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Getting Smarter through Language

7 Tips to Improve Your Speaking Skills in English
(B-Level, Intermediate)

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Complexity of Speaking

Speaking is a complex activity. It involves your body and mind, and many processes take place at the same time. Your brain must coordinate your thoughts and sentences and keep the information in memory. It must access the right vocabulary and grammar structures.

Your mouth, tongue, and vocal cords must work together to produce the right sounds that represent the ideas you want to express.


Speaking also involves an emotional component. How you feel can affect your speaking performance. If you are nervous or lack confidence, you may become self-conscious and think your listeners are judging you. This can make you even more nervous and less confident, which makes it difficult to think clearly and communicate effectively.

Speaking Anxiety

Common among English-language learners, speaking anxiety creates negative emotional states. You experience fear, nervousness, or discomfort when speaking. If you have speaking anxiety in your own native language, speaking an unfamiliar language exacerbates your speaking anxiety.

7 Tips to Improve Your Speaking Skills in English

Here are 7 tips to help you become aware of your emotions and feel more confident when speaking English. Using these strategies can help improve your speaking skills in general.

Tip 1. Check your mindset

When you learn a language, having the right mindset is important and affects your speaking skills. The right mindset involves having a positive attitude toward learning and not being overly critical of others and yourself.

If you believe in yourself and your ability to learn, you will find learning English more enjoyable. With the right attitude, you will feel motivated to put in the necessary time and effort to learn the language. When you have a chance to speak English, you should see it as an opportunity to practice and improve your speaking skills.

When you make mistakes, do not be discouraged. Keep in mind that making mistakes is part of learning any language. In addition, do not compare yourself to others. People learn at their own pace.

Unfortunately, sometimes the language-learning community creates a judgmental atmosphere, where students make fun of someone who makes a mistake. They act on their accent biases to make others feel bad about their pronunciation or way of speaking. In such a negative setting, you and everyone else will probably feel reluctant to speak.

Instead of creating such a negative learning environment, celebrate your and other people’s successes. Support others and make them learning partners. In a non-judgmental environment, you will feel safer to speak, which will improve your speaking skills.

Tip 2. Check your attitude toward learning and have a sense of humor

One way to create a positive attitude toward learning is to approach learning with a sense of humor. Being able to laugh at yourself makes the process enjoyable, reduces stress and anxiety, and helps you stay motivated. You will enjoy opportunities to speak, get more practice, and improve your speaking skills as a result.

Tip 3. Focus on communicating

When you learn a new language, you spend a good amount of time learning grammar, vocabulary, prepositions, word order, pronunciation, and so on. However, do not focus too much on these aspects of the language when you speak. Remember we use language to communicate, so focus on communicating your ideas instead.

Think about it. What happens when a native speaker makes a grammar mistake or uses the wrong word?… Nothing! If they notice the mistake, they correct themselves and keep going.

When you speak, focus on your ideas rather than “getting it right all the time.” Do not over monitor every aspect of the language (such as grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and so on.) Focusing on communicating your ideas is less demanding on your brain, so you will improve your speaking skills.

Tip 4. Fluency is not about speed

Many language learners believe that speaking fluently means speaking as fast as you can. This misconception can make you anxious about speaking.

speak at a pace that is comfortable to you. Take time to think and put your ideas together calmly. You will feel more comfortable speaking English, so you will want to practice more, and improve your speaking fluency as a result.

Tip 5. Use discourse markers

Discourse markers are words or phrases that are used to connect ideas, signal a shift in topic, or indicate the speaker's attitude or intention. Discourse markers can be simple words and phrases, or transitions such as “but,” after that,” or “in fact.” They can also be longer clauses or sentences such as

  • What I’m trying to say is…
  • Well, let me think…
  • I’m not sure. It’s possible that…
  • As far as I know…
  • From what I understand…
  • I may be wrong about this, but…
  • Oh, speaking of that, …
  • Something else that is very interesting/surprising/(etc.) is that…

Using these expressions makes your speaking flow more smoothly, gives you time to think, and helps you organize your ideas as you go along. They avoid awkward pauses when you need time to think, so you feel more relaxed and the conversation keeps going.

Listen to fluent English speakers and notice how they use these expressions. Then try to incorporate some of them into your speaking.

Use discourse markers with caution. If you overuse them, your speech may sound unnatural or repetitive.

Tip 6. "Speak around" unknown vocabulary and structures

As a language learner speaking English, you will often run into a word you do not know or have forgotten. Some learners get stuck on the word or simply stop speaking. They feel awkward, embarrassed and frustrated, so they avoid speaking altogether.

One effective strategy is to "speak around" the unknown word. This means explaining what you are trying to say using other words you do know. Even native speakers do that.

For example, let’s say you want to say the word “colander,” but you do not know the word.

You can panic and feel awkward. As a much better alternative, you can keep speaking and simply say,


“I need a… What do you call it?… That kitchen tool… the bowl with small holes that you use when you make pasta and need to get rid of the water? I need that for the vegetables I’ve just cooked…”

If you use this technique in the classroom or when speaking to more fluent speakers, someone may say, “Oh, you need a colander!”

Tip 7. Practice speaking in different situations

You use language differently depending on the situation. You can speak to family and friends in a relaxed social situation or to people you work with in a more formal situation.

You can give a presentation, tell a story, or answer questions in a classroom setting.


You can speak to people in your community or to people from different places so that you need to consider what cultural information you do or do not share.

Speaking in a situation that is completely new to you can be uncomfortable, so practice speaking in as many situations as possible.

  • Find a language partner so you can practice speaking together.
  • If you live in an English-speaking country,
    • Attend social events so you can practice speaking with people outside your social group.
    • Do volunteer work so you can meet people and speak English.
    • Take courses in any subject so you force yourself to interact with students in English.
  • If you live in a non-English-speaking country,
    • Find language-exchange groups.
    • Find out if community centers, libraries, and language schools in your area offer conversation groups.
    • Find online resources such as websites and apps where you can practice speaking English with other speakers.
    • Find out if language schools in your area offer activities open to non-students.
    • Watching English-speaking content (e.g., movies, shows, online videos) can help you improve your listening skills, which is also necessary when you speak to someone else.

Change Takes Time

Try these tips, but do not expect everything to change immediately. Changing old behaviors and attitudes takes time. Before deciding that something works or does not work, give it a try for a while.

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