Monday, November 29, 2010

Improve Spoken English

Good English speaking skills are required in every aspect of our lives. We all know that English is the language that unifies the world, as it is the language known to maximum number of individuals around the globe. Today if we want a decent job, want to impress a girl, or desire respect in society, everything circles to our speaking skills.

Case Studies
  • Case 1
Amar was asked to present a seminar on "Communication Skills" in front of the entire class. Amar prepared for it by heart, and on the given date started to present his seminar but strangely he was unable to speak even the starting sentence. He was heavily embarrassed and the frustration was clear from his face.

  • Case 2
Vaseem is an MBA aspirant. He cleared his MBA exam, and appeared for his Group Discussion session activity. The topic given to the group was "How to Improve Spoken English".

Vaseem found the topic to be easy and knew much information about it. But still when the group discussion started, he was unable to speak a single word. Whenever he tried to speak anything, he was worried with the fact that is my English correct?, will the group laugh at me?, would I be rejected?. The embarrassment caused was too heavy for him to bear and he dropped his plans for doing MBA.

  • Case 3
Akshit was invited to his girl friend Ritu's birthday party. He went there with a costly gift to make a good impression. There Ritu introduced him to his parents in English. Her parents asked Akshit about what he does and his hobbies. Akshit started to reply in English, but found himself struggling with words. Slowly he changed to his native language and his entire conversation was a mix of native language and English. Akshit was aware that he is creating a very bad impression by mixing the languages and his inability to speak in English is very clear. This led to further frustration and shattering of his self confidence.

There are multiple scenarios like the ones discussed above that we face in our daily lives. The pinching thing is the embarrassment that we face in public due to poor communication skills. There are many students who choose ESL as compared to any other language. There is a very strong reason for choosing ESL as it is the single most global language across the world. If a person is good in English, then multiple opportunities across the world are open for him.

Good Spoken English is so important, but still very few people possess this skill. There are multiple reasons for issues with communication skills in English.

The most common issues with Speaking in English are mentioned below:-

  • Poor Vocabulary:- We need a decent vocabulary for conversation. If the vocabulary is limited, then we use the same words again and again. Also we find our self struggling with words. A good vocabulary helps the speaker to use multiple words for conveying the same message. Also it helps to understand what the other person is speaking, and we are able to respond to it properly.
  • Lack of Spoken English skills:- Oral Communication skills are one of the most desired things in the world. Building good Communication skills require persistent hard work and the right direction to proceed. This article discusses multitude of tips and techniques to improve spoken English. Choose the ones most comfortable to you, and do practice them consistently.
  • Lack of practice:- Even knowing the right path to proceed is not enough, you need to make efforts to reach your destination. Similarly having good English material and knowing how to improve communication is not enough, you have to practice it consistently.
  • Unable to stay calm:- One of the most common reasons of disaster in Oral communication is anxiety. Most of the people get over anxious when asked to speak in front of many people. The key is to remain calm, and treat it like a normal conversation. The more you believe that speaking in front of a crowd is difficult, the more difficult it will be.
  • Lack of preparation:- Many times we are not prepared on what to speak. Like when asked to give a Seminar on some topic, and we are missing the starting sentence to start with. This happens when we have not practiced or given considerable though to the topic. If we have free flowing thoughts and ideas, then conversation becomes a lot easier.
  • Unable to handle being focus of Attention:- When we are supposed to make a public speech, we are the focus of attention of many people. Just imagine how the television hosts and anchors speak effortlessly in front of the entire media. This requires a lot of courage. The key is to handle the anxiety and fear of facing many people. Just take it as a normal conversation, and all will be fine.
  • Issue of reputation getting damaged:- It happens that when we are unable to speak clearly and fluently or even make mistakes in basic sentences, then people laugh at us. This damages our reputation in our own eyes. This is one of the biggest fear which needs to be conquered. Our self respect is so high that we are unable to handle the shame of making mistakes while speaking in English.
  • Memory loss while speaking in English:- When we are over anxious in speaking, then our memory also vanishes. We forget the basic lines that we had learn by heart. This happens a lot of time to many people. Stay calm, and tell your brains that it's OK to converse normally. If you can handle your anxiety, then the effect of memory loss is very much minimized.
  • People will laugh at me:- That's what I used to think, when my communication skills were poor. Many times it happen, that my teacher asked us a question. I knew the answer but kept quiet, just fearing that I will not be able to communicate my thought properly in English and people will laugh at me. The improvement came when I decided that let the world go to hell. I am the best and I will speak my heart out. Try to imbibe this feeling in yourself, it helps to gather courage and makes you bold enough to face the world.
  • Unable to express ideas:- This is another factor which is a major block in our paths of improvement. Many times it happens that we knew what need to be said, but are unable to express it in words. This leads to further frustration, as we knew that the listener is not able to understand our words.
  • Unable to understand others:- In a communication, we need to interact equally with others. To converse properly we need to understand what the others are saying, and then respond to them. But if we have poor vocabulary, or are unable to understand what others are saying, then there is no way by which we can respond to them correctly.

