8 ways to improve speaking in a foreign language

When learning a foreign language most people find the speaking much more difficult than reading and understanding the language. This is perfectly normal mainly because when you speak you are on the spot and you have to produce the language immediately. This is difficult because often the new language cannot be translated word for word from your native language. There are differences in sentence structure and grammar not to mention recalling the actual vocabulary that you need. Here are some tips to help you bring your speaking skills up to speed:

1. Practise speaking daily

Learning another language is all about communication. The whole point of learning another language is to be able to express yourself in another language. If you can, try to speak the language every day either out loud to yourself or chat to another native speaker whether it is a colleague, a friend, a tutor or a language exchange partner. The only way to improve speaking is to do more of it.

2. Talk about a topic

Write a list of topics and think about what you could say about each one. First you could write out your thoughts and then read them out loud. Look up the words you don’t know. You could also come up with questions at the end to ask someone else. Communication is a two-way thing so as well as speaking you would also be asking about someone else.

Topics could include:

Your hobbies and interests

Your work

You family

Your hopes and aspirations

A piece of news you have recently heard

3. Listen to native speakers and copy them

A really good way to improve your own speaking is to listen to how native speakers talk and imitate their accent, their rhythm of speech and tone of voice. Watch how their lips move and pay attention to the stressed sounds. You could watch interviews on YouTube or online news websites and pause every so often to copy what you have just heard. You could even sing along to songs sung in the target language.

4. Record yourself speaking

After you have listened to some audio, record yourself repeating what you have just heard. This can be short phrases and sentences. Play it back to check that you sound like the native person. Keep repeating it until you do sound like them.

5. Say what you see

Act like a child – walk around the house and describe what you say. Say what you like or dislike about the room or the furniture or the décor. Talk about what you want to change.This gets you to practise every day vocabulary.

6. Find a language exchange partner/join a language community

Create yourself a profile on a site like www.italki.com to find people who have similar interests. You can also leave comments on the website and gradually you will find people who would potentially like to become a language exchange partner.Set up a weekly video call between you and an exchange partner. This may be daunting at first, but the more you get to know each other, the easier it will become. Try to find someone who has similar interests and a similar lifestyle to yourself so that you have plenty to talk about.
Conversation exchange
My Language exchange

See previous blog post: Most popular language exchange websites.

7. Use language-learning apps

Some of the activities on the Duolingo app get you to speak the language and you are scored on how good your accent is.

8. Flashcard apps

Use a flashcard app to create your own short sentences to read aloud. Think of a sentence you want to practise saying and create a flashcard with the phrase in the target language on one side and the English on the other. Set it so that you see the English side first and you have to read out loud the equivalent phrase in the target language. This is an excellent way to get you saying whole sentences.

Whatever you decide to do to help your speaking, make sure you enjoy it, have fun so that you will stick at it regularly and therefore make real progress with your speaking.

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