How to teach English - Teaching Spoken and Oral Skills besides Written

Learning English

English as a Second Language is not difficult if taught well
English as a Second Language is not difficult if taught well

Teaching English

When I first began teaching Spoken English I had no clue what I was doing. I was unaware of the differences between written and oral skills. I learnt on the job and I learnt fast.

Essentially there are Four Language Skills that one needs to master to learn a language. These are



Reading and


Notice that's the order in which a baby learns a language too.

The baby in India is usually bombarded with at least two different languages before he can understand a word at home. The regional language or mother tongue is one and Hindi is the other. In urban areas there are babies who learn English at home besides these two other languages.

However the majority are usually fluent in their Mother Tongue alone.As for Hindi and English that is learnt in school. When you teach English in school to these children all the langauage skills get used. Language Skills come into play in this order



Listening and


The teachers are more interested in getting the child to write answers correctly for the exams and after the priliminary classes when orals are no longer part of the exams one hardly gets to practice speaking the language.

This leads to a large population who has learnt English in school but has little confidence to speak the language. That's where Spoken English classes come in to their rescue. What is done is to make them speak as much as they can in English. This is done using various techniques such as impromptu discussions, prepared speeches and presentations, dialogues between people,and many more exercises. This improves their confidence levels and Spoken English.


The writing activities that can help an adult learn English as a second language better are listed here.

1. Keep a Diary or Journal : Encourage the ESL (English as a Second Language) student to record their experiences and thoughts. This makes them describe things in detail as well as learn to express their own opinion.

2. Writing Letters and Emails : By communicating to others in English, you get a chance to clearly express your thoughts, and build up your vocabulary. Plus since it doesn't have an instant feedback required, an ESL student can take some time and consult the dictionary about exactly what he wants to say.


The reading activities that help ESL students and should be encouraged include:

1. Reading the Newspaper in English : By reading the newspaper not only do you keep abreast of the latest news from around the world, you also manage to pick up a fair deal of new vocabulary. Words written in print may not be often in common use while speaking, but they do help improve the language skills of a person.

2. Reading Novels and Books : Reading something interesting is always likely to make you read more. So find an author or genre you enjoy and begin reading those books. An ESL student can pick up a fair bit about turn of phrase and colloquial language in a regular novel that would never be found in the classics.


Hearing how someone says a word can often be very helpful in the English language where what you spell may not be how you pronounce it.

1. Watch English Sit-Coms : Situational comedies are always running on television and can be tuned in to any time. You manage to not only get a good deal of dialogue delivery learned, you can also pick up more about the culture of the English speaking world when you watch families and friends interact in this series.

2. Listen to the News on the Radio : This again is a good activity to attune your non native ears to how the natives speak the language. Try BBC for the British Accent and get the scoop on the American news on CNN. A student of English would do well to acquaint himself with just how differently the very same words may be pronounced in different countries.


No matter how much to read, or listen or write, you are never going to master a language until you begin to speak and practice it.

1. Just a Minute (JAM) : A simple but effective way to develop fluency while speaking is to give a topic to an ESL student and ask him to talk about it for just one minute. Do give the topic about five minutes before they are due to speak so that they can come up with a structure and some ideas of what they would like to speak about.

2. Group Discussion : Nothing gets the tongue going as much as a good group discussion on a somewhat controversial topic. Have a set of few topics handy and run a group discussion under moderation.

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Comments 40 comments

Cris A profile image

Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

I have worked with several Indians before and I noticed that they speak British English (as opposed to American English). Is that how the English language is taught in India. Or does Indian history play a big role? Or both? Just curious. :D

cashmere profile image

cashmere 7 years ago from India Author

It is how its taught in school, but those training to work in BPOs tend to be trained in Amercian English.

Cris A profile image

Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

Oh okay.

Yeah, I've worked for a BPO before and they don't stop with teaching just the language - they also teach intonation, diction, and twang. And oh the spelling too (ie colour v color). Thanks for sharing :D

cashmere profile image

cashmere 7 years ago from India Author

My pleasure Cris

ESAHS 7 years ago

"Great written educational piece of literature!"

"Two thumbs up!"

CEO E.S.A.H.S. Association

Lgali profile image

Lgali 7 years ago

very good info

Jacobraju 7 years ago

Nice post. Informative and interesting.

sima 6 years ago

Very interesting. Thanks.

I am a teacher in Pakistan and I find the problems here are the same as those in India. Students want to learn, but get no chance to use the language

cashmere profile image

cashmere 6 years ago from India Author

Yes Sima, I suppose the problems are the same all over the Indian Sub Continent.

ANGEL 6 years ago

Hi , I started teaching English in Mexico and I see that most of my students write english well but when it comes to speaking to them and hearing audio or video they are lost . I tell them to continue to read and write well will help them hear and understand better , is this something you would agree or do you have any information I can use .

thank you

cashmere profile image

cashmere 6 years ago from India Author

There is no substitute for actual practice. No matter what the language unless you keep constantly trying to improve your vocabulary you will not improve. And yes having someone to converse in the language with is a major bonus.