The issues discussed above are the most common problems faced by individuals while speaking. The main idea is to identify your weak points and then work on them. We cannot correct a fault until we are aware of it. So just make a note of points which are crucial to you, so that you can proceed with the below tips accordingly.

There are multiple ways to Improve Spoken English. The most effective way is the one for which you are comfortable with. So make a note of key tips that you can incorporate in your daily schedule, so as to achieve the maximum improvement in your Oral Communication skills in English.

Tips to Improve Spoken English
  • Speak in English:- If you want to learn something, then you have to do it. You cannot learn a car by reading a book, you have to drive it yourself. Similarly you cannot become a master of great speaking ability in English just by reading something, you have to practice it consistently. Speak in English whenever and wherever you get a chance. Try to indulge in conversation with parents and friends in English.
  • Speak Confidently:- Confidence is something that comes by practice. Many times our weaknesses are hidden by our confidence. Try to speak with confidence in English. It conveys the idea that you are very much familiar with the topic and can converse easily on it. Small fumbling in words are usually ignored in this case by the listener. The driving factor is our confidence. It's equivalent to saying that "Believe in yourself, if you want others to believe in you".
  • Are you fluent or are you accurate?:- Fluency and accuracy are the reverse of each other. It is like driving a car, the faster you drive, the more is the chance of an accident. Similarly if you think and then speak, then you would be more accurate and avoid accidents. On the other-hand speaking fluently demands a very high free flow of ideas in your mind, and chances are high that you can fumble in between. Good fluency comes by practice. Try to be fluent while maintaining accuracy. If you feel that accuracy is getting compromised, then start speaking a bit slowly.
  • Use a dictionary:- Dictionary is your best companion, always keep one in your pocket. Whenever you encounter any new word, just make a note of it. Moreover the dictionary contains the phonemes before the meaning of the word. these phonemes are the way to pronounce the word correctly. This will help in getting the right pronunciation as well as meaning of words. It is an immense boost to your vocabulary also.
  • Choose the right words:- In communication, choice of correct words is essential. If you want to express some idea, then choosing a limited right words can convey the meaning much more effectively. Many times people use too many words and sentences to describe even a small topic. This is not a good practice. Try to speak correctly and to the point. This makes a great impression on the listener, and he can understand the information in much less words. Many sentences can often lead to confusion.
  • Don't be afraid to make mistakes:- Can a child learn to walk without falling? And if the child is afraid of falling, then can he ever learn to walk? The point is clear that you cannot learn something without making mistakes. Learn from a child, he falls so many times, but every-time he gets up and starts again. This is called true dedication. We all have it, since we all had learned to walk the same way. So where is this dedication right now? Gather your courage, don't be afraid to make mistakes. Learn from your mistakes and improve yourself.
  • Talk to yourself in English:- Talking to yourself is one of the most effective way of improving spoken English. This is one exercise that I still do today. There are many advantages of this. First you do not need any one to talk, so no issues of anyone laughing at your mistakes. Second you can practice at any time as per your comfort. I talk a lot at night, as I discuss my thoughts with myself in English. Third is that you start to think in English, this is the most important advantage of this activity. When we think in English, then we are able to communicate better since we need not translate it to our native languages every-time.
  • Make a sentence from any word you learn:- Try to make a sentence from any word that you find as new or difficult. This helps in better remembering the word. When you make a sentence, then actually your brain works to think over the meaning of that word and how it fits into a sentence. You also get accustomed to using new words into sentences.
  • Record your voice and listen again:- Now this one is an interesting tip to improve spoken English. It requires you to record your voice using any tape recorder or even a mobile, and then listen to it again. When first time I tried this activity, I was shocked, I never knew that I sound so unclear. This is like a feedback to you, so as to judge your voice yourself. It's like a closed loop system, where you give the output, take some part of it back and use that feedback to correct yourself for further output. A very effective way to analyze yourself from time to time.
