How Can I Practice My English Speaking Skills When I’m Alone?
You have no problem practicing your English reading, writing, or listening skills when you’re alone, but when it comes to practicing speaking, what are you supposed to do?
Everyone says that you have to practice speaking in order to improve, and that reading, writing, and listening are not enough. But it’s not always possible to find an English teacher or friend to speak with, right? Are you supposed to talk to yourself?
Yes! And it’s not as weird as you think! It might feel strange at first, but the more you do it, the more natural and fun it will become.
Besides, it’s not just about talking to yourself. It’s about finding creative ways to speak when you’re alone.
Today, we’re going to talk about ten strategies you can use when you practice speaking English by yourself:
Teach yourself a famous speech or monologue.
Memorize your favorite quotes to repeat out loud.
Memorize your favorite song, and sing it!
Memorize a poem that speaks to you.
Have a discussion with yourself.
Dictate your ideas instead of writing them down.
Use the rubber duck method.
Use a voice recording app.
Record videos of yourself.
Check-in with your progress once a month.
So, if you still don’t believe me when I say that it’s possible to practice your English speaking when you’re alone, or if you’re ready to learn more, let’s keep reading!
WAYS TO PRACTICE ENGLISH SPEAKING ALONE
1. Teach yourself a speech or monologue
If you know that you need to practice speaking, but you don’t know what to talk about, memorizing something is a great place to start. It allows you to get more comfortable with hearing yourself speak in English and strengthen your pronunciation muscles!
So, to begin, you should find your favorite scene from a movie or play, or a joke from your favorite stand-up comedian, and memorize it. I promise this can be a really entertaining way to spend your time.
If this sounds overwhelming, take it step by step. Choose a short passage to memorize, maybe no more than five hundred words. Read the passage and underline or highlight any phrases or expressions you don’t know. Look them up and practice using them in sentences so you can get comfortable using them.
Then, take the monologue or speech and break it down into small sections. Start with memorizing just a few sentences at a time.
If you need some ideas or inspiration, you can start here:
2. Memorize your favorite quotes to repeat out loud
If you’ve spent any time on social media, you know that quotes are an incredible way to connect with and inspire people instantly. And, if you don’t feel ready to memorize a speech yet, you should start with memorizing quotes.
The great thing about this strategy is that, if you check social media every day, you can make this part of your daily habit. It can also expose you to expressions and slang that you might not find in other places.
If you need ideas, just search for #inspirationalquotes on Instagram, or search Google for quotes about a particular subject, like self-care or perseverance.
In the beginning, I recommend that you give yourself a small goal of learning one quote per week. Then repeat it to yourself or to friends and family, over and over, until they say, “Please find a new quote!”
3. Memorize your favorite song, and sing it!
Many of my students laugh at me when I ask them if they’ve ever tried singing in English, but there’s a method to my madness! In a 2013 study conducted at the Reid School of Music in Edinburgh, researchers discovered that adults who sang in a new language instead of just speaking it performed better on a series of language tests.
I understand that people don’t like to sing, or they feel self-conscious about their ability, but if you’re by yourself, you should give it a try! And you’ll find that, because you’re singing it, it will be much easier to memorize a song than it is to memorize a monologue or famous speech.
For your first song, try not to choose something that’s too challenging or fast-paced, but do choose a song that you really enjoy so that you’ll want to listen to it again and again.
Listen to the song first as you read the lyrics, and look up any words or phrases you don’t know. Then, play the song again, and try singing along as you read the lyrics. Do this a couple of times until you feel ready to start singing the chorus - or the part of the song repeated after each verse - without reading the lyrics.
Once you’ve memorized the chorus, work on the first verse. Take the song one verse at a time until you know it by heart (without reading the lyrics).
Then, sing it all the time: in the shower, in the car, in the supermarket when no one’s around. Sing it until you’re sick of it, and you’re ready for a new song.
If you need inspiration, I highly recommend choosing a song from The Beatles, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, or Prince. These are just a few examples of musicians who have been around for a long time, but who are still popular and who have really influenced modern culture.
4. Memorize a poem that speaks to you
But, if you absolutely refuse to sing, you should try memorizing a poem. Why poetry? Well, why not? Poetry is often powerful and emotional, and anything that can help you connect emotion to learning English will help you retain more vocabulary.
And poetry with musical qualities, like rhythm and rhyme, is still a bit easier to memorize than a speech.
And you don’t have to choose anything long or challenging from over a century ago if you don’t want to. Poets like Rupi Kaur, Nayyirah Waheed, and Atticus post their short, beautiful poems regularly on Instagram, so it’s easy to find. And, just like with the quotes, you can give yourself a small goal of memorizing a short poem every week and reciting it out loud to anyone who will listen.
5. Have a discussion with yourself
Have you ever tried asking yourself what you think about things? About life? About what you would do in a certain situation?
