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November 23, 2020

How to Improve Spoken English

Do you want to speak better English?

If so, you’ve come to the right place.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to improve your English fluency (successfully).

The guide works even if you don’t live in an English-speaking country. It works even if you don’t have someone to take to in English.

And if you can only learn English speaking online or at home, that’s not a problem either.

Here are the main topics:

  • Chapter 1: The Right Way to Learn English Speaking
  • Chapter 2: Three Best Ways to Improve Spoken English
  • Chapter 3: How to Guarantee English Fluency

This guide is long. Read it only if you’re serious about improving your English speaking skills (otherwise it’ll be a waste of time).Bonus: I can send you English speaking lessons via email (so you can read them whenever you want). Click here if you want the lessons.

Chapter 1: How to Learn English Speaking

Imagine this scenario…

You want to speak English well, so you start studying English grammar.

You think that if you know all the rules, you’ll be able to speak proper English (like a native).

So every day you read, listen, memorize, and do all you can to master English grammar.

Then one day, you have a chance to talk with someone in English.

And you still speak poorly.

You want to say something. It’s in your head. But you can’t get the words out.

And when you finally manage to say something, you feel like you’re making a lot of grammatical mistakes.

Despite a lot of studying, your spoken English is still poor.

Why is that?

It’s because your knowledge of English is explicit knowledge (non-automatic), not implicit knowledge (automatic).

Implicit VS. Explicit Knowledge

When you learn something, new memories (knowledge) are formed in your brain.

But there are two types of knowledge:

  1. Implicit knowledge
  2. Explicit knowledge

If you want to speak good English, you must know the difference.

What is Implicit Knowledge

Implicit knowledge is knowledge you can use automatically, without conscious attention. (Pretty cool, right?)

Examples of activities that use implicit knowledge:

  • Riding a bicycle
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Speaking your native language

Implicit knowledge is fast, automatic, and effortless.

That’s why you can ride a bicycle without focusing on the movement of your legs.

It’s why musicians can sing and play instruments at the same time, without paying attention to their fingers.

Oh oh yea yea…I love you

Think about how it feels when you speak your native language.

It feels natural and effortless, isn’t it? You can speak fluently without thinking about grammar rules.

That’s possible because of implicit knowledge.

What is Explicit Knowledge

Explicit knowledge is the opposite of implicit knowledge.

It’s the type of knowledge that requires conscious attention.

To use the knowledge, you must “think” about it. You must focus your attention on it.

Examples of activities that require explicit knowledge:

  • Solving a math problem (17 x 42 = ?)
  • Giving examples of countries located in Asia
  • Explaining a grammar rule to someone

Explicit knowledge is slow, non-automatic, and effortful. It’s only useful when you’re doing a task that doesn’t require fast response.

Sadly, this type of knowledge is useless in spoken English, which requires you to respond to a question or remark quickly. (You don’t have time to think about grammar.)

If you try to use explicit knowledge when speaking English, the scenario below will happen:

As you can see, it doesn’t work.

If you want to speak good English, you must stop doing activities that result in explicit knowledge.

Here are examples of such activities:

  • Watch a video explaining ‘can’ vs. ‘could’
  • Read an article that teach the prepositions: on, at, in, by, of
  • Listen to a lecture about how to use ‘a’, ‘an’, and ‘the’

These activities may improve your writing, but not speaking.

Unfortunately, many students like to learn to speak English this way. They spend lots of time studying various rules of English, thinking it will make them speak better.

What they don’t realize is that the knowledge they gain is explicit knowledge, which is useless in speaking English (because it’s not automatic).

Implicit Knowledge: The Key to Speaking Fluent English

Want to speak English fluently? Build implicit knowledge!

If you want to speak English well, you need to build implicit knowledge, not explicit knowledge.

Implicit knowledge is automatic, so you don’t have to think about grammar when speaking. This allows you to concentrate on expressing your thoughts and ideas.

The result is that you’ll be able to speak English effortlessly.

It will feel as if you’re talking in your native language!

