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Ways to Learn to Speak English Well

Updated on May 16, 2012

I have been an editor of English as a Foreign Language textbooks for many years, so I know that many students struggle with learning to speak English fluently. Here are several things students can do to learn to speak English well.

An English class can help you learn to speak better English.
An English class can help you learn to speak better English. | Source

Take an English Class

Find a language school near you and sign up for a class in English conversation. The class will use a book that focuses on speaking, listening, and pronunciation. (Conversation classes are generally for intermediate or advanced students. If you're still a beginner, a class that includes reading and writing will be a better fit.) A good teacher will also bring in authentic English materials, such as videos, books, and songs for you to learn from.

Volunteer to speak and answer questions. A good teacher will make sure that everyone has a chance to speak, but shy students may not get as much practice. The key to speaking English well is practice!

Talk with a Native English Speaker

Meet with a native English speaker on a regular basis to practice your conversation skills. You can ask your friends or a teacher for a recommendation, or advertise locally. It is common to pay for this service, but it may not be expensive. A licensed English teacher will charge more than a college student will.

Meet someplace quiet, like a coffee shop, so that you can hear clearly. Bring a notepad and pen for writing down new vocabulary and idioms. You may feel funny at first, but just start talking. Talk about the weather, the last movie you saw, your plans for the weekend, or anything friends talk about over coffee. If there is a special area you want to focus on, tell that to your partner. If you are looking for a job that requires you to speak English, role-play pertinent scenarios together. For example, if you want to work in a store, practice clothing vocabulary and customer service language.

Learn English from Videos

There are many high-quality videos available online to help people learn English. Some videos offer tips for increasing fluency in English. Watch these videos for strategies you can use to speak better. Other videos show people having conversations similar to those in English textbooks. Speak along with them, or pause the video to practice correct pronunciation.

Use Apps to Improve Speaking

Many people have smartphones and tablets these days. If you use one, check out the apps available for your device. There may be good apps that can help you practice your English speaking anytime. Read the reviews to make sure the app is right for you before spending your money. Here are some suggestions:

Skill
for iPhone/iPad
for Android devices
Pronunciation
Clear Speech From the Start
Fluent English
Speaking
Everyday English Vol.A
Speak Perfect English - Basic
Listening
English Listening 1000
LearnEnglish Elementary

Videochat in English

If you can't meet someone in person to practice speaking, try videochat. Set up a time to use Skype or Facetime with a friend from English class or a native English speaker, and practice talking. If you can't find someone you know to chat with, or you only have time late at night, find someone online in a videochat room. There are even some videochat services designed especially for students of English.

Another option is to make a short video of you speaking English and then post it on your social network. Have your friends watch and comment on your fluency and pronunciation.

Watch TV in English

In your free time, try watching TV or movies in English instead of your native language. Your listening comprehension will improve, and you will benefit from hearing the authentic pronunciation and speed of the actors' speech. If you cannot follow the action in a DVD the first time you watch it, keep the sound on in English, but put on the subtitles in your native language. That way you can hear the English, but check your understanding at the same time. The next time you watch, you won't need the subtitles anymore.

The Most Important Thing to Do to Speak English Well?

It's no secret: Practice, practice, practice!

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    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judith Hancock 5 years ago from UK

      Great advice for anyone wanting to learn to speak a foreign language, whether English or something else.

      Voted up etc

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Thanks, Judi Bee. It's true that a lot of the techniques can be used for learning any foreign language, although I am really impressed with the latest crop of apps designed specifically for ESL.

    • LauraGSpeaks profile image

      LauraGSpeaks 5 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      You provided many helpful learning tips for anyone learning ESL. Very informative hub!

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Ways of learning how to speak English have moved along with videochat which of course is perfect. It's becoming confident to speak that really works. If you say it, you've learned it!

      Thanks for an informative up to date Hub.

    • Janis Goad profile image

      Janis Goad 5 years ago

      Talking with native speakers is really important, as is being brave and speaking up in class for practice!!

      Good tips. Technology is so helpful these days--the phone apps, Skype, streaming movies from the internet, and reading on-line are all really good ways to practice.

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Hi, LauraG. Thanks for reading!

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      GoodLady: What you said is so true. If you can say, you've learned it. And with all the technology out there these days, students have more opportunities than ever to par tice speaking.

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Hi, Janis. Isn't it amazing what technology is available? When I started in ESL a dozen years ago clunky VHS tapes and audiocassettes were the only multimedia options! Now students have so many opportunities to practice and learn, and the technology costs so little.

