5 Tips for feeling confident when speaking English
Learning a language pushes you out of your comfort zone. Often, speaking (versus listening, reading, and writing) is the scariest part of the process. Why? Well, speaking is a high pressure situation. You usually have someone in front of you, or on the phone. There’s a lot going on: listening, remembering vocabulary, conjugating verbs and pronouncing everything properly. What’s more, it all happens quite quickly!
Then there’s the self-awareness. Language learners sometimes feel embarrassed about making a mistake in another language, as if it is a poor reflection of their overall proficiency. But this isn’t true. Research actually shows that recognizing mistakes helps to improve your speaking skills, as you are less likely to repeat an error the next time. Mistakes are an important step in improving your English speaking fluency!
You might be wondering how to improve your speaking skills in English. Well, confidence is very important. The more confident you feel, the more clearly you will communicate. That’s why we’ve put together these tips to aid you in feeling more confident when speaking English.
1. Think about your body language
Did you know that 55% of messaging is communicated via your body language? That is, your facial expressions, hand gestures, and body positioning. So, your body language can have a big impact on how to improve your speaking skills. And, body language is particularly important when you’re speaking English in formal settings like a job interview.
To start, try to sit (or stand) upright. Keep your shoulders back, and hold eye contact with the person you’re addressing. This shows that you’re engaged in the conversation, and can help you speak more clearly. Good posture allows you to breathe deeply and project your voice more easily. It also helps you feel more confident, while making the other person feel comfortable. Keep your arms unfolded and your head up. Open body language will encourage you in feeling relaxed and confident when you’re speaking in English.
2. Speak slowly and clearly
It’s normal to speak faster when you’re nervous. You might be trying to rush through your words so you can finish speaking more quickly. Maybe there is a lot going on in your brain. Or maybe you think that speaking quickly in English will make you seem more fluent. However, speaking too quickly can be a problem. For example, if you are speaking quickly, it will be more difficult for people to understand you. And if they ask you to repeat yourself, then this might affect your confidence.
The secret to good speaking skills in English? Enunciation! Speaking clearly is more important than speaking quickly. It can be tempting to rush through words that you’re not certain of, but try to say the words slowly and clearly. Stop and take a breath at the end of each sentence, and if there’s a word that you’re not sure of, you can let the person know “this is hard for me to say” – they’ll then be extra patient while you try.
A trick is to imagine that you’re reading an audiobook or giving a presentation when you speak English. Mimic the pace of the narrators you’ve heard, and keep a consistent tone. Like all good narrators and presenters, how you deliver your words affects how people understand you. So, speaking slowly and clearly is a good start!
Download the ELSA app, which focuses primarily on pronunciation skills. It will help you improve on specific parts of English pronunciation such as linking sounds, or consonant clusters. So, it’s a great app to download if you’re keen to improve your speaking skills in English!
3. Practice as much as you can
Practicing speaking English doesn’t just improve by feeling confident. Lots of speaking practice will help you to remember words in conversation and process the English you hear from other people.
It’s not enough to talk to yourself in English in front of the mirror (although this is a good way of practicing!). Your speaking practice should be as dynamic as possible. So, you should try to use different tools and scenarios that prepare you for speaking in a variety of contexts.
With ELSA Speech Analyzer, you can upload recordings of yourself speaking English. These can be spontaneous thoughts or a recording from a previous conversation that you’ve had. You then receive detailed notes about your fluency, intonation, grammar, and pronunciation. Each section comes with a score and personalized tips to improve. Speech Analyzer subsequently gives you a space to practice and gives you actionable advice to help you improve your speaking skills and feel more confident when having a conversation in English.
4. Ask for clarity in conversations
Sometimes language learners think that asking someone to repeat themselves makes them look like they don’t speak English well. But think about how many times you’ve asked friends or family to say something again when you’re having a conversation in your native language. Sometimes people mishear, are distracted or just need the sentence to be said in a different way.
If you’re having a conversation with someone and you don’t understand what they’ve said, ask for clarity. Here are some useful phrases:
- “Sorry, could you say that again?”
- I don’t understand. Please could you repeat what you said?”
- “Is there another way you could explain?”
These are all polite and reasonable requests. If you reply and still aren’t sure whether you’ve answered appropriately, you can check by asking “Does that make sense?” This shows that you’re present in the conversation and trying to communicate as well as you can.
5. Integrate English into your daily routine
The more you make speaking English a standard part of your lifestyle, the more natural it will feel. You’ll even find that you don’t have to concentrate as hard to remember words. So how can you find opportunities to speak English in your everyday life? Here are some ideas:
- Sign up for a local language exchange, where you can go along and practice speaking in English.
- Join an English-speaking book club (in person or online) and make an effort to join in the discussion, even if you feel nervous.
- Join the ELSA Discord community. There’s a channel of learners looking for a speaking partner to help them practice their English. You can exchange voice notes or have phone calls to practice your speaking and help you grow in confidence.
- Practice your speaking skills with ELSA Speech Analyzer every day. The immediate feedback will help you to improve quickly, and the more you improve, the more confident you will feel!