  • Avoid using same words again and again:- Using same words again and again makes the listener think that you don't have a good vocabulary and that you are not good in spoken skills. Try to vary words among sentences. This helps to keep the listener involved and interested. I hope you all must be having televisions in your home. Just have a look at the news channel when they show the flashy "Breaking News". There they repeat the same news for more that an hour showing the same video clipping, but always use different words to express the opinion. This variation of words is the key factor which involves the listener.
  • Involve the listener by asking questions in between:- A communication is always two sided. If you are giving a seminar or presentation or even talking to someone, keep asking small questions to them. This ensures that they are paying attention to what you are saying, secondly this also insures that they are interested in your speech or not. The listeners are automatically involved in the communication process and the session becomes more lively.
  • Be a good listener:- If you want to be a good speaker then listening is very important. Have you ever though that why is it that all people who are deaf by birth are also dumb, though the reverse is not true. It is simply because if a person is deaf by birth, then he has not listened to any voice since he was born. Ultimately his brain did not know what sound is, and is therefore unable to speak. For speaking we must be aware of the correct sounds, phonemes and pronunciation of words. Being a good listener helps us to attain this. It has many other advantages like, it encourages the other person to converse more. It is also a sign that you are interested in what the other person is saying.
  • Don't use accent, just sound natural:- Many movies show there stars using some or the other accent. In practical life this sounds really bad. Don't spoil your voice by putting any unnecessary accent. Just try to remain natural. Natural speech and sound is the best form to communicate.
  • Speak Slowly:- Have you ever noticed that most of the politicians speak slowly, and yet they are very powerful speakers. Speaking slowly gives the listener time to understand what you have said, so he is better prepared for the coming words and can relate to them. Moreover speaking slowly gives you time to think over your own words. You get extra time to properly rephrase your sentence so as to make the best impact. The choice of words is usually much better when we speak slowly.
  • Stress on punctuations:- Punctuations can change the meaning of sentences. Many people speak sentences in a flow, and they don't even bother to stress the correct punctuations. The listener usually gets a confused or wrong information in this case. These scenarios could be avoided by giving due respect to the punctuations. Just have look at the example below:-
    •     The gangster dropped the bullet in his head.
    •     The gangster dropped, the bullet in his head.
  • Pronounce the beginning and ending of words correctly:- It is a crucial tip for English communication. If you speak the starting and ending of any word correctly, then your words will be very clear to the listener. Most of the time we speak the starting of the word correctly, but jumps over the ending part of the word. This make the pronunciation a bit tricky and the listener is unable to clearly understand our words. Just notice that how the good speakers pronounce each and every word so clearly. It is this beauty of clarity that makes them excellent orators.
  • Think in English:- This is the basic rule to converse in English. Thinking in English helps to avoid translating thoughts from native language to English and vice verse while communicating. Our thoughts must come in English just as they come in our native language. It is in fact the most important tip of all the tips mentioned. The best part is that we listen think and then speak. If the listening and speaking are in English, then thinking in native language requires translation. This slows the communication process, and forces us to fill gap words like "hmmmmm", "errrrr", etc. If the thinking process is also in English then the complete cycle is in English and in fact is very fast.
    • listen--------------->think--------------->speak
  • Read newspaper loudly:- Reading of English newspapers helps improve grammar and vocabulary, but reading them loudly helps in improving spoken English. The aim is to stretch our mouth muscles so they get used to speaking English words. Moreover our mind gets trained that yes we can speak these words with confidence.
  • Keep checking Internet for more information:- Keep checking online for more information and material on the internet. It might happen that you are able to get some good audios, or tutorials to Improve Spoken English. Most of the material online is free, so no need to pay for anything. Just practice at the leisure of your home, but be consistent.