Pretty exciting, right?

So how do you acquire implicit knowledge?

Sadly, implicit knowledge cannot be taught. You can’t develop it by reading grammar books or by attending English lectures.

Trying to build implicit knowledge by studying is like learning to swim by reading books. It makes no sense.

The only way to build implicit knowledge is through experience and practice (just like how you learned to speak your first language).

In other words, you must learn spoken English by “doing” instead of by “studying.”

Read the next chapter to learn more.Do you want to receive English speaking lessons via email?
If so, enter your email address below:Join English Course

Chapter 2: Three Ways to Improve Your English Speaking Skills

In the previous chapter, you learned that it’s a waste to time to try to improve your spoken English by studying.

In this chapter, we’ll discuss three learning methods that actually work.

All these methods build implicit knowledge — the type of knowledge you need to speak English well.

Method #1: Listen to English Conversations

How does listening improve your speaking?

When you listen to an English conversation, the unconscious part of your brain is learning English behind the scenes (without your awareness).

Let me explain with an example.

Consider the prepositions ‘in’ and ‘on,’ which can be used to tell when something happened.

Usage examples of in:

  • He was born in March.
  • He was born in 1990.

Usage examples of on:

  • He was born on March 20th.
  • He was born on Monday.

Suppose that right now you confuse these two prepositions, so you tend to say “I was born on (your birth year)” instead of “I was born in (your birth year).”

How do you correct this mistake?

Well, if you listen to a lot of English conversations, you’ll hear the correct usage many times in various contexts:

  • I was born in 1997.
  • My parents moved to the US in 1985.
  • I graduated college in 2008.

After some exposure to the correct usage, you (or rather your brain) will become more familiar with it.

At some point, saying “I was born on (year)” will start to sound wrong to you.

And saying “I was born in (year)” will start to sound right and appropriate.

As you continue listening to English, the proper usage will eventually be ingrained in your brain. (You’ll be able to say it right.)

And the best part is that you’ll be able to do it automatically. You won’t have to think about it!

This will not happen if you learn prepositions by studying.

If you ask a teacher to explain how to use prepositions, you may understand the explanation, but you’ll have to actively recall that information in order to use the prepositions correctly. It will not be automatic. (It’ll be slow and awkward.)

This is why you must listen to English as much as possible.

The more you listen, the more you’ll speak like a native.

Where to Find English Content to Listen to

Here are two great sources to find free English listening materials:

  1. Podcasts (for audio content)
  2. YouTube (for video content)

These two sources have content on every topic imaginable (and new content is published every single minute).

No matter what your interests are, you can find relevant English content to listen to.

To listen to podcasts, you need to install a podcast app on your phone. (Go to your app store and search for ‘podcasts.’

What topics should you listen to?

You can listen to anything you’re passionate about, as long as it’s not about English grammar.

Example of topics you can listen to:

  • Travel
  • Investing
  • Movie/music reviews
  • Health & fitness
  • Relationships
  • Pets
  • Gardening
  • News
  • Beauty

But anything related to English grammar is prohibited!

So avoid content with titles like

  • Present Perfect Tense vs. Past Simple
  • Word order in English statements – Sentence Structure
  • Talk, Speak, Tell – What’s the difference?
  • How to use “used to” in English
  • How to talk about the future with “WILL”
  • Basic English vocabulary for restaurants
  • 5 common mistakes in spoken English

Why should you avoid content like this?

Because this type of content builds explicit (non-automatic) knowledge of English. Even if you understand the content perfectly, you won’t be able to use that knowledge in a conversation.

Moreover, consuming grammar-related content can make you develop the habit of thinking about grammar rules when speaking English, which is not good.

Method #2: Practice Speaking English

If you want to speak English well, listening alone is not enough.

You also have to open your mouth and speak some English.

Make sense, right?

But what if you have no one to speak English with?

What if you don’t live in countries like USA or UK?

Don’t worry.

There are some speaking exercises that you can do by yourself.

(I’ve used some of these exercises to improve my own spoken English.)

