By Sarah Li Cain | 9 min read
Do you still feel nervous about speaking English to others even though you’ve spent a long time studying English? Don’t worry, you are not alone.
Just like you, many people who are learning English don’t practice speaking as often as they want to because they’re afraid they will make a mistake or be laughed at.
Don’t worry – even native English speakers sometimes make mistakes, and nobody will laugh at you.
If you want to improve your English, you need to be confident in your abilities. Here are 9 easy ways to gain confidence in your ability to speak English. You’ll be on your way to speaking fluently if you follow these steps regularly.
1. Join Online Forums That Use English
Joining an online forum means you can interact with native English speakers. It also gives you a chance to practice your English outside the classroom without leaving the comfort of your own home.
- If you are nervous about people finding out, make an anonymous profile.
- Find forums that have topics you are interested in. If you are unsure, think of your hobbies and interests: perhaps photography, traveling, TV shows, movies, or cooking? The more you are interested in something, the more likely you will be motivated to participate in the forums.
- Start off by reading on-going discussions. After 2 or 3 weeks try to answer some questions that other people post and contribute to the discussions. You can even post your own questions in the forums and respond to answers you get.
2. Read Texts Out Loud
Reading fluency is simply the ability to read a book or text clearly. You correct your pronunciation mistakes until you make no errors.
The more you practice fluency, the more confidence you will have because it gives you a safe environment to practise in, increase your reading speed, and to process words faster.
If you are nervous about speaking in front of others, start reading aloud by yourself at home. As you feel more confident, ask a teacher or a native English speaker to give you feedback on more advanced vocabulary.
How to start:
- Choose a text that is approximately 75-200 words long. Pick something that you think you can read easily, such as a book from one of your English classes, or even a book recommended by a friend.
- Ask your teacher or someone you know with excellent English if they can read the text out loud while you record them. You can also choose a clip from a movie or TV show to practice with if you prefer.
- Listen along to the recording while reading the text at the same time.
- Practice reading with the recording until you are confident.
- Record your own voice. Listen and compare.
- Find another text to read and repeat the first 5 steps.
You can develop your fluency by reading even for only 5 or 10 minutes a day at your own pace, and on whatever topic interests you the most ( I don’t recommend Shakespeare!).
3. Make Friends with English Speaking Expats
The more you practice, the more you will gain confidence in your English speaking abilities. An excellent way to practice English (and enjoy it!) is to make friends with people who only speak English.
You are then forced to speak with them in English, instead of relying on your native language. Friends are not there to judge you and your English skills. All they want is to meet new people in the local area.
Suggestions on how to make English speaking friends:
- Join professional networking groups, or places that host international events such as international cinema nights, or clubs and bars. Many of these will have a mixture of local and expatriates.
- Find expat websites in your area. To get you started, you can find some here and here. Many will post profiles and even offer language exchange sessions. You can teach them your native language and they will be happy to help you practice your English.
- Post a profile on an expat website offering language exchange services, or why not post some useful advice for people who just arrived in your local area.
4. Trust Your Teacher
If you are following a course, remember that your teacher is there to create a safe environment for you to learn from your mistakes.
Yes, mistakes are good!
Making mistakes is very important because you can see which areas you need to work on. The key is to try not to make the same mistake twice.
No one is there to make fun of you. You can be certain that your teacher is working hard to ensure that you reach your full potential.
Your teacher is also there to celebrate your accomplishments. They want to encourage you to continue practicing, and will tell you what you are doing right.
If you want to feel more comfortable in class, try to get to know your teacher better. It is ok to ask personal questions such as their hobbies or why they decided to become a teacher. If you share information about yourself you will feel more comfortable sharing your frustrations about learning English.
5. Work in Groups of Five or Smaller
Many people get very nervous if they have to speak in front of large audiences. Try speaking English to others in smaller groups to build up your confidence.
Share mistakes or stories of miscommunication with each other. The more you laugh off how funny these types of mistakes these are, the less you’ll feel scared.
