Speaking is the most important skill to master to become fluent and communicate effectively with people. However it is also the most difficult skill to improve compared with reading and writing.
Myths about improving speaking
1) You have to be in a classroom.
2) You have to live in a Spanish-speaking country.
This is just not true. Thanks to technology today you can easily improve speaking a foreign language from the comfort of your own home on your own.
8 speaking activities you can do on your own:
1) Repeat whilst watching Spanish television or films
You may feel silly but if you are watching online news or a film, you could listen to a sentence, pause it and then repeat it. This is a brilliant way to perfect your pronunciation skills.
2) Read along with a transcript
Whilst listening to a podcast which comes with a transcript you can read along out loud. For example:
– Audiria has accompanying transcripts for all its podcasts.
– Yabla has videos with subtitles below them that you can read out loud.
– How Learn Spanish: has links to websites where you can watch Spanish videos with Spanish subtitles:
3) Find a language exchange partner
- Find a native speaker who is happy to meet with you either face-to-face or online regularly to practise chatting in Spanish.
- Your partner will probably want to practise their English too so you would spend half the time chatting in Spanish and half the time in English.
- This is the ideal opportunity to put into practise everything you have been learning and to learn some “real” Spanish from a native Spanish speaker.
To find a face-to-face language exchange partner:
- Try the website meetup.com – this is really good for finding local groups that meet up to practise the language. If there aren’t any that are local to you, you could try setting up your own group via the website.
- You may also know a Spanish speaking colleague at work, you may have a Spanish friend, neighbour or even a relative that you could chat to regularly.
To find an online language exchange partner, read my previous blog post, “Most Popular Language Exchange Websites”.
Programs you can use to chat:
- Google Hangouts: You can chat face-to-face with Google’s video and voice calling system. You can even broadcast the call live if you are feeling brave!
- Skype is the most popular way to make video calls online. You can do it from your computer, tablet and even your phone. You can record your calls to review later on if you forget to make notes by downloading eCamm’s Skype Call Recorder for Mac: or Pamela on Windows.
- Apple Facetime: If you and your partner have apple devices you could make free calls via Apple’s video conferencing software.
4) Reading out loud in Spanish
- This is the ideal way to practise pronunciation.
- Record yourself and play it back.
- If you have a friend who is learning Spanish you could practise speaking by reading out a play together: You can find suitable scripts to do this via Simply Scripts.
Check pronunciation via Forvo
If you are unsure how to pronounce a particular word, check it on this website where you can find out the pronunciation of words and phrases. You just type in the word or phrase you want to hear pronounced and you can hear it spoken by people in Spain or South American countries, whichever is more relevant to you.
5) Use your flashcard app to prompt your speaking
– Read your flashcard sentences out loud when using your flashcard app. If you set it to see the English sentence first, you then read the Spanish translation out loud and then click to see if you were right. – This is a powerful exercise to get your saying full sentences in Spanish without just copying the words.
6) Apps with speech recognition
Technology today makes it so much easier for people learning languages on their own to practise speaking. As you are not in the classroom with a teacher who can correct you and you are confused as to whether you are
pronouncing the words correctly or not, you could use a program on your smartphone, tablet or computer that gives a critique of your spoken Spanish. So for example the Duolingo app – has reading out exercises which evaluates your pronunciation.
- Rosetta Stone has features which also criticise your Spanish speaking.
- Speechling: website and app helps you mimic native speakers and improve pronunciation using scientifically proven methods, spaced repetition and mass sentence structures.
- Forever Free plan: you can get 35 sentences reviewed each month.
- Upgrade to $19.99/month to get unlimited reviews.
- Uses a combination of technology and human coaching.
- It gives personal feedback within 24 hours.
- Improve pronunciation and learn new words and phrases
- Coaches also correct your grammar
- Website features: free vocabulary flashcards, fill in the gap exercises, listening comprehension practice, free dictation practice and free audio dictionary.
- Levels covered: A1 to B2 (European Framework of languages) this is beginner and intermediate levels.
7) Get Wechat for your smart phone
- This app allows you to send and receive short audio messages.
- It gets you speaking and making contacts.
- Good if you are too shy for video chatting.
- You can prepare what you are going to say before you press record.
8) Write a speech about any topic
You could write a speech about anything you are interested in. – Go to lang-8.com for someone to correct it for you.
- Send the text to rhinospeke.com for a native speaker to make an audio recording of it which they will send back to you.
- Record yourself reading out the text and then compare how you sound with the native speaker’s recording. Play it back as many times until you sound just like them.
You can find many more speaking tips and expert advice to overcome your fears of speaking in Spanish as well as a Cheat Sheet to Sound Like a Native, as part of the “Study Spanish Solo” online course which you can purchase here.