5 Ways to Improve Your Speaking Skills in English

Let’s face it: Finding ways to improve speaking English is hard to do!

“Well, that’s obvious,” you might be saying. “Any English learner could tell you that!”

And yes, it is hard to find the time and opportunity to improve your English speaking skills. You might not have anyone to practice with, and if you’ve taken English classes, they might have been too easy, or even too formal. Many of our own students gave up on English classes in the past because they were not learning the language they needed to improve their English speaking skills.

But even if you have the time, opportunity, and resources to practice speaking, you may feel like you’re wasting your time. You may be getting bored of always having the same kinds of conversations in English. Or you may feel like you always talk about the same subjects and that you’re not learning the English vocabulary you need to speak more naturally and fluently.

Whatever your issue is, if you’re willing to get creative, think outside of the box, and maybe even laugh at yourself a little, there are some really fun and effective ways that can help you improve your English speaking.

And that’s what we’ll talk about today! Here are 5 ways that can improve your speaking skills in English:

  1. Choose something to memorize and recite.

  2. Play English games with a group–or by yourself.

  3. Try improv in English!

  4. Give a presentation to an audience–or to an empty room!

  5. Take English classes online with a teacher who uses real, authentic materials.

So, if you’re ready to boost those speaking skills, let’s jump in!

Effective Ways to Improve English Speaking Skills

1. Choose something to memorize and recite.

While reciting something from memory might not be the same as the kind of speaking you do in English conversation, it’s a great place to start, especially if you’re alone!

Why? Because it will help you with pronunciation and adjusting to the sensation of speaking English, which can be hard if you’re shy or if you feel self-conscious about your speaking skills.

So, here are some ways you can start!

Poetry

Poetry can be intimidating to a lot of people, but it doesn’t have to be! There are so many classic and contemporary poets that use modern English that’s fairly easy to understand. Here are some poets you should check out:

Or this poem by Rupi Kaur:

If you’ve never memorized a longer piece of text before, it can seem impossible, but it just takes repetition. 

Start by reading the poem out loud a few times, and if you come across a word you don’t know how to pronounce, you can look up the pronunciation online. Underline words that are difficult for you to pronounce so that you remind yourself to slow down when you say them. You can highlight or circle any words that should be stressed in the line of poetry.

MORE: How to Improve Your English Pronunciation in 7 Easy Steps

To memorize the poem, challenge yourself to say the first two lines without reading. Once you have the first two lines, try to learn the first stanza, or verse, of the poem. Keep this up until you’ve memorized the whole poem.

But don’t let it go to waste! Record yourself speaking your poem and listen to yourself to see where you need to improve. Recite the poem to your English teacher, to a friend, or anyone kind enough to help you practice your speaking in English.

And, once you have learned the poem by heart, challenge yourself to talk to others about your interpretation of the poem. What do you think it means? What are some strange words or images the poet uses? Why does this poem matter to people? This is a great way to start producing some of your own original ideas in English.

A monologue

If you have no interest in poetry, another great option for memorization might be a famous monologue. And it doesn’t even have to be that famous! It can be a courtroom speech given by a character in your favorite legal drama like Suits or The Good Wife. It can be something funny a character in The Office said in an on-camera interview. It should be anything that’s going to entertain you and help you loosen up.

And if you have no idea where to find a short monologue, I suggest that you make a list of your favorite English t.v. series, and think of some memorable moments. If you can, find a clip of it on YouTube, like the one below:

The nice thing about YouTube is that you can access the transcript for the video if you click on those three dots next to the “Save” button. You’ll see an option that says “Open transcript,” and you’ll be able to read the monologue there so that you can memorize it as part of your English speaking practice.

As you learn the monologue, challenge yourself to imitate the speaker as much as you can: pay attention to their intonation, their accent, and what words they stress. This method is called “shadowing” and it’s one of the best ways to improve your pronunciation and speaking in English.

MORE: Practice Your American English Pronunciation With ELSA Speak

And then, of course, you have to force your friends, family, and people at parties to listen to you. Or send them a video of your monologue. If they love you, they’ll enjoy it.