How to find small groups to work with:
- Find a school, a local community centre, college or library that offers conversation classes.
- If you are already enrolled in a course, ask your teacher if he or she can arrange the participants to work in small groups.
- Ask a few participants in your course if they want to practice outside of class. Some suggestions can include during lunch times, after work, or during the weekend.
- You can start your own group by posting an ad on a notice board in your office or your local library , on Craigslist or your favourite classifieds website.
- Join existing conversation clubs in your local area
6. Join Online Conversation Groups
There are hundreds of language conversation groups online. These websites are a great option because you are able to converse with a native or near-native English speaker right in the comfort of your own home.
All you need to do is set up a profile, the hours you are available, and how someone can contact you.
Programs such as Skype or Google Talk are great options to consider as many people around the world already use these programs. Some websites have live chat programs which make it easy for you to interact with many people online.
To make the most effective use of your time, determine a topic before actually meeting up. You can prepare by looking up related vocabulary or any questions you want to ask. Don’t forget to relax and enjoy the experience.
To start, here’s a list of conversation groups on Skype (log in required). Go ahead and choose one now – we’ll wait for you…
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If you enjoy it, you will most likely return in the future.
7. Don’t go Overboard
The faster you try to learn English, the more pressure you will put on yourself. The key is to ease into learning English with less pressure .You will feel less nervous when you make mistakes (and remember, mistakes are good!).
- Break your goal down into smaller steps. For example, if you want to learn 100 new words each month, can you focus on learning 25 new words a week? Does it sound easier if you focus on learning 5 new words a day?
- Change your goals if you need to. If you find that you are too busy to read a book in English every month, for example, you can focus on reading two small newspaper articles. Every couple of weeks, re-evaluate your goals to see if you need to increase or decrease the amount of reading you do.
8. Avoid Procrastinating
It is natural to procrastinate, especially if you don’t feel completely certain about what you are doing.
3 ways to stop procrastinating:
- Schedule when you will practice English. Tell your friends and family your schedule and have them ask you at the end of every week what you have learned. Peer pressure can be a great motivator because knowing that others will check up on your progress really drives you to learn (or explain why you didn’t!).
- Reward yourself at the end of every week that you stick to your study schedule. This will motivate you by giving you something tangible to look forward to whenever you don’t feel like practicing English.
- Have a partner who is also studying English. Tell them your goals and they do the same with their goals. At the end of the week or month, tell them how much you have progressed. You can even share your frustrations with your partner and give each other suggestions and tips. A problem shared is a problem halved!
9. Remember Why You Want to Learn English
It is natural to feel frustrated if you are not confident that you are progressing. Whenever you feel this way, it is important to remind yourself of why you started learning English.
However, don’t rely on an external goal to motivate yourself. Rather, you need to find out why you want to learn English for yourself.
For example, you want to improve your English because of your career. So you can get that promotion you’ve always wanted. You want that promotion so you can get a larger salary and be able to afford your child’s university tuition…
What’s your motivation for learning English?
- Make it visual: write down your goal in English and in your native language. Add photos of every goal you have, such as a photo of your family, a holiday, or a photo of you at the boardroom table, or a logo of a company you would like to work for, or the flag of the country you would like to live in. Put this (you can make as many as you like) where you will see it the most often – on the fridge, beside your computer, or beside your bathroom mirror. Every time you see it, read the phrase out loud and reflect on your goal.
- Set constant reminders: something as easy as setting reminders every day on your mobile phone or Outlook will help. The key is to constantly be reminded and think about your goal.
Now it’s Your Turn!
If you follow through with these 9 tips, within 2 or 3 months you will notice a big difference in your confidence and fluency.
You will want to share what you have learned with your friends and family. Your increased confidence might even earn you that promotion you have dreamed of, or make some great English speaking friends.
Start by picking the 3 tips that you think you can implement today. Print out this article and put it where you will see it often. Set reminders every week to review the tips in this article and how you can apply them.
So which 3 tips have you chosen? Do you have any other tips? Why not tell us in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!