Here are 6 ways you can practice speaking at home:

  1. Imitate native speakers.
  2. Memorize short speeches.
  3. Practice with Q&A lessons. (This is the only exercise that costs money.)
  4. Listen & express key ideas.
  5. Talk about random topics.
  6. Talk to people online. (This is the only exercise that requires a speaking partner)

You can practice most of these exercises alone, with English materials you can find for free on the Internet.

To learn how to practice these exercises, read the guide below:How to Practice Speaking English

In that guide, I describe how to practice each exercise in detail (as well as the pros and cons of each method). So be sure to read that guide.

You don’t have to do all six exercises. (That would be too much.)

You can focus on only 2 – 3 exercises.

Personally, I practice Exercise #1 (Imitation) the most.

Stop Making Excuses

Excuses are reasons we tell ourselves to explain why something is not possible.

Many English students think they can’t improve their spoken English.

Here are some common reasons:

  • I don’t have a speaking partner.
  • I don’t live in an English-speaking country.
  • I can’t afford English classes.
  • I can’t afford to hire native speakers to chat with me online.

These excuses are understandable. Many people don’t know that it’s possible to practice speaking by themselves (and get amazing results).

Fortunately, if these people learn ways to practice speaking by themselves, they’ll be able to break free from these limitations.

Sadly, that’s not the case for everyone.

For some people, even when they learn ways to practice speaking alone, they won’t do anything with that information.

Instead, they’ll just come up with new excuses like

  • I don’t think it’ll work for me. I need to practice with a partner.
  • I’ve tried practicing alone, but it felt so weird talking to myself out loud.
  • How do I know if I’m practicing correctly?

I can understand these feelings.

When I started practicing alone for the first time, it felt weird and uncomfortable. It wasn’t a pleasant experience at all.

But since I didn’t have other options (it was the only way for me to improve my speaking skills), I continued to do it anyway.

And I’m glad I stuck with it. Before long, self-practice didn’t feel weird anymore, and my spoken English improved a lot.

That was possible because I didn’t allow some inconveniences to stop me.

My point is that you must not place limitations on yourself.

If there’s an obstacle, don’t use that as an excuse. Find a way to overcome it.

“If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” – Michael Jordan

Don’t have a partner? Just practice alone!

Practicing alone feels weird? Keep doing it until you get used to it!

Not sure whether you’re doing it correctly? Well, there’s actually no right way to do it. As long as you open your mouth and speak some English, you will get results. So just do it!

When you stop making excuses (and start to find solutions), nothing can stop you from improving your English speaking skills.

Method #3: Read in English

How can reading improve your English speaking?

To speak English well, you must increase your English vocabulary.

And reading is an excellent way to do that.

For instance, when you read a novel, you get to read dialogues between characters. These dialogues are full of slang and idioms — the kind of vocabulary you hear in spoken English.

“Well, Petunia,” said Uncle Vernon, getting heavily to his feet, “I’ll be off to the station, then. Want to come along for the ride, Dudders?”

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Other than novels, you can also read non-fiction books, blogs, news, or you can follow some interesting Facebook pages in English.

Reading is particularly beneficial if you have trouble understanding conversations in English.

By engaging in both listening and reading activities, you learn both the pronunciation and spelling of English vocabulary. This is a powerful way to improve your English comprehension.

For some book recommendations, check out this page.

How to Add These Activities to Your Routine

Okay.

Now you know three ways to improve your English speaking skills: listen, practice, and read in English.

How do you add these activities to your life?

Should do you them all every day?

At what times of day? In the morning? At night?

And what if you don’t have time to do them all?

If you have these concerns, don’t worry.

Let me share a learning routine that’s doable for the average person.

If you follow this routine, you’ll be able to improve your spoken English, while still have time left for other areas of your life.

Here are my suggestions:

Suggestion #1: Listen to English during “mindless” activities

Consider these activities:

  • Driving
  • Commuting on public transport
  • Cooking
  • Walking in a park
  • Running on a treadmill
  • Waiting at the dentist’s office

These activities have one thing in common: you can go through them almost automatically without much thinking.