Did you know that we create free, self-study worksheets self-study worksheets that can give you some awesome ideas?
And, before you’re ready to give a presentation or have a conversation, answering some thought-provoking questions can be a great warm-up.
If this idea sounds good to you, give yourself the initial goal of answering three questions a day out loud. You can record yourself or write your answers down, too, but make sure that you actually answer the questions out loud.
6. Dictate your ideas instead of writing them down
So, maybe you’ve done enough memorizing, or you’re just ready to produce your own wonderful, original thoughts.
Instead of writing, try dictating your spoken words. Dictating is just speaking your words to a person or computer program so they can be written down. Dictating used to be a job for humans, but now we have apps and computer programs that can dictate for you.
Using a dictation app or program is great for your speaking skills because it forces you to speak clearly and slowly. And, because you usually have to say “comma” and “period” if you want to insert a comma or a period, it can help you improve your punctuation as well.
If you have an iPhone or other Apple device, try the free Apple Dictation app to get started with dictation, and if you have a PC or Android, you can check out Dictation.io, which is a free dictation website.
It takes a little bit of practice to get used to dictation in the beginning, so be patient with yourself. To start, create a Dictation Diary and commit to dictating your thoughts for five minutes a day or fifteen minutes per week.
7. Use the Rubber Duck Method
If you’re raising an eyebrow and thinking, “What in the world are you talking about?” just wait. The Rubber Duck Method is one of my favorite new discoveries.
The Rubber Duck Debugging Method is simple. You find an inanimate object (like a rubber duck or a houseplant) and teach it something. Computer programmers created this method and actually use it in order to solve problems with their code. But you can use it to practice your speaking skills!
This works especially well if you feel strange about talking to yourself. If you use the Rubber Duck Method, you’re not really talking to yourself. You’re teaching a rubber duck something important.
When you’re starting out with this method, choose a subject that you love to talk to people about. So, if you like teaching people about sustainability, films, engineering, or the benefits of gardening, write down a few bullet points on some notebook paper, and give a short presentation to an inanimate object. If you notice yourself making any mistakes, write them down, correct them, and try giving your presentation again with your corrections.
I know this sounds strange, but I promise it works!
8. Use a voice recording app
If you’re someone who likes to review yourself to check your progress and listen for mistakes, you should definitely try using a voice recording app.
You can use this to record yourself reciting a speech, singing a song, or reciting a poem, but you can also use it to record your thoughts.
Similar to the dictation method I talked about before, you can give yourself the goal of recording yourself every day for five minutes, and then listen to your recording to check for mistakes and write them down.
If you have an Apple device, you can use the free Voice Memo app that is available to you, and if you have an Android device, you can use the free app Easy Voice Recorder.
But, if you’re still a beginner with speaking in English, I recommend downloading ELSA Speak, which is an app that helps you focus on English pronunciation. This is better for those learners who want to focus more on building their vocabulary and improving their pronunciation.
9. Record yourself speaking on video
This idea might not be for everyone, but if you like watching or making videos on YouTube or Instagram, you should try making videos in English!
If you have access to a camera, or just a camera on your phone or computer, that’s really all you need to start recording yourself.
And if you’re not ready to show them to anyone, that’s ok! You can upload your videos to YouTube or Vimeo as unlisted, so they won’t be available to the public, but they won’t take up space on your computer or phone.
If you’re just starting out with this method, I recommend recording a video of yourself speak once a week. And give yourself some guidelines for what you will talk about. Are you going to teach something or discuss something? Review your favorite horror movie? Just share your thoughts of the day? It’s best to give yourself a specific focus so you don’t get too overwhelmed by the idea of being on camera.
10. Check-in with your progress once a month
Practicing a skill like speaking on your own can be tough. But you’ll make more progress if you check-in with your goals every month.
So, if you use a calendar app on your phone or computer, or if you prefer to track goals in a paper planner or bullet journal, set aside one day a month for you to measure your progress.
Ask yourself: Are you making fewer mistakes? How many new English phrases or expressions have you learned? Have you memorized a speech, a song, or a poem? Do you feel more comfortable when you’re speaking?
Even if you’re learning English with a teacher or in a classroom, learning how to keep track of your own goals helps you take charge of and stay invested in your progress, and it will have a bigger pay off in the end.
Know when to ask for help
If you’re feeling stuck or that you’re not making enough progress, I highly recommend reaching out to an English teacher to help you figure out your own self-study path. I can personally say that, as an online English teacher, I love empowering people to study on their own, and most English teachers that I know feel the same.
I know that I’ve encouraged you to learn on your own in this post, but remember that it’s also okay to ask for guidance or help from a teacher or a language partner if you need it.
About the writer
Marta is an online ESL teacher who works with students from around the world. As a writer, language nerd, and content contributor for In English With Love, her mission is to empower English learners with knowledge and positivity.