2. Play English games with a group–or by yourself

English teachers try to keep a large arsenal of English games that they can play with their students in a class. And this is not just for children, but for adult learners as well. Because we all enjoy games, and they can help us learn.

English games help to create an educational environment that’s positive and relaxed, and when your brain associates English learning with fun, you retain new grammar points and vocabulary even better.

But anyone can play these games, not just people in classrooms! Here are some ideas you should try:

Dictation games

Dictation is when you speak something to someone so that it can be written down or typed. For example, if you’ve ever used your voice to write a text, you’ve used dictation.

Watch the video below for a couple of examples of dictation games that are suggested for the English classroom, but you can also play them with your friends. You just need to find an English text that’s appropriate for your level. This video talks about a game called “running dictation” and “shouting dictation.”

Speaking games

Speaking games that you can find in the store–or create on your own!–are great for people who want to practice in or out of the classroom.

In the popular game Taboo, for example, players create teams, and you have to get the other players on your team to guess the word on your card without saying the word. 

A conversation card game like We're Not Really Strangers requires players to ask questions based on how we view people and what we may not know about them or ourselves. There are questions like “Do you think I’ve ever had my heart broken?” and “What’s the last thing you lied to your mom about?” At the end of the game, players write each other a hand-written note, but they’re not allowed to open it until later.

Or there’s The Hygge Game, which was created for “cozy conversation.” Hygge is a Danish word that’s used to describe that feeling of coziness, comfort, and warmth that you feel with family and friends, especially during the cold months of winter. So this game is designed to create fun conversation with questions like “What would be the title of your biography?”

3. Try improv in English!

Improv, which is short for improvisation, is another fun way to practice speaking with a group of people or by yourself.

But what is improv? Improv is a kind of theatrical performance where there are no scripts or plans, and the “actors” have to invent everything as they go. 

It’s great for preparing your brain to talk to anyone, and I think it’s perfect for practicing your English speaking skills. 

But, to do improv the right way, five rules are important to know:

  1. Don’t deny: This means that when your improv partner says that their name is Sally and the scene is in a pet shop, you have to accept it instead of saying, “No, this is actually a bakery.”

  2. Don’t ask open-ended questions: You can’t ask your improv partner who they are or what they are doing there because it will usually kill the scene.

  3. Don’t try to be funny: Improv often has comedic moments, but when you try to be funny, it’s hard to stay in the moment of the scene and the story.

  4. You can look good if you make your partner look good: This rule helps to remind you that improv is collaborative and it’s not about one person showing off, but rather, working with others to create something.

  5. Tell a story: It’s not just about trying to think of strange things to say but to create a story for the audience.

Why am I telling you all these rules? Because if you think of improv as another kind of English game, these rules can help! And, again, improv works great in the classroom or out of it.

A great way to make it work for your English-speaking needs is to act out a situation that you might have to face in the future, like traveling to another country or attending a work conference.

Improv games

Improv games usually help the actors warm-up before they have to perform, but these games also work well for groups of English learners.

The rules for these games can help give you a guideline for playing them with friends or family, but you can always change the rules if you need to.

To make it work best for your English speaking practice, choose some expressions or phrases that you need to work on right now. Or, choose one tense that you want to practice and ask everyone to speak in that tense. There are lots of ways you can adapt these games to your English speaking practice.

Word at a time

Sit in a circle and choose a title such as “My Worst Trip,” or “A Day at the Beach.” Each player has to say one word at a time to tell a story based on the title, and it has to make sense!

Story Death

Players gather in a line, and one person acts as the “judge” who points at the players. When a judge points at a player, they have to tell the story, and if they get stuck, another character has to jump in. If anyone stops to think, the audience can shout “die,” and the person who stopped the story has to pretend they’re dying dramatically.

Hitchhiker

You need three chairs for this one, and three people to pretend that they’re in a car. One person acts as the driver. They begin the conversation, but a hitchhiker–a stranger who needs a ride–gets in the car. This person chooses a certain kind of character to act out when they get in the car, and the other people in the car have to try and match what they’re doing. But they have to copy the hitchhiker without knowing what the character is supposed to be. 

