Speaking tips

Sometimes we forget how important it is to actually speak in the language we are learning. Get ideas for how to practise talking and how to get better at it.

Keep the social guidelines of conversations in mind, which can differ between languages, eg how to open/close a conversation, how to interrupt, and using formal and informal speech.

Strategies for improving your speaking

Practise, practise, practise!

  • Record yourself regularly. Use Audacity or Soloist on LLC PCs. In a practice situation, you can overcome feelings of embarrassment or anxiety. Focus on the content of what you are saying and make improvements to your speaking skills. This is a great way to overcome hesitation in speaking and become aware of your strengths and weaknesses.

    For other ideas: import a digital file to work with, record yourself on video (ideal for Sign Language and for presentation practice), or email a recording to your teacher for feedback—ask first!
  • Group useful items of functional language together and try to learn useful situational expressions. Use them to reinforce your learning.
  • Seek opportunities to practise speaking and develop your fluency as opposed to your accuracy. Get involved with the ethnic community to make contact with native speakers, join a language club at Victoria, or become a language buddy—ask LLC staff.
  • Connect with native speakers online with Italki or Busuu.

Activities for speaking practice

  • Record yourself to develop your fluency, eg giving a spontaneous talk about yourself, what you have done this week or speak about a specialised topic. Then replay it and analyse the recording for mistakes in grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. Make another recording of the same topic, but try to speak with more confidence and less hesitation.
  • Reading aloud is a great way to practise your pronunciation. Choose a text you understand. If there‘s a recording – listen first. Photocopy the text, highlight words with difficult pronunciation and mark where you need to pause. Read and record aloud several times.
  • Talk to yourself a little every day in your target language, aloud (or in your head). Describe a person or place, introduce yourself, say some prices, tell yourself the directions you’re taking to get somewhere, talk about what you’re doing as you do it.
  • Learn a song in the target language – transcribe the lyrics or find them online. Choose a song you understand so it will be easier to remember – try translating it. Read the lyrics out slowly first, then faster and faster. Once you can sing the song well, memorise it.
  • Work with another student learning the same language as you:
    • review a book or film that interested you both, or retell a story you have read to each other
    • without looking at each other (no hand gestures or facial expressions), have a conversation, a ‘phone call’, or give descriptions for your partner to draw
    • do a role play—decide a topic eg in a restaurant, and ask questions of each other.

Inspired by: Fernández-Toro, M. & Jones, F. DIY Techniques for Language Learners, London: Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research (CILT), 2001, pp. 118 – 130.