Learning how to speak in a foreign language is not easy, and even when we learn enough to be able to speak, we often don’t have enough confidence to show our skills. We get nervous, we think about our mistakes, and it just goes downhill from there. However, many people all over the world have learnt how to speak English well, so it is very much possible. Here are a few tips that can help you build more confidence.
1. Be realistic
Learning a language is a long process, usually much longer than you initially expect, and you will make mistakes until you reach a high level. Find out where you are in the process, that is, which level of English you are. Inform yourself about what is expected of learners at each level. More specifically, look up what speaking skills you should have at a certain level. Maybe you are just being unrealistic expecting to speak like learners whose English is at a much higher level. All language schools can test your English, a tutor can do it for you or you can do it by yourself online.
2. Keep it simple
A lot of learners just want to make the same complex sentences in English that they make in their native language. This way they make many grammatical mistakes and stop in the middle of a sentence because they can’t remember a word. The best way to avoid this is to make short, simple sentences: just stick with the classic Subject + Verb + Object sentences and add manner, place or time in the end. It is better to make six short but correct sentences than one long but incorrect one. Avoid complex sentences, stop, start another sentence. Stick with what you have already learnt in your classes, not with what you would like to say, and add new structures as you learn them.
3. Learn things by heart
Language is not maths and logic does not apply. You can’t rely on improvisation either. You have to learn things by heart: new words, phrases, common sentences and expressions. Learn commonly used sentences like May I Use the bathroom, please? Excuse me, what time is it? I’d like to order a pizza. etc. Repeat until you memorize them, it is as simple as that, and keep building your database.
4. Practice for specific situations
Learn how to deal with specific situations by learning sentences you should use in them as we have mentioned above. For example, you want to order food in a restaurant, book a hotel, or invite friends for dinner. Practice the whole conversation until it is perfect. Then go out and do it in the real world. Succeeding in small goals like these will boost your confidence by showing you that you are able to do it, you just need to practice your target language.
5. Listen to yourself speak
Try to listen to yourself as you speak. There is no need to speak fast, you can take it easy and pay attention to what you are saying. If you notice any mistakes, correct yourself, or remember them and correct yourself the next time. Keep notes about the mistakes you need to correct and work on them actively, practice the correct way until it becomes second nature. You can also record yourself speaking, listen to it and try to correct what is not good English. Ask for feedback from friends who speak English better.
6. Acknowledge your progress
Language learning is largely based on correcting mistakes, but if you are actively learning, you are making some progress. Acknowledge any progress you have made and pat yourself on the back. Take a moment to stop and celebrate how far you have come. Basically, you had to learn every word again and now you can think, speak, listen, write and read in a foreign language. Isn’t that amazing? Keep at it, you will get there.
7. Control your feelings
Many people get very nervous when they have to speak in English, there is fear, tummy issues, their hands start shaking and so on. Learning some concentration and relaxation techniques can really help with this big problem. There are some short exercises you can do to calm your mind, emotions, and your physical reactions. When you are calm and focused, your English is much better too.
Most importantly, understand that making mistakes is a normal part of learning a new language and try to treat yourself like a child learning a new skill – with patience and compassion.
Written by Lilliana Letic