Written by StudyPerth International Student Ambassador ShuHui Yong
Engaging in a conversation in English can be intimidating, especially if there is a language barrier or it is not your native language. The prospect of being unable to understand certain complex sentences or slang, misunderstanding, or worse still, failing to carry the conversation is disconcerting enough to demotivate many people to speak in English the next time opportunity arises.
I, like most international students, want to be able to speak English fluently just like any other native English speaker. Here are some tips to improve spoken English that I found to be extremely helpful for me.
The most important skill: listening
Paying attention to the conversation helps you pick up new vocabulary, learn the local slang and familiarise yourself with the local accent. Try to notice the way certain words are linked together in the sentence and when certain syllables are emphasised in the conversation you're having.
There are many other ways to practice your listening skills, like watching movies or listening to short talks and songs, particularly if you don't feel like having a two-way conversation at the moment.
Listening carefully to the speaker can also help you gauge their personality, understand their choice of words, and interpret their body language. You can aim to have a better conversation with that person in the future by keeping their choice of words and non-verbal cues in mind.
Honesty is one of the most important things in a conversation. There are times when words you don't understand are thrown into the conversation, and you are frantically trying to make wild guesses about its meaning. Bear in mind that English is just like any other language. Try to be honest with the person you're speaking with - ask politely about the meaning of that word, and they will be more than happy to explain it to you.
Start thinking... in English
Instead of translating your thoughts from your native language to English, try thinking in English. The change might seem small and insignificant, but it makes s huge difference. It helps boost your confidence and gives you more opportunity to practice your English. You will start noticing improvements in your fluency, command of language and level of understanding very soon when you stop mentally translating the conversation.
Find yourself an environment where you can speak English comfortably. Have a go at it whenever you have the chance, even if you are speaking with friends who understand your native language. There is nothing like practice, practice and more practice that will make you perfect at it!
Believe in yourself
Trust yourself. Congratulate yourself each time you have had a conversation in English with someone. Take a deep breath, smile and tell yourself you have done well, that you will improve the next time, and that you are one step closer to your goal.