Speaking English Tips
For many language students, just thinking about speaking a foreign language to native speakers outside of a classroom can cause anxiety. What should I say? Will they understand me? What if they don’t? No matter how many English lessons you take, it can be difficult to overcome this nervousness. Still, the number one thing that you have to do to learn a new language is to use it in the real world, right? How can you overcome (win, defeat) this fear of practicing language? The answer is right outside your door. You simply have to go out and do it. Here are six pieces of advice to help you find opportunities to use English with native speakers. If you’re learning English and you do these things in addition to regular studying, I guarantee that your confidence and your language skills will grow.
Shop at American grocery stores.
If you live in an ethnic (referring to a group that shares a common culture) neighborhood, it will definitely be easier for you to buy groceries in a store where workers speak your native language, where the products are listed in your native language. However, try to break the temptation (desire) to do all your grocery shopping there. Instead, think about doing at least some of your shopping at an American grocery store.
When you go to American grocery stores, you can read product names and descriptions in English. More importantly, you can have short, simple conversations with the clerks or people at the cash register. Even if you know the answer, ask a simple question, like Excuse me, where are the bananas?. The purpose is for you to be more confident speaking English. When you’re at the check-out counter, say something simple, like a comment about the weather or a quick How’s it going?. People rarely (seldom, not often) have long conversations when paying for their groceries, so this is my number one tip for low-stress and simple practice using English outside the classroom. For bigger challenge, try your local farmer’s market. It’ll be a great chance for you to get the freshest produce and perhaps make a new friend.
Visit museums and zoos.
Museums and zoos are excellent places to build knowledge. If you live in southern California, you’re all the more lucky because Los Angeles, LA county, and Orange county have something for just about anyone. Here’s a great speaking activity you can do by yourself at any zoo or museum. Find an exhibit with a docent (guide) standing next it. Walk up to the exhibit and read the information card next to it. Find one piece of information that you can understand then ask the docent for that information by asking a question. You already know the answer because you read the card. The purpose is not to get new information but to interact with a native speaker and build confidence.
Information card: The fossil preserved here are 66 million years old.
“Excuse me, how old are these fossils?”
“These fossils are the oldest specimens in our museum. They are 66 million years old, and they teach us that … .”
Spend time at book stores.
Book stores are a great place to practice English. Just like grocery stores, you can have short, simple conversations at the check-out counter when you buy something. You can also ask the store clerks where to find certain books. Of course you can find the book by yourself, but again, the point is to give yourself an opportunity to speak English with a native speaker to build up your confidence.
Additionally, many smaller, independent book stores (and a number of coffee shops) will have evening or weekend events for music or poetry readings. You might feel nervous mingling with a crowd of strangers, but remember that most people are there to do exactly that! If you’re feeling especially brave, memorize a poem and deliver it at an open mic event. You’ll definitely get opportunities to talk to people after you’re done.
Check online for local independent book stores and coffee shops near you. They are fantastic places for social events where you can meet other people.
Talk to your phone.
Your mobile device most likely has a virtual voice assistant (for example, Google assistant, Alexa, Cortana, Siri, etc.). Did you know that you can actually have conversations with it? Open up your digital assistant app and ask it, What’s the forecast this week?, How are you today?, or Tell me a joke. The AI is actually a lot more responsive than most people know.
You can use digital assistants to check your pronunciation, too. If it can’t recognize certain words, then you’ll know what you need to improve.
Be active at your school.
If you’re studying at LASC, or any school, you should really spend time getting to know your teachers and classmates. Start conversations with them in English. Ask questions about the class, about each other’s culture and hometowns, about anything. The pressure is much lower when you talk to your peers in this way because you both are struggling with similar language concerns. Everyone is there to practice and learn English, so why not make the most of the opportunity? Even if your peers speak the same native language as you, try while to hold conversations in English while you’re at school. Many studies have demonstrated that language learners that practice their target language in this way learn faster and develop better language habits than those who do not.
Meet a language exchange partner.
This is definitely the hardest one to do, but if you can find someone who is willing to meet once in a while to trade language lessons, this can be a huge boon (benefit, blessing) for you. This is exactly how I, someone who knew next to nothing about Korean language, learned basic survival Korean while I lived in Seoul after college. My friend Jongbae and I would meet for coffee and language lessons once a week, and he taught me how to order at restaurants, how to give directions to taxi drivers, how to talk about my plans for the weekend, and a lot more. I taught him how to prepare for English job interviews, and we studied some novels and short stories. Thanks to Jongbae, I developed a basic foundation that I used to learn more Korean later on. You can do the same thing, and make a great friend, if you can find a language exchange partner.
While it’s true that practicing language outside the classroom will lead to faster and better proficiency, a strong classroom foundation will give you everything you need to enter those scenarios with more confidence. Think of the classroom lessons as your toolkit to speak well wherever you go. You can take what you learn from your teachers so that English can become a regular part of your daily life.
Teachers at LASC understand the needs and concerns of students. Most of us have lived in foreign countries and know exactly how it feels when you’re afraid or nervous to communicate in a foreign language. When you study with us at LASC, you’re getting the best of both worlds: teachers who will help you build a formidable (strong) toolkit of language skills and an environment where you can find myriad (many kinds of) experiences and situations that can give you opportunities to practice your English. So what are you waiting for? Get out there! Experiment, make mistakes, be corrected, meet new people! There’s nothing hold you back!
Contact an admissions manager today to learn about our courses and our flexible class schedules. You can even schedule a tour and a free demo class!