Ivy 6 years ago

Even though Indian English is an accepted form of English, the BPO industry has made a massive change in the way most youngsters speak the language in the metro cities today, with a fake accent.They fail to distinguish between accent and use of correct sounds of the language. The magic of English is, it can be understood if only spoken clearly using the right sounds, keeping the grammar correct and the diction simple.I guess it will always be a challenge for the native speakers to understand Indians speaking in English because of either their Mother Tongue Influence or Regional Language Influence on English.I have been training people for the last 12 odd years in the BPO sector,where I have noticed the urge to learn "the accent" rather than the use of the language.I wonder why!

cashmere profile image

cashmere 6 years ago from India Author

The general assumption is that if you sound like them they will understand you. They fail to realize that you need the vocabulary to back you up too!

albertnicolie profile image

albertnicolie 6 years ago

Excellent Hub. It was brilliant

gill 5 years ago

i am going to teach as a spoken english teacher...tell me how can i do this

cashmere profile image

cashmere 5 years ago from India Author

Practice is the key here gill. You need to make sure that each person in the class gets to speak. And to be supportive and caring rather than critical when they make mistakes.

Kommoon profile image

Kommoon 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

That's so true :))) love your hub :))

cashmere profile image

cashmere 5 years ago from India Author

Thanks for stopping by Kommoon. I've been teaching English as a second language for a few years now, and each class manages to teach me something new.

Sunita 5 years ago

How can we make the base strong of the weak candidates,Because some of the candidates are usually from rural areas and they are mostly habitual to speak their regional language.So which is the best way to teach them.

bujji 5 years ago

its good info for teachers

sachin 4 years ago

if anyone have knowledge about how to make easy english for rural student

cashmere profile image

cashmere 4 years ago from India Author

reading and speaking the language regularly is the only way to learn it

hayatbina 4 years ago

plz give me ideas how to improve the communication skills of class-1 students through presentations!what sort of presentations can help them out,including the dialogue part

cashmere profile image

cashmere 4 years ago from India Author

The best thing for class one level would be "Show and Tell". Have them pick any one thing from their home (toy, book, pet frog???) to share with their classmates.They have to describe it to them in English and answer and relevant questions that they are asked.

aastha singh 4 years ago

how to teach present and past tense in a very interesting way to rural citizen

cashmere profile image

cashmere 4 years ago from India Author

Give them a story narration to do. Let each individual build up the story sentence by sentence. It will help them understand how to use the past tense.

For the present tense just let them enact roll play situations where they need to do tasks like buy stamps from the post office, or withdraw money from the bank teller.

htodd profile image

htodd 4 years ago from United States

Thanks cashmere for the nice post

Spoken English 4 years ago

Thank you for the analysis. Teaching any new language is never easy, specially when you are teaching a foreign language.

alyssar 4 years ago


im studying english literature in is my first year.i found difficlties in oral skills i attend all the classes but i didn't have any results. (sorry for my bad english).moreover i found troubles in communication with teacher he crticize all the time waste time in talking with few students.class was not encouraging me to talk.

any advise please



cashmere profile image

cashmere 4 years ago from India Author

Find some friends with whom you can practice your spoken english skills. If you have none who will help, take a class with a professional teacher.

alyssar 4 years ago

thank you for your advise. i will try to do this.

Randy M. profile image

Randy M. 4 years ago from Liberia, Costa Rica

I have found that the level of commitment by the students is the biggest factor in whether they can overcome the hump of their native-born language. There are so many resources that even an inexperienced, but fluent, teacher can teach language well. I share my teaching experience in Costa Rica in my article

cashmere profile image

cashmere 4 years ago from India Author

You are right, unless they want to learn there is little the teacher can do.

Shelley Vernon profile image

Shelley Vernon 3 years ago from France

Spoken classes are essential, after all half the fun of learning a new language is speaking it, feeling the shapes of the words in your mouth and trying to get as close to native pronunciation as possible.

With higher levels the impromptu discussions, prepared speeches and presentations, dialogues between people mentioned in this Hub article are all excellent ideas, but what do you do with total beginners who cannot have conversations yet?

The answer is listening and speaking games, starting with basic vocabulary words, and then incorporating those words into sentences.

Here is one such game and there are plenty more on that site, and on other sites online:

I included the link as I think the game itself would be too long for the hub.

Shelley Vernon profile image

Shelley Vernon 3 years ago from France

Check this You Tube video for an example of a super simple play script to help young beginners gain confidence speaking:

cashmere profile image

cashmere 3 years ago from India Author

Thank you Shelley for these resource links

English Blog 3 years ago from United Kingdom

I am an English teacher in Vietnam and have found that many students are taught very little spoken English. This means that many students know more than the average English person about grammar but are very poor speakers and are difficult to understand. My site has practical advice which can be used by teachers or students to help improve their spoken English, particularly pronunciation which I see as the foundation of speaking.

English Blog 3 years ago from United Kingdom

sorry I didn't write that link correctly it's



raj singhaniya 2 years ago

i am also an english teacher .i know this language is very difficult for that type of student whose mother tongue is different. because whole day you use your language so there for y have this problem. because the wait of your mother tongue is increased .but if you always use english word and try to speak no doubt you shall speak.without thinking what you are telling write or wrong after some years your speech will correctly.every body whole life try to know some thing . try and try again.

wiserworld profile image

wiserworld 4 months ago

Thanks for sharing the variety of lesson ideas and covering all the main skills. Well done!

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