How can I practice oral English effectively?

How to Improve Your Oral English: 8 Tips

If you ask other people what their goals are for their foreign language, almost everyone will say "improve my speaking skills". When you learn a foreign language, you have to keep talking to native speakers - your teachers, the waiters in the restaurant, taxi drivers and your landlady. Of course, this works much better, the more confident you feel in the respective language. Just like improving your writing skills, listening comprehension or any other skill, there are techniques and strategies for improving your oral English in a targeted manner. Here are our eight favorites:

1. Talk, talk, talk

Let's get one thing straight at the beginning: There is no magic trick that will help you speak better English. That would be a little too easy, wouldn't it? Basically, the silver bullet to better oral expression is - speaking! Make a goal of practicing with as many different people as possible as often as possible. Do you already live and study abroad? Then take advantage of the fact that there are thousands of native speakers all around you, starting with your friends, their families, your work colleagues or classmates, the employees in cafes, supermarkets, at the post office and in all the other shops, offices or buses that you enter during your stay. If you study at home, then actively look for more opportunities to practice, for example by meeting up with your classmates or fellow students after class, looking for a tandem partner or finding a group of like-minded people on the Internet.

2. Review your conversations

After having a conversation in English, take a moment to think about it. How did it go? How much do you think you fully understood? How safe did you feel about the subject? Have you come across any completely unfamiliar words? By thinking about these details, you can engage in the next conversation a little more confidently (and at the same time know what exactly you need to practice on, for example the vocabulary that you lack on certain topics).

3. Listen and read

You need words to talk, don't you? Classes are designed to help you learn new vocabulary, among other things, but there are tons of other ways you can do the same for yourself: watch original films, listen to music, radio broadcasts, and podcasts. Read books, magazines and blogs. While listening and reading, watch out for new and interesting phrases, memorize slang expressions and synonyms, write down everything and look up anything you don't know or want to remember. In this way you expand your vocabulary and can score points with greater variety in expression in the next conversation.

4. Make yourself a cheat sheet

Sometimes you are only nervous about having to say something in English because you have the feeling that you don't know what to say. To avoid this feeling, you can easily prepare a cheat sheet. Do you have an appointment with the doctor? Search in advance for vocabulary that suits your illness and formulate some questions or answers that may arise in a normal doctor's consultation. In the same way, you can prepare to go out to pay a bill, eat at a restaurant, have a job interview, complain somewhere, or any other situation that makes you insecure and nervous.

5. Pick up the phone

Most people find phone calls particularly difficult. How so? Because you can't see gestures or lip movements or the body language of the other person on the phone. But all of this helps a lot with communication. To practice using the phone in a foreign language, it's best to start small and talk to friends first, and then gradually face bigger challenges such as making appointments or inquiries. (At moments like this, you should take Tip 4 to heart and make a list of questions or useful words that will help you handle your call!)

6. Record your voice

Yes, we know that most people don't like to hear recordings of their own voice, but this is a pretty effective way to improve language expression, and most importantly, pronunciation! When you hear yourself talking afterwards, you often first notice things that you don't even notice while you are speaking (maybe you speak too fast when you are nervous, swallow the endings of some words or mumble). But it is also possible that while listening to the recordings you will find with relief that you are speaking more clearly and correctly than you thought! The best of all, of course, if you play such a recording to your teacher or another native speaker and get feedback.

7. Learn whole expressions and phrases instead of single words

Another useful tip for expanding your vocabulary is to have several alternative phrases up your sleeve instead of focusing on individual words. (In your native language you do it all the time.) Instead of automatically saying “Hello, how are you today?” use a few different greetings, such as "What's up, man?", "Hey dude!" or "How ya going, mate?" (You have to be careful, though, because some of the expressions are extremely informal and not suitable for every situation!)

8. Have fun doing it

Let's not kid ourselves: you learn a lot easier when you have fun doing it. So be a little silly and playful while practicing: talk to yourself when you're alone, sing along when your favorite English songs are on the radio, try your hand at tongue twisters (we've even put together a list of the best tongue twisters; in English are called the tongue twisters), or sit down with someone and give each other spontaneous minute speeches on any topic the other suggests (for example snakes, coffee, India, or hypothetical questions like: “If I ruled the world, I would … ”,“ Three surprising facts about me, ”or“ Which came first, the chicken or the egg? ”). Chatting away is always good practice, and it's a lot more fun that way too.