  • How to improve vocabulary:- Vocabulary plays a vital role in any communication. A limited or small vocabulary forces the speaker to use the same words again and again. A good vocabulary helps the orator to vary the words among sentences so as to keep the listener interested. Building vocabulary is a bit hard. The way I had improved my vocabulary is discussed in detail in this article. Just check the link for more information on it. I actually used the Brute Force approach, that is to learn an entire dictionary by heart. I managed this by picking a small dictionary of around 2000 words. Regular practice and consistency helped me improve my vocabulary massively. Later a time came when my friends used to refer me for any word they encounter. They started calling me human dictionary. The respect you get after any achievement is enough to keep you motivated.
  • Join a personality development program:- PDP or personality development programs are very common in almost every city. Consider joining them if you need a class of learners and teacher's guidance. PDP courses help in grooming the overall personality including spoken skills. These programs work on confidence building, how to present yourself, oral communication, etc. So overall they provide good service for the money that you pay to them. You may check in your area for a reputed course provider.
  • Listen English Songs:- English songs are a great source of good English audios. Do listen to English songs for getting more and more accustomed to the way English words are pronounced. The more songs you listen and understand the lines, the better would be your understanding of the language. Try to get the lyrics of songs also, so that you can understand any word in case of discrepancy.
  • Sing English songs loudly:-  Singing songs is a pass time that we do occasionally. It is so natural that most of the time we don't even know that we are singing songs. We may utilize this pass time to improve our communication. Try singing English songs loudly. One activity multiple advantages. For singing you must know the song. Knowing the song implies that you are able to pronounce the words in the sentences of that song. It automatically implies a clear understanding of the song. Singling it loudly is again a brain tuning exercise by which we help our brains gain confidence in speaking English words and sentences.
  • Grammar is important:- While speaking in English, sometimes grammar can be avoided. But if you want to make a real good impression, then work on your grammar. Grammar is very important for written communication, and should be correctly used while speaking. Poor grammar depicts poor usage of the language and magnifies your weakness in the language. Get a good English grammar book. We used to study from "Wren and Martin for English Grammar". You may get anyone that suits you. Remember that no one can learn all the grammar rules by heart. Just try to gain a comfort level so that you do not face issues in normal conversations.
  • Watch English Movies:- If you like to watch movies, then you will like this tip. Get some good English DVD's with English subtitles. Play the movie along with friends or family. Keep a tab on the subtitles and how the actors pronounce them. It helps us to get the right pronunciation of words and also there usage in sentences.
  • Watch English channels on television:- English channels like Discovery, National Geographic, Star World, BBC, etc. are good sources of English conversation. Particularly I like the way the speakers communicate in the Discovery channel. There voice is very clear. They speak slowly so that we get enough time to understand, and also they use very good English to communicate. On the other hand BBC is more likely for advanced users. The speaks on BBC are very fluent in English. Television is a great source, utilize it.
  • Read a lot of English material:- Read as much you can in English. Try English magazines, novels, comics newspaper anything that draws your interest. The more we read in English, the better our grammar, vocabulary and thinking process in English becomes. The more we read, the more we think over it. Try to understand and read, don't just read for the sake of reading. The meaning of words and sentences must be clear, otherwise this exercise will be wasted.
  • Write a diary:- A very nice way to build thinking in English capability is to start writing a diary. Just start a diary and write down all the thoughts that come to your mind. The topic is not important, but you must think in English only. Initially the process will be slow, but slowly it catches speed and you will be able to think much faster in English.
  • Don't be shy to ask for help:- I heard somewhere that asking for help is a sign of strength and not weakness. A person needs courage to ask for help, and only the strong are able to ask someone for help. The weak ones are too shy to come forward. So don't be shy to ask for help. Almost everyone will come forward to help you. Our teachers, parents and friends all care for us, and they do help us whenever we ask them for.