I encourage you to listen to English during such activities. It’ll allow you to learn English speaking without spending your free time.

(Your free time is limited, so it should be dedicated to your speaking practice.)

What are some mindless activities that you do regularly?

Use those times to listen to conversations in English.

IMPORTANT: Make sure to listen to stuff you can understand quite well.

You don’t have be able to make out every word. As long as you understand the gist of the conversation (the main point), that’s okay.

But if you have no idea what’s being discussed, then listen to something easier.

Suggestion #2: Practice speaking in the morning

To improve your spoken English, you need to practice consistently.

Ideally, you should practice every day. If that’s not possible, aim for 4 – 6 days per week.

For the sake of consistency, I suggest that you practice in the morning (before leaving your house).

Don’t practice in the evening or at night.

The reason is simple: you don’t want random events to interfere with your practice.

Here are some examples of such events:

  • Someone inviting you to dinner
  • A long phone call with a friend
  • Feeling exhausted after a long day of work
  • Feeling sick

Throughout the day, unexpected interruptions can happen anytime. They are unpredictable. You can’t tell in advance when they’re going to happen.

If you practice in the evening or at night, these random events will keep distracting you. They will prevent you from making progress.

Moreover, morning is the time of day when your energy is at its peak. This makes it easy for you to get yourself to practice.

On the other hand, it’s difficult to force yourself to practice in the evening or at night because during those times, you’re usually tired and just want to relax.

Suggestion #3: Read before bed (and/or during mindless activities)

Similar to listening, you can read during mindless periods to save time. (I love reading on public transport.)

But this isn’t always possible. Unlike listening, you can’t read while driving or running on a treadmill. (That would be dangerous.)

Another great time to read is before bed.

When it’s near bedtime, many people like unwind by browsing social media, playing games, checking email or text messages.

If that’s you as well, replace those activities with reading English.

It’s a great way to relax and improve your English at the same time.


So those are the action steps for improving your spoken English.

Note that I used the exact same steps to become good at speaking English. (I’ve personally proved that it works!)

I believe most people can follow this routine without much trouble, but feel free to modify it to fit your life circumstances.

For instance, if you’re extremely busy (perhaps you’re a single mom with a full-time job), then you don’t have to do all three activities at the same time.

Instead, just focus on two activities at a time.

So in the beginning, you might focus on listening and reading to improve your comprehension. (No speaking practice.)

Once your comprehension is good, you can drop reading from your routine, and replace it with speaking practice.

Chapter 3: How to Speak English Fluently

If you follow the action steps in the previous chapter, you will notice a significant improvement in a matter of months.

But what if that’s not good enough for you?

What if you want to improve much faster?

Or what if “significant improvement” is not enough? What if you want to ensure that you will definitely become fluent in English?

If so, this chapter is for you.

But be warned. Becoming fluent in English is difficult.

To make that a reality, you need to invest a lot of time and effort.

But if you’re serious, here are my top suggestions for becoming fluent in English:

1. Increase the duration of your speaking practice

I usually suggest people to practice speaking for about 15 – 45 minutes per day.

This amount of practice is something most people can do.

But if you want to speak fluent English, you should practice more (whenever possible).

This is the simplest way to improve your speaking skills quickly.

Think about it. If you increase your daily practice time from 20 to 60 minutes, you’ll improve three times faster!

If you don’t have that much time, here are two possible solutions:

  • Reduce the time spent on social media and other time wasters.
  • Practice long and hard only during weekends or holidays.

If a long practice duration makes you feel very tired (mentally), you can read or listen in English instead. (Listening and reading are not as exhausting as speaking practice.)

The key is to try to spend more time on activities that will improve your English.

2. Expose yourself to a wide range of vocabulary

The number of words in English is enormous.

