If you’re an intermediate student of English looking to improve your conversation skills, there are plenty of opportunities available to you—from coworker lunches to classes with native speakers on Skype. But how do you talk in English if you’re not used to it? How do you approach people who don’t know you and invite them into a conversation? How do you sound more confident than you feel? For those of us who struggle with these questions, here are eight easy ways to get real English conversation practice without feeling awkward or nervous—even if you’re shy!
1) Spend time with a native speaker
The best way to make progress in your pronunciation is by simply spending time around native speakers and mimicking their pronunciation. It’s also a great idea to speak with people from all different age groups, as that will expose you to a variety of pronunciations for words and expressions. Finding a local community center or organization is a good place to start, or look into formalized immersion programs like Voxy. If there aren’t any nearby, it’s still possible (though not ideal) to conduct lessons over Skype—but if budget allows, we recommend finding someone local who can help tutor you.
2) Practice speaking with apps and software
Don’t let your lack of confidence stop you from speaking in your new language. Check out Duolingo and Pimsleur, apps and software designed to help people learn through immersion. With daily lessons and interactive quizzes, these tools make it easier than ever to start speaking confidently. Learn while commuting with an audio-based course like Pimsleur—it’s a great way to immerse yourself in new words and phrases while driving or doing chores around the house. (Just be careful not look at your phone too much!) These tools won’t replace human contact, but they can help make sure that contact is meaningful and productive when it does happen. Having more confidence when speaking will also improve how you engage with others on social media!
3) Listen while you drive
If you’re nervous about having a conversation with a native speaker, then you can ease into it by practicing while you drive. Listen to an English podcast or radio show while on your way to work. It won’t be long before you find yourself casually responding out loud in response to something that was said—even though no one is there! The next time someone cuts you off in traffic, try saying Sorry I didn’t see you there! out loud. After a few weeks of doing so, talking to people will feel much less intimidating and more natural. And don’t worry if you don’t have much experience listening to podcasts—the key here is listening and not necessarily understanding everything that’s being said.
The rest should talk about these 8 points: 1) Use Fluent: Fluent makes it possible for anyone to learn real English from music videos, commercials, news broadcasts, cartoons and inspiring talks. Fluent lets you learn real English – all without books or homework or complicated drills…just hours of authentic video content (with interactive captions) followed by free personalized activities like vocabulary lists and flashcards designed for learning as efficiently as possible.
4) Find motivation to speak more
Don’t compare yourself to other people: Comparing yourself to others is a great way to kill your motivation to speak more. Instead, find motivation by competing with yourself. What can you do better today than yesterday? Find people who are speaking English and challenge them to a battle of words! 5) Practice multiple times per day: The more often you speak, the more comfortable you’ll become. But it’s not enough just to speak for an hour once a week!
5) Practice online
In addition to all of these other great offline practice opportunities, there are plenty of online resources that can help you build your confidence as well. To really step up your game, try signing up for a free account on one of many online language learning websites like italki or Livemocha. There, you’ll find thousands of native speakers willing to converse with anyone for free—from people who want to improve their own skills and learn about different cultures, to people looking for conversation partners for business or school projects.
6) Get together with friends
This is a great way of practicing, both with your friends and with new people. I’m not suggesting that you join some kind of weird cult just because they speak good English, but getting together with people who are at or around your level is a great way to share experiences and be exposed to new vocabulary. As well as speaking more generally about things like movies, books and current affairs, try speaking about topics that specifically interest YOU. This will help with your self-confidence and motivation: When you tell people how much something means to you it helps reinforce why it’s so important for you to improve! Of course, group conversations can still be hard when learning a language.
7) Go out socially
Socializing is key. If you don’t feel comfortable talking with people, it will be very difficult for you to improve your level of language ability. Many students want to study alone and stay home, but in our experience that isn’t a good way to learn how to speak a language. Of course studying by yourself can help, but there are two simple rules: 1) Study speaking more than anything else; 2) Go out and socialize as much as possible! We have found that when we go out socially, especially with friends or classmates from class, we learn far more about pronunciation and idioms than we do from any textbook or online material.
8) Turn your hobbies into opportunities to learn english conversation
There are a million hobbyists out there who wish they had someone around to engage with in their hobbies. If you have some sort of hobby, make sure you get out there and use it as an opportunity for English language learning. The next time you find yourself at a convention or volunteering your time at a museum, take advantage of it by meeting new people and using your best speaking skills.