  • Do not translate while speaking:- Translation slows the communication. We have a habit of translating everything from English to our native language. The earlier we get rid of this habit, the better it is for us. Avoid translating while speaking as this creates a very bad impression on the other person. It becomes clear to the other person that you are translating and then replying, it implies that you are not good in spoken English.
  • Watch English Programs on TV:- Television is a great source of help for Oral communication improvement. There are multiple English programs coming round the clock. I used to watch "Mind Your Language", "Friends", etc. All these programs are a great source of quality English audios and videos, and you get them for almost free(just the amount of cable fee). Utilize these resources to your advantage and try to understand what the speakers are saying, how they pronounce sentences and words.
  • Avoid bluffing sites and material:- Internet is vast and deep. You will get plenty of material online. Don't be bluffed with sites that show you conversation between two people and claim that your spoken English will be improved by this. It's as simple as telling someone who wants to learn car driving to read a car manual to learn how to drive it. You need to listen proper English for getting proper pronunciation. These bluffing sites can hamper your growth process as they misdirect the learning process. Get a hold of some good English audios and videos, enjoy them with your family.
  • Test yourself from time to time:- It's hard to test our-self, but is very essential to analyze our-self. Participate in English quizzes, Seminars, presentations whenever possible. Take these challenges and they will show you your confidence level in speaking. If you are still scared in giving a presentation in English, it means that your confidence level is low and needs to be improved. Try some exercise like borrow money from someone in English. Borrowing money requires good communication and convincing skills. Just try it with your friends or parents and see the results yourself.
  • Don't expect to see results instantaneously:- It will take some time for the improvements to show in your speech. Don't expect to become a great speaker by the end of 3rd day. It's a long process and requires continuous efforts. Many people start the improvement activity for English communication with full force, but their energy levels are gone by the end of 2nd or 3rd day. Be consistent, and allow your English to improve. A baby also takes time to grow up, you don't expect it to start going to office when it is one year old. Everything need time to improve and grow. Allow the spoken English skills to grow inside you.
  • Use Divide and rule approach:- Don't burden yourself with too heavy targets. Make realistic goals which you can achieve in some time duration. Divide the time for the sub-tasks involved in achieving your goal. The key is to make a large task appear small, by dividing it into small and easy tasks. Take one step at a time, don't try to run in the beginning.
  • Enjoy whatever you do:- Try to enjoy the learning process. If you take it as a burden, then it will be a very boring activity for you. Make it your passion, and you will automatically become a very fluent English speaker. You like to play games, then you will be a good gamer. You like to cook food, the you will be a good chef. You like to improve your spoken English, then you will definitely be a good speaker.
  • Be consistent:- I kept this tip last, because this is the baseline of Improving Spoken English skills. Try to be consistent in the learning process. We need food daily for our stomach and body. The learning process is the food for our brains. Maintain consistency to get the best results from your brain.

Choose the tips that you feel best suits your needs. Do post comments in case you want to make any suggestion or addition.

Discussed below is some material to Improve Spoken English. You may utilize this material and many more materials online to your advantage. I will be further expanding the material section to provide more relevant and meaningful content for the learners.

Material to Improve spoken English
  • Spoken English Exercises helps to gear up the students practice some exercises to improve there communication skills in English.
  • Spoken English Courses is an under-process list of curse providers in various cities and locations. If you are also a course provider, then check this link and enter your details in the comments section. I will publish the details city wise later in this blog.
All the material provided in this site is absolutely free. Moreover this blog does not allow me to post pdf files. I am working on an ebook on How to Improve Spoken English, and I plan to post it in a pdf format on one of my domains. I hope the material presented in this blog and my upcoming pdf ebook are useful in helping my readers gain higher levels of fluency and better communication skills in English.

There are many advanced areas in which you may like to foray like building strong communication skills, how to speak fluently, etc. This section is designed to cater to this need. All the advanced topics relating to communication and fluency are discussed here.

Spoken English Advanced