If you’re trying to better your English language skills, you’re going to have to work on English conversation. The truth is, when it comes to speaking practice, there is no better way than with someone who already speaks English. Not to say that there aren’t ways that you can improve your conversational skills on your own, but practice makes perfect, and you can’t practice on a robot (I’ve tried, and it generally turns out to be a pretty useless conversation). Real people will be able to comment on your pronunciation, help you with tricky words, and encourage you to think on your feet as you would in real-world situations.
Connect with someone you know who speaks English and ask them to set aside some time to talk with you in English, or if you don’t know anyone who that would work with, try finding a learning exchange partner.
Language exchange partners are useful tools in your journey of English learning because they fill in that gap that all the YouTube videos and podcasts can’t. Chances are, if you’re trying to learn English, you’re trying to learn in order to strengthen your communication skills with others, so why not learn with others from the get-go?
Instead of paying for a tutor to give you one-on-one assistance, find a learning exchange partner at your local library, coffee shop, Meetup group, or check out online sites like LRNGO, which specialize in partnering up people to learn from one another. Pay each other in time as you teach your partner skills that you know and they teach you theirs.
Working with a language exchange partner will give you the opportunity to practice conversation with someone who is familiar to you and who understand that you are learning and can recognize the areas you struggle with.
Striking up conversation is an easy way to meet new people and practice your small talk if you live in an area highly populated with English speakers. If you do live in a predominately English speaking area, start using English in everyday situations, at the grocery store, while shopping, or at a restaurant. . Don’t hide your language skills, get out there!
What you can do on your own: as stated earlier, you really do need face-to-face interaction in order to fully practice your English conversation skills and get the most out of them. But there are things you can do on your own that can help you with the foundation you need in order to better your conversation skills.
Listening to conversation will help you when it comes time to speak it. Watch movies in your native language, then with English with subtitles. Follow along and pay attention to conversation flow, as well as podcast or radio shows. Depending on your level, you can either use beginner podcasts such as ESL Pod or those designed for native speakers such as Radiolab. These will ultimately help your ear follow along with conversation better and help you internalize some of the ways that English language flows naturally in conversation.
Photo Credit: Pedro Ribeiro Simoes