SPEAK BEFORE YOU FREAK

How to teach speaking - for teachers; 7 tips to speak fluently - for students; personal experience - Celline Sharpe

HOW TO TEACH SPEAKING

Drilling grammar and learning lists of new vocabulary may feel like important work, but students learn a language to be able to use it. This is why I believe that speaking is an essential skill you should help your students develop. Everything you study in class should have practical conversational application and ought to be trained and practiced accordingly. Let’s see what that entails.


How do I make my students speak?

When a student is less confident in their language abilities they are often reluctant to give more than a monosyllabic answer, let alone speak at length. In order to build their language confidence you should provide them with the means to speak and express their ideas. Learning a list of words or doing gap filling exercises will not really make them able to use those things. When teaching grammar always encourage your students to use and play with new constructions and forms, make sentences and questions. When learning a new word think of the possible collocations it can be used in, whether it needs a preposition or has more than one meaning. Let your students taste the word, weigh it and label it and only then they will be able to use it properly and confidently.

Another important thing is to give clear instructions. How long should they speak? Is there a decision they should come to during a conversation? Should they use any specific vocabulary or grammar? When you want your students to speak, they should understand what you expect of them, better yet, show an example. Are you asking them to role-play a conversation? Do a listening task first, where they can hear an example of what they will later reproduce. Do you want to hear a monologue? Give your students an answer plan with useful expressions and linking words they can lean onto. For example: opinion (I assume that, I think, I believe, I agree that..), explanation (because, due to the fact that, so as to..), example (for instance, for example, take ….), contrast (however, on the other hand..), conclusion (so, that’s why).


What kind of speaking tasks are there?

  1. Questions. The most basic way to make anyone talk, the more you ask the more they speak. You can give your students a list of questions which include new vocabulary or use a new grammar construction, which they will answer in pairs, as a group or individually. You can ask students to make their own questions and do a mingling activity where they collect as many answers as possible. If you want to hear more from them, do not ask yes/no questions. I also simply smile and nod in an interested way looking at them, if I want to hear more, they usually get the hint.

  2. Role-plays. This is the best way to practice conversations they will have in real life, but it doesn’t have to stop there. Role-playing is a great way to boost motivation and confidence if done right. First of all, give your students a new persona, maybe with a little backstory. We feel less scared and find it much easier to make mistakes when we pretend to be someone else. Also, the best pol-plays are those with a clear goal, and the easiest way to achieve that is by using the “conflict of interest” method. One student wants one thing, the second student needs the opposite, together they have to convince each other to do what they want. Add a pinch of absurdity and time will fly as they talk, laugh and forget their language barriers. 

  3. Debates. I start using this task with Pre-Intermediate students, but the higher the level, the better it works. Divide your students in two groups and present a controversial question, better if it personally concerns them, or they can somehow relate to it. Give them some time to put together their arguments and set the rules - one person speaking at a time, groups take turns speaking, every student must give at least one argument. Write their ideas on the board, help with the vocabulary, note down their mistakes. Sometimes the debates become so heated they keep discussing it even when the lesson is over. 

  4. Monologue. Students who study in groups usually dislike this task, because it puts them in the spotlight. If this is the case, give everybody time to prepare and then an additional task - writing, reading or grammar and then hear their answers a bit away from the others. It is also necessary to provide a clear structure for their answer with some vocabulary and linking words as mentioned above. 


How much speaking should we do?

Although speaking is a crucial skill, it is important to remember that the key to progress is a good balance of different skills. I like to do a speaking every lesson, but every task serves its purpose and is well-balanced with reading, listening and writing. Sometimes chatting with your student about their life and problems is good to take pressure off them, help them feel comfortable and let them speak about what they want to, but do this too often and they won’t progress. It is your job to push them beyond their limits and teach them new ways to express their ideas and use the language and you can’t really do that in a casual chat. On the other hand, neglecting such laid-back conversations with your students is not a good idea either. Students need to feel they can talk about their life and what concerns them, because this is how they would actually use the language in a real life situation. 


7 Powerful Tips to Help You Become Fluent in English Fast (Speak Better English!)

TIP 1: SET A GOAL AND CREATE A LEARNING STRATEGY

Let’s say you currently have a B1 level of English. Great! This is a good level to have. However, your goal should be to have a higher level by a certain date. For example, you can say: “I want to have a C1 level of English within 9-12 months.” This goal is specific and has a deadline. The goal should be attainable but ambitious. If you make it unrealistic, you’ll soon give up.

TIP 2: LEARN ENGLISH EVERY DAY

You can’t expect to improve quickly if you only attend language classes twice per week. Commit to daily English learning. Think about when you can expose yourself to English while doing other things and when you can practice English in a more deliberate way.

TIP 3: SURROUND YOURSELF WITH ENGLISH

Find TV shows, podcasts, songs, books, and anything else that is suitable for you. Use this criterion:

  1. Is this suitable for my level?

  2. Am I interested in it?

  3. Am I going to learn the type of English that I want/need to learn?

TIP 4: USE POWERFUL LEARNING METHODS SO YOU IMPROVE QUICKLY

Focus on improving something specific by following a strategy that is specific to you. Dedicate a specific part of your day to deliberate practice. Then, focus on what will help you improve. Let this evolve so that you’re constantly doing the right things.
Here are some examples of deliberate practice:

  1. writing

  2. taking lessons with a teacher

  3. improving your pronunciation by learning sounds and repeating them

  4. use the TF method

TIP 5: START USING THE TF METHOD TODAY

The To Fluency Method (also known as the LRRC Method) is a simple way to improve your speaking, grammar, and vocabulary.