There are words for every field imaginable:

  • Business words: contract, debt, loan, profit
  • Healthcare words: disease, medicine, surgery, treatment.
  • Law enforcement words: arrest, bail, crime, court.
  • Movie words: director, plot, sequel, theater.
  • Science words: experiment, laboratory, research.

These words may not be as common as words like breakfast, happy, or teacher, but they aren’t uncommon either.

Native speakers can use these words with ease (because they’ve had a lot of exposure to them).

If you want to express yourself effectively, you must master these words as well.

So, be sure to vary the English materials you use.

Listen, read, and practice with materials on many different topics. This way, you get to learn and practice vocabularies related to various fields.

3. Vary (change) you speaking practice

Studies show that variable practice is an effective way to improve skills.

It’s an approach where you change the way you practice frequently (instead of doing the same thing repeatedly).

Here’s an example:

  • At first, you might practice by imitating native speakers (perhaps for a month).
  • After one month, you switch to talking to yourself about random topics (maybe for a week.)
  • After that, you switch to chatting in English with others online (perhaps for a few days).

Do you get the idea?

Varying your practice ensures that you’re developing various aspects of your spoken English such as:

  • Your ability to make proper sentences
  • Your pronunciation
  • Your speaking vocabulary
  • How well you can express your thoughts to others
  • Your ability to make small talk

Of course, this approach will make your routine a bit more complicated, but that’s what it takes to become fluent in English.

4. Give yourself a project to do in English

We know that muscles get bigger by lifting heavier weights.

Without heavier weights, the muscles have no reason to grow stronger.

The same idea applies to your spoken English.

If you assign yourself something challenging to do (that requires you to speak English), your English speaking skills will improve dramatically.

For instance, your project might be to create a YouTube channel to share ideas or knowledge about something.

The channel could be about learning English or about other things. As long as you share your ideas in English, it’s fine.

This is exactly what I did. In 2014, I decided to create a YouTube channel to share ideas on how to learn English.

Once I made that decision, I started to practice much harder to make sure my spoken English would be good enough for the project.

The sense of urgency made me improve much faster.

If you don’t currently have a compelling reason to improve your spoken English, you can use the same strategy.

Giving yourself a challenging project will motivate you to work hard to improve your spoken English.

When you publish videos on YouTube, you might receive rude comments from some people.

Don’t be bothered by such comments. Quite often I get comments making fun of the way I speak English. But it’s just text on the screen. It can’t physically harm you.

Don’t let people you don’t even know stop you from improving your English speaking skills.

5. Improve your English pronunciation

If your pronunciation is bad, other people may have trouble understanding you (even if you can express yourself in a logical manner).

Record yourself talking in English and listen to it.

Is it hard to understand?

If you have a little accent, that’s probably okay. It won’t prevent others from understanding you.

But if your accent is too strong, you should improve your English pronunciation as well.

6. Be willing to pay the price

How much time you spend on your phone?

Speaking English is a skill.

And just like any other skill, you need to invest a lot of time to reach an advanced level.

If you don’t have enough time, then you must reduce the time spent on time wasters such as:

  • Social media
  • Movies and TV shows (in your native language)
  • Video games
  • News
  • Web surfing

The average person spends several hours each day on these time wasters. If you direct just 50% of this time towards improving your speaking skills, you’ll become fluent relatively quickly.

These time wasters don’t just waste your time; they also cause addictions and weaken your concentration.

If you check your phone countless times throughout the day, even during something important like studying, then you have an addiction.

Reducing time wasters from your life have two benefits. First, you gain your time back. Second, your concentration improves.

Of course, it’s hard to let go of these addictions.

So, it comes down to this…

How bad do you want to be able to speak English fluently?

Are you willing to spend a lot less time on social media and other fun activities?

Are you willing to invest significant time each day to improve your speaking skills?

If you’re willing to make these sacrifices, nothing can stop you from becoming fluent in English.


Thank you for reading this long guide. I wanted to make it shorter, but improving your spoken English is not easy and there’s a lot of information you need to know to be successful.

I appreciate you for reading this article. Good luck on your journey to become fluent in English. I wish you all the best!

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