Improving Spoken English
Spoken English is fun because it allows you to communicate directly with other English speakers. It is also challenging! English pronunciation is very different from other languages, plus there are many words pronounced in a unique way! So how do you improve then?
1. Break difficult-to-pronounce English words into parts.
Long English words might be scary, but if you take a closer look, they can be broken down into parts. These parts are often easier to pronounce and sound more familiar. For example:
• Wholesome = whole + some
• Antiestablishment = anti + establish + ment
• Psychotherapy = psycho + therapy
All you need to do is to practice pronouncing these separately and then put them back together. The trick is that you already know how to pronounce the long word because you know how to pronounce parts of it!
2. Practice letter combinations that are giving you trouble.
When a long word includes a letter combo that you cannot pronounce, you will stumble. One way to improve is to get into the habit of practicing these letter combinations separately.
For example, beautiful is hard to say because of its many vowels: b-eau-t-i-f-u-l. It may feel like a tongue twister. So you should focus on the /u/ sound in the middle and say it as many times as you need.
Another example is the th combo that often gets pronounced like a t. Saying the may be easy, but saying thorough is tough. Your tongue needs to adjust to this peculiar th combination.
Any sound or letter pair could give you trouble. The key is to recognize them and give yourself a little time to get used to them.
3. Repeat difficult words out loud. Then repeat again.
To improve the likelihood of pronouncing English words correctly, you need to say them out loud many times. Choose a few words to focus on at a time and repeat them slowly as many times as you need.
Repeating words out loud to yourself is also important in order to get used to hearing yourself say them. It may not sound right at first, but soon you will get accustomed to even the most difficult English words. Practice is the only thing that helps.
4. Use Google Translate Listen for unknown words.
When it comes to words you do not recognize at all, Google Translate is your best friend! Even if you do not need the word translated, type it into the Google Translate box on the left. You will see a sound sign appear at the bottom, along with a microphone and a keyboard sign. Hit the sound sign and you will hear the automatic voice say the word for you.
This feature is called Listen and it is invaluable to English learners. Google Translate Listen isn’t always the greatest when it comes to other languages, but it gets English right every time. (Note: The software that pronounces words does so with a standard American accent.)
5. Listen to how others pronounce unfamiliar words.
If you have no idea how to pronounce a certain word, but there is a chance that someone else might say it in conversation, listen very carefully to them. In fact, listening carefully is guaranteed to help you improve your English comprehension and speaking skills.
Once you hear the word said out loud, do not be afraid to repeat after them.
6. If you do not know how to pronounce something, take a guess!
Have you ever been in a situation where you just had to say something, but you had no idea how to pronounce it? It is common! You could be asked to read something in class. Maybe you need to ask for directions to a place.
It can be an uncomfortable situation, for sure. Be brave and take a guess! If you pronounce it wrong, someone is likely to correct you. If not, you can always make a note of that word and practice it later in private. This is how you keep improving.
Enunciating means pronouncing your words clearly and articulately with the intention of being understood by your audience. Enunciation plays the most important role in being a successful English speaker despite what your accent may be (more on your accent below!).
Sometimes even native English speakers don’t enunciate enough. It takes a bit of practice. Not rushing will help you speak naturally.
8. Stop worrying about your accent!
Quite possibly the most important tip for improving your spoken English is to stop thinking about your accent! Everyone has one. Even native speakers have one! Regional English accents are a real thing, not to mention the differences between American, British, Australian, South African English and many others.
You may mispronounce something. You may stumble. It makes no difference and no one minds. As long as you follow tip seven and enunciate, you will be absolutely fine! Your accent will become more and more English the more you improve, and you can only improve by speaking more, so just go for it.
Tips for Improving Written English
Speaking English may be the most difficult for English students, but focusing on improving writing is no less important. Here is what you can do regardless of your language level!