎ Slow tempo songs are easier to sing.
✔︎ Singing while taking a shower makes you feel more comfortable because the sound resonates.
✔︎ At first, “just listen”, then “listen and sing while looking at the lyrics”, and when you get used to it, “memorize the lyrics and sing”.
I started singing Western music when I was in college, memorizing lyrics and singing in the shower every day.
It was worth it, and when I did a survey of local people in Australia, I was praised for my English pronunciation.
In particular, orthodox songs by Avril Lavigne, One Direction, Katy Perry, Maroon 5, Ed Sheeran, and others were easy to sing.
However, some songs have few phrases that can be used in conversation, such as slang use or shortening, so it can be said that this method of learning focuses on pronunciation practice and mouth movement.
Singing Western music is effective if it is placed in a sub role, not as the main learning method.
③ Using Radio ☆☆★★★
If you use the radio as a way to record the English you have learned and other information, you can kill two birds with one stone, as it is not only a way to review but also a way to improve your speaking skills.
There are many ways to use the radio, such as “speaking entirely in English without a script” or “using Japanese and English to explain what you have learned.
For example, when you talk about the English words you have learned, you can learn more deeply by thinking of yourself as a teacher, such as “what they mean,” “in what situations can I use them,” “example sentences,” “points to note,” and “how I want to use them in a conversation,” and before you know it, you will be able to use them in a conversation.
【Tips to output using Radio】
✔︎ If you make a script, if you know native speakers, it is even more effective to have them correct the English part before delivery.
✔︎ Do not compare your delivery with those around you, but only with your own English ability.
✔︎ It is easier to continue if you keep in mind that you are only outputting.
When I re-learned the long idiom “Isseki Nicho” – “Killing two birds with one stone” (which I had learned before but had forgotten), I used it on the radio for review.
When I learned it before, it did not become a long-term memory and I forgot it, but after outputting the meaning, example sentences, and when I wanted to use it on the radio, it became imprinted in my memory to the extent that I can use it in subsequent English conversations.
Examples of radio (audio streaming) platforms: StandFM, note, spoon, etc.
Radio, where you actually move your mouth, is probably the most effective social network in terms of developing speaking skills. You can also use Twitter as a sub for radio.
④ Speaking with native speakers ☆★★★★
The best way to improve your speaking is to talk to native speakers. One of the most effective ways to improve your speaking is to talk on the phone with a native speaker.
One of the most effective ways to improve your speaking is to talk on the phone with a native speaker because you will be exposed to real, usable English.
You can learn words that you don’t know but can be used in conversation, and you can “recognize your own mistakes and correct them yourself” because the other person keeps correcting your speaking without correcting you.
【Tips for when talking to natives】
✔︎ It is effective if you do it every day if possible.
✔︎ It is often easier to talk with native speakers who like Japan.
✔︎ It is easier to communicate if you use pictures of images.
✔︎ Even if the words don’t come out, be aware to say them without giving up.
✔︎ If you can’t understand, ask them to speak slowly or text message you. Do not leave it as unclear as possible.
✔︎ Be thankful to the person you are talking to for staying on the phone with you even though the conversation is not going smoothly, and don’t take it too seriously. It is important to have fun and keep going.
I continued to call a native speaker acquaintance almost every day for at least 30 minutes a day. At first, I could not understand what he was saying and had to listen to him over and over again, but after about six months, he told me, “We used to have trouble communicating, but now we can talk without difficulty. Now, after a year and a half, I can feel the difference, including in my listening comprehension.
I no longer forget to add “s” to third-person singular verbs and plural nouns, and I have gotten into the habit of putting “a” and “the” in front of nouns, which is basic but often forgotten.
If you continue to call native speakers, you will also develop a feeling that you can actually use when speaking English, such as opinions, jokes, and the tension of speaking English is different from that of Japanese.
Also, English conversation schools are considered effective, but in the relationship between “teacher and student” and “friend and me,” I feel that the latter is more like speaking English on an equal footing, but the feeling will vary from person to person.
⑤ Living with native speakers ★★★★★
Living with native speakers in a shared house is a very challenging method, but it is also the best way to improve your speaking.
This is because “you can learn and use real English phrases that are really used in daily life” and “all of the effects from (1) to (4) can be realized all at once.
By living together, you can not only acquire usable English but also practice English ear, listening, pronunciation, moving your mouth, habituation, output, self-correction, etc. in a holistic way.
【Tips for living with native speakers】
✔︎ Talk to them and greet them yourself. Don’t be passive and reach out yourself.
During my stay in Australia, I lived and worked with people from all over the world. Before that, I had studied abroad at a language school and was exposed to many “words that I did not use while studying abroad but that native speakers often use”.
Through my study abroad experience, I realized that “speaking with native speakers is completely different from speaking with Japanese or English learners from other countries. I have come to see, hear, and use words that I never saw or heard during my study abroad, even though they were deep in my knowledge, such as “Where are you going? I have come to see, hear, and use them after living with native speakers. I think the biggest advantage of this program is that I can use English that I didn’t learn in class.
It is important to note that simply living with native speakers will not improve your speaking. The best way to move your mouth and “speak with native speakers” is to live with native speakers.
Living with native speakers is a great opportunity to communicate with them in their daily lives. Depending on the purpose for which you want to improve your English speaking ability, this can be a very effective method, especially if your purpose is to “stay abroad” for travel or study.
English Speaking skill does not improve that easily.
Some of you may say, “I did what I mentioned above, but it didn’t work.”
In that case, from the author’s experience, there is a possibility that you are “not talking enough, especially with native speakers.
When I was in Australia in the past and asked myself why my speaking did not improve, I tried to get involved with Westerners on my own, and it gradually improved.
It is not easy to improve your speaking, but if you continue to work hard and voluntarily, you will definitely see results one day.
In speaking, you win by speaking, so it is important to continue speaking with native speakers with confidence.
Improve your English speaking skill in a way that suits you the most.
We have introduced five ways to improve your English speaking skills.
In summary, they are as follows
① Watch English movies
②Sing English music
③ Talk in Radio
④ Call native speakers
⑤ Live with native speakers
The important things are to “see and hear native English speakers,” “speak with native speakers,” and “enjoy and continue to do so.
Speaking will only grow if you continuously train your ears and move your mouth.
We hope that you will find a way to enjoy speaking practice and that it will help you to improve your speaking ability.