You can know your English textbook front to back, but if you don’t practice with real-life conversations, you won’t be able to speak the language yourself. Getting immersed in English conversations is an important part of the learning process. This can be difficult if you aren’t in an area with many English-speakers, or if you don’t know many personally. No matter where you stand, hearing natural conversation is easy with these tools:
Start with what you’re familiar with. First watch films or TV shows in your native language so that you understand the basics, then in English with subtitles. Challenge yourself to really pay attention to how feelings and situations are expressed, how conversations flow, and pronunciation.
Depending on your English level, podcasts designed for English learners or speakers are an easy way to get your English conversation practice in wherever you go.
Podcasts for English learners generally feature slower, staged conversations that help with pronunciation. Once you have a general grasp on the language, podcasts or radio shows made for English-speakers will help you get accustomed to the challenges of speed and topic change, as well as give you a sense of how English conversations naturally flow. Some good places to start for beginners are ESL Pod and BBC’s The English We Speak. Fun ones for those at a more advanced level include RadioLab and This American Life.
Listening to English music is a fun way to understand language on an audio level. The key to making this step worthwhile is to listen beyond the beats and pay attention to the lyrics. See how well you follow the singer’s words after listening a few times, then look up the lyrics and listen again. Sometimes the lyrics can be difficult to understand even when you speak English natively, so don’t get discouraged—the exercise is meant to help you get accustomed to the different ways that English is spoken.
Start by following along with an actual book, and as your ear advances, just listen. Though audiobooks themselves aren’t generally a good example of English conversation, the pronunciation and comprehension skills learned from them will prove to be useful when you start chatting.
Language Exchange Partner
Your go-to guide for all things English is the perfect person to practice your newly acquired English language conversation skills with. Keep it simple with how was your weekends or get talking about more challenging topics like what are your aspirations and how do you feel about the environment.
Don’t have a language exchange partner? No problem! LRNGO is a free learning exchange site that will match you up with people who want to learn the things that you can teach and vice versa. You know Spanish but want to learn English? Teach your partner Spanish and they’ll teach you English in return! Language exchange partners are great for one-on-one learning time, questions, and conversations.
Photo Credit: Garry Knight