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Learn English: How to improve your speaking

Talking on the phone
How can you improve your speaking skills?
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How can I learn to speak English easily? How can I practise English when I don't know any other English speakers? Will my accent affect my score in an English test? These were some of the questions our Learn English community during a live lesson about how to improve your speaking. We spoke to Aussie teacher Gwendolen (Gwen) Warnick from RMIT University to get some answers.

How can I learn to speak English easily?

Gwen suggests to have realistic expectations about your communication skills.

She recommends students to start with topics that they are interested in.

"If you like books, go to a local library. Get some books. There are thousands and thousands [websites] with reading texts."

How can I practise when I'm in a country where there are no English speakers?

For those who feel they will never learn English because they are not from an English speaking country, there's some good news.

"With language, it's really about using the language and giving your brain lots of opportunities to engage with that language in different ways," Gwen says.

"It doesn't matter who you're talking to. It doesn't matter if it's a baby with terrible language [or] someone with terrible English. The fact that you're even thinking in English is improving your English."

"If you're reading something or listening to something, maybe you're not speaking English at that time but you can listen to something or read something and then summarise afterwards. Or tell a story about it afterwards. Or make up sentences with the words you learnt afterwards."

Gwen says that learners should think about how they can do different skills and how they can talk about different things around them. Here are some strategies:

  • Sit in a room and describe the room you're in
  • Have a role-play conversation so use little hand puppets and make up a character
  • Look at movie scripts that are available online, listen to the character and imitate them
  • Watch a TV show and listen to a line being spoken. Pause it and say the line back

Gwen says "it's ok if you make mistakes and it's ok if you're not understood."

"I don't understand people all the time. And I'm a very good English speaker."

Does my accent matter?

Many learners may aspire to speak like native speakers and often ask if they should have an Australian, British or American accent.

Gwen says your accent does not matter and just because someone is a native speaker, that doesn't mean that they're good at English.

"You get to choose the accent that you want. None of them are considered better. None of them are going to get you better marks in an exam," she says.

"In an exam, they want to know what you're saying. They want to understand you. That comes from speaking clearly."

"In English, it comes from stress. So sentence stress or syllable stress in a word. That is something you need to be using the way most people use but that doesn't extend to accents," Gwen says.

Learn English Hacks is a Facebook Live series featuring Australian teachers where they discuss challenges learners face and how to overcome them. For more information, visit our Learn English Facebook page.