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How to improve your English speaking online

When learning English as a second language many students across the world opt to self study.

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While this approach makes financial sense for motivated learners, it has a tendency to leave knowledge gaps, especially in the student’s practical ability to converse freely in English. For this reason, more learners are choosing to improve their English speaking online through a variety of methods. Where local opportunities may be limited, the internet provides infinite scope for regular speech practice.

Why learning English is like learning to drive

Many disciplines that we learn in life have two aspects – theory and practice. Imagine you are learning to drive. You read all the theory books, study the road signs and answer test questions. This should guarantee you a good pass mark on your driving theory test, but what happens when you get behind the wheel of a car for the first time? Will you be a great driver from day one? The answer is: probably not. Your theoretical knowledge of driving must be balanced by your practical experience of actually driving a car. The two aspects of the discipline are essential and interconnected. This is the same when studying languages and you should make a conscious effort to improve your English speaking skills.

No substitute for real conversation

When learning a foreign language, there is no substitute for real speech practice (or conversation). It is a vital part of the language acquisition process and should not be ignored. Many non-natives who claim to “know” English tend to be good at theory but much poorer at speaking and listening. This is often explained by their lack of opportunities to converse regularly in English. In reality, there is no excuse for being out of touch because the internet connects us all. Where local opportunities are limited, learners can improve their spoken fluency online.

Improving English speaking skills via the internet

There are a number of ways to gain English conversation practice online. Some of these are free, while others are paid services. It is a good idea to start by making a list of your possible options. Use the “resources” that are already available to you through your family and friends, work, studies, etc. For example, if you have an old friend in New York, maybe you should re-establish contact or if your colleague at work speaks great English, perhaps you should converse with them in English sometimes. Every little helps.

5 ways to improve your English speaking online:
  1. Use social networks like Facebook to find groups of learners interested in live conversation practice in English via Skype. The vast majority will be non-native English speakers but this type of practice can be of use as long as you do not acquire mistakes from your speech partner.
  2. Do an internet search for language exchange websites and look for interesting people to communicate with via VoIP. You may find native speakers interested in learning your language. Remember that Brits and Americans are always in high demand on these websites so be prepared to “friend” non-natives too.
  3. Listening well is an important part of learning to speak better. Stream Youtube videos, serials and films in English (with or without subtitles) to improve your understanding of English conversation. Make a note of new vocabulary and try to imitate native speech patterns that you hear when watching videos. Having a correct native model to emulate is often helpful.
  4. Don’t forget about your pronunciation! Your aim should be to gradually improve and “sharpen” your distinctions between similar sounds in English or those that are problematic for native speakers of your mother tongue. Do an internet search for pronunciation resources and exercises from the BBC, British Council and Youtube.
  5. Consider taking Skype English lessons with a British English teacher to help improve your English speaking online. Classes of this type guarantee regular, one-to-one speech practice with a trained native English tutor from the UK. Your teacher will provide constant error correction and help to reduce the number of mistakes you make in the language. These lessons are tailor-made and focus on the individual study needs of the student.
Click here to download this post via our mobile website!
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

Written by Alex Jude —
ESL Specialist & CEO at Online Teachers UK

Alex Jude is the Founder & CEO of Online Teachers UK. He holds a BA hons degree in Linguistics from The University of Manchester and is a life-long English teacher. Following graduation, he spent 2002-2012 living and teaching in Russia, where he lectured in General Linguistics and Translation Studies. Alex is a fluent Russian speaker and worked with the BBC at the World Cup in 2018. In his spare time, he enjoys camping/bushcraft, playing guitar and watching rugby league.

Written by Alex Jude —
ESL Specialist & CEO at Online Teachers UK