It works like this:

  1. Listen to a sentence

  2. Repeat the sentence and record yourself saying it

  3. Listen to your version and the original

  4. Make changes to the way you say it and get long-term repetition

Use your phone to record yourself saying these sentences. Then, compare your version to the original audio. This is where you will notice differences. The more you do this, the easier it will be for you to spot differences. Then, make changes to the way you say it. This is where you will feel some resistance. A lot of people don’t like the sound of their own voice and have to really concentrate in order for this method to work. Get over this and commit to it. It works amazingly well.

TIP 6: GET SPEAKING PRACTICE 

There are three ways:

  1. get a teacher

  2. join a language exchange

  3. make friends / join clubs

Hiring a teacher is great if you can afford it. A teacher will give you feedback on your mistakes and help you with your deliberate practice. A teacher is also going to show up to the lesson if you paid them – this is more reliable.
And finally, make friends and join clubs. When I lived in Spain, my wife and I made friends with a group of Spaniards. They wanted to learn English and learned a lot from our conversations. They practiced their English because we were friends. Find people in your city or online to practice with.

TIP 7: LEARN THE ENGLISH YOU NEED TO KNOW (80/20 RULE)

Focus on the type of English you need to know – the type of English you are going to use. You can think about this in two ways:

  1. when surrounding yourself in English, choose topics that are for you

  2. when practicing deliberately, focus on the right type of language

This is how you can become a more effective English language learner. I don’t want you wasting time studying the type of things that aren’t important. Most conversations in English are based on basic English that sounds natural and automatic.

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PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

By Celline Sharpe


Remember, mistakes are inevitable yet are something that everyone is afraid of making!

Without these 'hiccups' we can't see where we are going wrong and what it is that we need to change to make improvements. Everyone has to start from somewhere and you should take pride in your courage to leave your comfort zone and learn something new. Even if someone thinks you look silly for the mistakes you make;

1, that's their problem

2 they might be unable to understand the challenges you've had to face to get to get to where you are. - It's always easier for an outsider to give their opinion on something they haven't done themselves!

Practise really is key. You don't have to pressure yourself or set yourself unrealistic goals, unless you know that you work best under pressure! The most important part about practice is frequency. As we say in England, "consistency is key" which means, little and often will help you keep the language fresh in your mind and help you to remember the language you do learn, better. As it is easier to digest small chunks of information - frequency will be your friend! Give yourself short breaks to keep you focused, rather than overloading your brain every time which might make you avoid practicing altogether!

Active listening is a great tool. While you are practicing your listening skills, try taking it to the next level by imitating the pronunciation of what you hear. Let's say you're watching your favourite series in English (even if you have to watch it with subtitles) and you hear a common phrase or expression that you like, say it aloud - listen carefully to yourself to see how close your version is to what you heard originally. Repeat it a few times and even rewind it by 10 seconds to listen again if you're finding it difficult to catch the sounds and intonations.

I agree that thinking in English will help bring practice into everyday life and give your language learning some personal context! In your thoughts you don't have to worry about how silly you sound, so you can do lots of experimenting and play with different sentence structures and phrases.

You can even make your daily commute a little more entertaining: Let's say you see someone attractive on the train sat opposite you. Imagine approaching them and introducing yourself in English and sparking up a conversation. You can make up their responses and create an imaginary dialogue - not only will this be quite fun and help you pass some time, but you can put into practice some new expressions you have learnt and it will boost your confidence to spark up a real conversation when the time comes. Let your imagination run wild, you can take yourself on a 10min trip to London or New York - visualisation is an effective tool used by many professionals and even athletes to achieve their dreams and aspirations!

Tips:

Vocabulary is a great way to help you express yourself and broaden your subject knowledge, if you can remember it that is! A tip to help you remember everyday vocab is to stick post it notes on things around the house. On these post it notes you can write the English definition of the object, or if you want to bump it up a level you can write expressions connected to the object it is on, for example: On a kettle you might put an expression you have learnt that you are likely you use when using a kettle "Would you like a cup of tea?" "How do you take it? Any milk or sugar?" as you see these prompts you can repeat them aloud to practise them in context, this is useful as it will help you develop a mental muscle memory.

Visualisation is a way of using your imagination to practise your English, without the embarrassment - it's a win win! Not only will this help you develop your creativity and encourage some playfulness in your day, it will also boost your confidence to use your newly learnt English in a real situation, since you will have already been there in your mind.

Observation is something we do subconsciously all the time, often we observe but we do not notice. Try to practise being more present in your life by noticing things and commenting on them in English.

This way you can explore thoughts, make mental notes, record feelings in addition to practising translating them into English. This tip is not only to help you become more present in your everyday life, but it also prompts you to use a wide rage of vocabulary that is relevant to you. Whether we are walking in the park, driving to the shops or watching TV - we are subconsciously thinking about; what is happening, what we will do next or planning on what we have for dinner. So why not bring those thoughts to life and try putting them into English or looking up new definitions.

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That’s all for now,

Stay amazing <3