All the actors have to keep up the conversation until the driver leaves. Then everyone slides over and returns to their original character until another hitchhiker gets in the car.

Give a one-person improv show!

What do you do if you don’t have anyone to do English improv with? Do your own improv show! 

Give yourself a scenario, problem, or general setting for a story. Then, set a time limit, and act out a story! Record it and send it to your friends or family, or post it online. Let people see it!

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4. Give a presentation or speech to an audience–or an empty room!

Everybody has something that they love to talk about. Maybe you love to talk about what you do for work, or you have a hobby that excites you.

So, think about how you can convince others to love that thing, too, or at least explain why it matters. Try to organize your presentation into an intro, a few main points, and a conclusion, but don’t worry too much about writing it out. 

If you’re too shy to talk in front of other people, you can give your presentation to an empty room, or record your presentation. Then, watch your presentation to figure out the areas you need to focus on in order to improve your English speaking skills.

Here are some 5 to 15-minute presentation topics you should try:

  • How Learning Another Language Affects the Brain

  • The 5 Books Everyone Should Read

  • Why Children Should Learn to Code in School

  • Three Ways to Organize if You Hate to Organize

  • The Three Best – and Worst – Pieces of Advice You’ve Ever Been Given

5. Take online English classes with a teacher who uses real, authentic materials.

Online English classes are definitely one of the best ways to practice your speaking. If you’re working live with a qualified teacher, you’ll get instant feedback, and you’ll understand why you’re stuck at an intermediate level in English. Most importantly, you’ll learn exactly what you need to do to improve your English speaking skills.

But it’s important to make sure that your teacher uses the right materials for your English speaking classes.

When you’re a beginner, you get used to learning English with content that’s created specifically for learners. While it’s educational, this content is too easy, so it will not help you reach an advanced level and improve your English speaking skills. 

Real and authentic materials, such as videos, podcasts and articles that aren’t created specifically for English learners, will help you learn the structures and vocabulary you need to push your English speaking skills to an advanced level.

So, it’s important for intermediate English learners to start using authentic content as soon as they can because it’s impossible to improve without it. From our experience, this is the number one reason learners get stuck at an intermediate level in English.

And that’s what we currently offer in our English coaching program

In our program, we help non-native English speakers advance their communication skills without spending hours on grammar textbooks, or wasting money learning language they’ll never use in real life. Using our unique strategies and resources, we help students overcome their fears and hesitations, so they can easily and effortlessly speak English with everyone they meet!

We design our own materials using real and authentic content that focus on teaching you things like phrasal verbs and idiomatic expressions in a way that helps you to use and retain them. 

If you want to know more, our English classes are currently open! And please feel free to contact us with any of your questions or comments about our online English speaking classes.

What if I’m too self-conscious to practice speaking English?

First of all, if you feel self-conscious when you try to speak in English, I completely empathize! I feel self-conscious speaking in my native language, too, sometimes!

Start by reminding yourself that it’s human and normal to feel shy or self-conscious. Try to have some patience with yourself and understand why you might feel that way.

If your self-consciousness feels like it’s holding you back completely, start small. Start by learning a short poem or line from a t.v. show to memorize and say when you’re alone. Practice speaking by yourself for a few weeks.

Then try to record yourself speaking for at least a couple of minutes. You might not like it at first, but I promise that you will get used to hearing yourself speak eventually if you take it slow and don’t rush yourself.

Finally, working one-on-one with an experienced teacher will give you the safe environment you need to get out of your comfort zone, build your confidence, and overcome your hesitation and fear of speaking English.

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Remember that it’s also okay to be a shy, reserved person. Not everyone can be the extroverted, talkative life of the party. Focus on practicing the English that you need to speak more when you’re working or traveling, but don’t push yourself to talk to strangers at a party if you don’t feel ready! 

Practice is important, but it also has to work for you. It’s okay if your way of practicing English doesn’t look the way it does for other learners.


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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.


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