With years of teaching experience, the most common fear I have seen ESL students face is speaking English.
Many students may be proficient in writing the language and using proper grammar in sentences. However, they may lack speaking skills due to different reasons, such as low confidence.
As a teacher, I focus on boosting the confidence of my students using various ways. Here are the top eight ways ESL students can improve their speaking skills.
I have used these techniques to help my students, so you can rest assured these ways are effective.
If you are also interested in exploring 11 Ways ESL Students Can Improve Their Listening Skills, I encourage you to read this article.
Ways ESL Students Can Improve Their Speaking Skills
You might wonder why should you improve your speaking skills? English is the world’s most learned language, about 20% of the world speaks English. Improving your English skills can open new life possibilities, including getting better jobs, ease of travel, and making new friends.
Here are ways ESL students can improve their speaking skills:
1- Speak More
The main goal of learning ESL is to speak more, regardless of your student level. Advanced students don’t reach a high level by just reading books and passing tests. Their top quality is that they speak English from the beginning of lessons even if their skills are not good.
Speaking more will allow you to know which things you’re pronouncing wrong and how limited or vast your vocabulary is. It will help you enhance your English accent and get used to the language. People can correct you and help you learn more if you make mistakes.
It is ideal to start speaking English more with your family if you feel less confident. You can gradually shift to talking in this language with your friends and peers at school or college.
2- Listen To Audiobooks
Some students are book learners and understand things by checking various textbooks. However, this may not apply to visual or audio learners who use animations to understand different ESL concepts. Whether you like to listen to audio or not, getting audiobooks is one of the top ways to improve your speaking skills.
The books can allow you to improve your pronunciation and become more confident. It will also help you learn different terms, synonyms, and intriguing expressions. Another way to improve your speaking skills using visual learning material is by watching movies.
3- Encourage Your Students To Watch Movies In English
Watching movies is an excellent way to help your students improve their speaking skills. Instead of boring classes requiring memorizing grammar rules, you can use movies to captivate your students’ attention and reignite their love of learning.
American movies are one of the top ways to learn English and improve your accent. The best thing is it will also allow you to interact with other people more because you can talk about the movie and break the ice.
Here are a few excellent movies to try in your next classes:
- Akeelah and the Bee (2006)
- The Sound of Music (1965)
- Toy Story (1995)
- Dead Poets Society (1989)
- The King’s Speech (2010)
4- Acknowledge Your Fear
There is always a reason behind every fear, and no reason is insignificant. That’s because every individual has a unique perspective, and all you must care about is whether the reason matters to you. If it does, you should try understanding and acknowledging it to overcome the fear.
For instance, most ESL students are afraid to speak English because of fear of being made fun of. However, you must not let this hold you back from achieving progress. You should surround yourself with people that will promote your growth and help you improve your language.
The day you overcome this fear, you can start speaking English proficiently soon. You can do this by accepting that grammar mistakes can be made by anyone, even fluent native speakers.
Overcoming your fear and speaking the language confidently, regardless of your skills, will help you improve.
5- Focus On Talking
Many ESL students have a common misconception that they must speak an outstanding language. I have seen many of my students focus on saying fancy words and improving their vocabulary. However, that is not the main purpose of learning this subject.
Learning English does not mean you have to have an excellent vocabulary. You can speak the language using basic words as long you convey your context properly. So instead of focusing on your speaking terms, you should pay attention to communication.
If the basic language allows you to get different tasks done and speak with people, you don’t have to search for fancy terms and use them in your daily life. So learn smart by speaking standard English and moving with the flow of the conversation.
This is one of the most effective ways for non-native students to improve their speaking skills. Talking to yourself loudly at home can help you form a routine. For instance, you may tell yourself that you’re getting food when going to the kitchen.
You may also remind yourself about various duties by speaking about them in English. This technique also does not mean that you should only repeat actions to yourself. You can also read different book paragraphs or drama scenes and improvise them.
The primary purpose of this task is to speak more English and adjust to the daily tasks. A habit will form due to the exercise, and you will see improvement in your language skills.
7- Learn The English Flow
Some concepts of ESL may seem complex to you, but understanding them properly will help. For instance, you must use books to learn the full form of different terms. Many people get confused between “its” and “it’s” when reading things.
Remember, when the apostrophe is placed before the letter S, it means an “is” is present in the sentence. So “It’s” represents “It is” in a sentence. You need to learn this flow of English to improve your skills and speak more confidently.
An excellent method to do this is by making cheat sheets and using them to improve your fluency. Once you know the right flow of speaking, you will be more enthusiastic about using these terms with your friends, partners, and other people in your life.
8- Speech Shadow
This is another technique I have used in my ESL classes. I play movies with subtitles for my students on specific days and encourage them to perform speech shadowing. Following how someone talks and uses different phrases is a great way to improve your writing and speaking skills.
The main purpose of a speech shadow activity is to listen and see native speakers speaking the language fluently.
You can watch a video several times a day and practice saying things the same way. Remember, you don’t have to copy the way the person speaks but rather the pronunciations.
You can also record yourself speaking English and make notes of your own style. For instance, write the pronunciations that you don’t feel confident with. You may also ask your teacher to listen to the recording and highlight different mistakes to improve yourself.
9- Avoid Talking With Non-English Speakers
Managing different languages is one of the top obstacles you may face as a non-native speaker. Your family may speak to you in your native language while you’re learning English. Juggling between the two languages can be counter-effective and may ruin your progress.
So you should limit yourself from speaking your native language and encourage your family to speak English too. The more you speak the new phrases and terms, the better your skills will be.
If your parents refuse to talk in English, you may take a gap by limiting your interaction. Once you’ve become sufficiently confident in speaking English, you can return to speaking your native language with only people that do not understand English.
10- Learn 3 to 5 New Words Every Day
Developing an expansive vocabulary is one of the best ways ESL students can enhance their speaking skills. I suggest you set a target that works best for you; you can start small and slowly increase the number of words you like to learn daily.
Suppose you start with one new word daily; after one year, you will have learned 365 new English words by learning one word every day.
Depending on your daily habits, I recommend you use the news, songs, and TV shows. My favorite way to discover helpful vocabulary, phrases, and expressions is by watching movies with subtitles and listening to music. I generally pay attention to the lyrics and take note of the words I do not know.
If you are interested in improving your vocabulary, I encourage you to read these two articles:
- 14 Ways to Drastically Improve and Expand Your Vocabulary.
- 11 Best FREE Apps to Learn English Vocabulary.
11- Work On Improving Your Pronunciation
Even if you have a limited vocabulary, I suggest you ensure your pronunciation is clear and understandable.
Nowadays, you can leverage technology to improve your pronunciation. For example, you can use online dictionaries like Macmillan, Merriam-Webster, or Google translate. Use the little speaker symbol to check the pronunciation of any new word you are unsure about.
YouTube is another excellent resource to help you teach yourself English pronunciation.
These are the top eight ways ESL students can improve their speaking skills. The top thing you must master is your pronunciation because that will boost your confidence significantly.
You can speak English more fluently if you don’t fear making mistakes.