    • Janis Goad profile image

      Janis Goad 5 years ago

      Hah! I remember the audio cassettes. In fact, I think I have some of them. Now publishers include CDs in the students' books and they are WONDERFUL! I use them all the time in class, and for listening tasks.

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Janis, I'm so glad to hear that. I have been involved with my fair share of CDs, and they are tremendous fun to make, so It's great to hear they're useful, too!

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      Good, common sense suggestions, BB. Love that you can get Apps to help with languages. My son taught EFL in Japan for a year after finishing uni. He now works for a Japanese company in Australia and I'm sure that experience helped him as well as his students.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I agree with everyone above. These are all great ways to learn how to speak English well.

      The phone apps are excellent. My husband is Lithuanian decent, and has always wanted to learn the language. He downloaded an app for his phone and is doing really well learning how to speak Lithuanian.

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Hi, Raggededge. I had a friend who taught EFL in Japan a number of years ago, and it was really a formative experience for her. I'm glad your son had a positive experience as well.

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Thanks, Susan. As an EFL publishing professional, I try to keep abreast of developments in educational technology, but even I was flabbergasted by the number and variety of apps for ESL/EFL and learning other foreign languages, as well. Of course, the apps vary in quality, but for the most part they're inexpensive, so you're not investing too much in them. Good luck to your husband (or however you say it in Lithuanian!).

    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great hub! I love the idea of using video chat to learn from a friend. Voted up and useful!

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Thanks, clevercat. It really pays to keep up with the available technology, especially when trying to teach digital natives.

    • nifwlseirff profile image

      Kymberly Fergusson 4 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

      Some of the more recent textbooks include DVDs, with video, audio and even software programs that record what you say, and compare it with a native speaker. And the most recent crop of language apps are mostly very useful.

      I'm always disappointed that the classrooms usually don't use the available technology.

      Although, it doesn't always work well with all of my students - mostly over 50s - about half of the class is enthusiastic.

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Hi, nifwlseirff. I've heard that technology can really be a problem in ESL/EFL classrooms, either because schools don't want to/cannot afford to invest in the latest equipment, or because instructors are not well-versed in how to use it. Your perspective is new to me, but helpful. I think in the industry we don't often consider older adults and seniors; nearly all the books I've worked on in the past few years have been aimed at the high school or college markets, and so they're quite tech-centric.

    • nifwlseirff profile image

      Kymberly Fergusson 4 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

      Personally, I love the newer media-rich textbook offering, especially for self-study! But then I am really interested in technology. Some of the teachers at my school, who are using media-rich textbooks (SpeakOut), skip all topics about technology, and rarely use the video. It's a shame.

      It's disappointing that most still aim at the young adults, around university age. The topics are often not appropriate for older adults (like searching for your first job).

      Most of my EFL classes are conversation classes, but I still try to incorporate the occasional media clip. It's great for providing variety, even with the over-50s, but I find if I use it too much, they become passive learners, and are reluctant to talk.

      I'm off to look at the apps you mention for the couple of students that have iPhones - thanks!

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      We really ought to do a better job providing materials aimed at the adult market. Unfortunately, I'm a freelancer these days, so I can't propose a new project! Some materials I've seen offer different options for personalization practice and role-plays depending on the student's stage of life, but that's a clunky, inelegant solution.

    • Rich W2K profile image

      Rich 4 years ago from Gold Coast

      Great hub. I think I'm the first non-apprentice to comment! I agree with the second suggestion. I wish my students had more confidence to talk with native English speakers. For me, it's the best and most enjoyable way to learn any language. Thanks

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Hi, Rich. Speaking in another language is really intimidating at first, but it really is the best way to improve. I know that I never achieved true fluency in any of the languages I have studied because I was too worried that I would make mistakes and look silly when I tried to speak, but I understand now that it's really the most important part of the learning process! Thanks for reading.

    • profile image

      Alex 3 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi, great article with some useful tips, I think a good place to start if you are learning English is to learn all the individual sounds of English. Once you have mastered these you will be better at listening and people will understand you. I have made some animated diagrams, and have some more interactive activities for English learners coming soon on my site, check them out here http://www.howtoimprovespokenenglishblog.com/phone...

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 3 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Hi, English Blog. I'm usually a little wary of clicking links, but I was surprised and pleased at the resources you have. Nice job with the vowels; those are always tough.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Informative and useful. Worth sharing. So shared.voted up. thank you for this post.

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