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7 Tips to Improve Your Speaking Skills in English
(C-Level, Advanced)

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The Complexity of Speaking

Speaking is a complex activity. It involves your body and mind and many processes taking place simultaneously. Your brain must coordinate your thoughts and sentences and keep the information in memory. It must access the right vocabulary and grammar structures to express what you are thinking.

Your mouth, tongue, and vocal cords must work together to produce the right sounds that represent the ideas you want to express. You must also monitor your breathing and speed.


Speaking also involves an emotional component. If you are nervous or lack confidence, you may become self-conscious and think your listeners are judging you. If you are overly excited or anxious, you may get even more nervous and less confident. You may end up being unable to think clearly and communicate effectively.

Speaking Anxiety

Common among English-language learners, speaking anxiety creates negative emotional states. You experience fear, nervousness, and discomfort as well as feelings self-doubt and embarrassment when speaking. This can lead to physical reactions such as shaking, sweating, increased heart rate, and difficulty controlling your breathing. If this happens in your own native language, speaking an unfamiliar language only 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

Having the right mindset for learning is important and affects your speaking skills. In fact, your mindset affects any activity you engage in. It 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 in general, you will find learning English more enjoyable. You will feel motivated to learn, so you will put in the time and effort required 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 rather than an activity you should dread.

Try not to feel discouraged or frustrated when you make mistakes. 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. Something that comes to you easily may be difficult for others and vice versa.

Unfortunately, sometimes the language-learning community creates a judgmental environment, where students judge each other harshly for making mistakes. They act on their accent biases to make others feel bad about their pronunciation or speaking performance. Such a negative setting is detrimental to learning and discourages you and everyone else from speaking.

Instead of creating a hostile learning environment, celebrate your and other people’s successes. Foster a supportive environment where making an effort is more important than “being perfect.” Treat others as learning partners. In a non-judgmental, supportive environment, you will feel safer to speak, which will improve your speaking skills.

Tip 2. Have a sense of humor

One way to create a positive attitude toward learning is to approach learning with a sense of humor. That does not mean you should not take your learning seriously. It just means you are relaxed about making mistakes and understand that “being perfect all the time” is an unattainable goal.

Being able to laugh at yourself makes the process more enjoyable, reduces stress and anxiety, and helps you stay motivated. (Note that “being able to laugh at yourself” does not mean you should laugh at others.) You will enjoy opportunities to speak, get more practice, and improve your speaking skills as a result.

Tip 3. Focus on communicating

Learning a new language means spending a good amount of time working on grammar, vocabulary, prepositions, word order, pronunciation, and so on. However, do not focus too much on these structural aspects of the language when you speak. Do your best, but remember that we use language to communicate, so focus on communicating your ideas more than anything else.


Think about it. What happens when native speakers make a grammar mistake or choose the wrong word? Nothing happens! If they notice the mistake, they correct themselves and keep going because they are focusing on communicating.

When you speak, focus on your ideas rather than “getting it right all the time.” Do not over monitor every aspect of the language. Focusing on communicating your ideas is less demanding on your brain, so you will be less stressed out and improve your speaking skills.

Tip 4. Remember that fluency is not about speed

A common misconception among language learners is that speaking fluently means speaking as fast as you can. This misconception can make you anxious about speaking if you are not able to speak very fast.

In fact, when people speak too fast, their listeners may perceive them as nervous or anxious and lacking confidence. A confident speaker may speak at a moderate pace and use clear and precise language to convey their message effectively.

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.

Caveat about Fillers and Discourse Markers

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

Do not confuse discourse markers and fillers. Fillers are words or phrases speakers use, generally unconsciously, to fill pauses or gaps in speech, for example, “um,” ah,” “you know,” “so,” and so on. Over using fillers can be annoying and can signal that the speaker is nervous or unsure about their ideas.

Tip 6. "Speak around" unknown vocabulary and structures

As a language learner speaking English, you will often run into ideas you do not have a word for or have forgotten how to express. It is easy to get stuck on that or simply stop speaking. You may feel awkward, embarrassed and frustrated, so you may decide it is easier to avoid speaking altogether. That is a bad idea because you will not improve your speaking skills unless you speak.

One effective strategy is to "speak around" the unknown word. This means explaining what you are trying to say using language structures and vocabulary 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 for it.

Rather than panic, feel awkward, and stop speaking, 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 drain the water? I need that to drain these vegetables…”

If you use this technique in the classroom or with more fluent speakers, someone is likely to say, “Oh, you need a colander!” This way, not only do you keep speaking naturally but you also get to learn a new word.

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. Many people are eager to see immediate results, but changing old behaviors and attitudes takes time, effort, and repetition. Before deciding that something works or does not work, give it a try for a while.

Be prepared for obstacles and setbacks along the way. View them as opportunities to reevaluate your approach, make adjustments, and keep growing.

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