One of the most common questions that English learners ask is how to be more confident in speaking English.
They want to have more faith in themselves, to hold their head high and not feel any sense of shame or insecurity whenever they open their mouth to speak English.
This is quite a normal thing for English learners to desire. Anyone that spends time learning a subject wants to know they can practice this skill with a certain amount of dexterity.
The problem for English students is that the only time they show they can use the skill of communicating in English is when they are actually communicating in English.
It becomes a kind of catch-22 situation for them.
Would you like me to show you the steps you need to take to ensure that you have superhuman confidence in speaking English?
Do you want to have rock-solid belief in yourself when it comes down to your English skills?
Yes, of course, you do.
So. Read on.
Be Nice to Yourself
The first thing I want to tell you is that you have to be kind to yourself.
Give yourself time to see some improvements in your English. Do not expect miracles overnight and when you don’t see progress or change as rapidly as you would like, do not beat yourself up over it.
Accept that change will come. But expect that things might move a little slower than you want.
Take a leaf out of the book of kaizen.
In this Japanese practice, people do not expect massive improvements in a matter of days. They just practice every day and expect small changes.
But those small changes all add up. This is compound interest in practice.
Each day you improve by 1%. That means after one year you will have improved by 365%. Actually, more than that because of compound interest.
Just keep trying for tiny improvements every day and you will definitely see the results. Wait for the little wins that come now and then and celebrate them. Do not tell yourself that you are not doing enough.
Be kind to yourself and just try to practice English every day.
That is all it takes.
Don’t just practice speaking English. Practice all the skills.
By only practising speaking you are cutting off other valuable ways of helping yourself to improve your spoken English.
Let’s take a look and see why:
You should practice listening anyway. What is the point in knowing how to speak English if you cannot understand what anyone else is saying to you?
But also, by practising your listening you are reinforcing vocabulary, sentence structure and collocations — as it is spoken. All of these things enter your mind and stay there for you to pull out and use later when you say something in English.
The same applies to writing. You are reinforcing the same English structures into your head. Try to write something every day — a journal is great for this.
Because the act of writing is much slower than speaking, you have to take your time in forming the sentences. You pay more attention to the structure and the use of words and this helps you later with your spoken English.
And reading is of great benefit to you. All those new words and phrases you can gain just through the simple act of reading the news on your favourite news app.
These skills inform each other. As you work on one, you naturally improve the others. These skills will help improve your spoken English.
You should have a defined set time when you practice speaking English. In your English class with your teacher, practice sessions with your classmates or friends and other times on your own.
But get out of the habit of thinking those are the only times you can practice and study spoken English. You want spoken English to become such a habit, a preformed condition you don’t even think about it when you open your mouth.
This means that on the way to work or school you listen to a podcast or some English songs via your smartphone. Repeat phrases or sentences you hear on the podcast. If the host says something like: That’s so unbelievable! Repeat it.
Say it out loud and don’t worry about the people around you. Repeat the phrase and say it loud. Hold your head up high and don’t be ashamed.
This will really boost your self-confidence.
The same with songs.
Listen to English songs. Learn the lines of the song and as the song plays sing out the words. You can do this anywhere. As you are walking around outside, at home in the privacy of your own room, even in the shower.
Get into the habit of opening your mouth and English falling from it.
You will become more and more confident each time you do it. You will stop feeling embarrassed or ashamed for trying.
Practice with Friends
If you are studying English, there is a very strong chance you attend an English class. Maybe every day, or maybe only twice a week. But you will know other English students you have made friends with.
It is a great idea that you get together regularly and practice English together.
This can be great fun — it need not be like a serious lesson — plus you are still working on your English together.
Do all the things you do in your English classes or on your own. Read passages from books out loud to each other, recite short pieces you have studied and learned, sing songs together, watch movies together.
You will find that as it is mostly a sociable event — and not a lesson — that time will fly by quickly. You will not feel you are studying English so there is no pressure to learn anything at all.
Except that you are learning, and you are improving.
Get together with your English-learning friends. It really works wonders for you.
Speak English in Full Sentences
For many English students, there is the habit to abbreviate sentences or phrases — to make all of them shorter.
This is common for English speakers too. We shorten everything we say for convenience and to speed things up a little. In every language, the people do this.
But I advise you not to do this in English when you are trying to build your confidence and learn more spoken English.
You need to see and hear yourself speaking English all the time. So that means opening your mouth and saying full sentences.
For example; you might just say Thank you when someone gives you something.
Try making more phrases that say the same thing but in a different way.
You could say:
Many thanks for your kindness
Thank you very much
You are very kind, thank you so much
I think you get the point. It might seem like a small thing but the more you say full sentences and phrases the more it builds your confidence in speaking English.
If your teacher asks you How are you today?
Don’t just reply Fine and walk off.
I am fine, thank you very much. How about you?
I am doing just fine. And How are you today?
I’m very well. How are you?
Make this a strong habit. Do not be shy. Making these small kinds of changes can really pay off.
It’s kind of like running up the three flights of stairs to your class rather than taking the elevator. That little bit of exercise every day will help you. (Remember kaizen at the beginning of the article?)
So bigger and full sentences — every day.
Read Every Day
I have written about the virtues of reading before. It really is a great way to build your English vocabulary.
Simply by reading you will learn new words and phrases you can use in your daily life immediately. Make sure you take notes of these new words as you come across them in your reading practice.
You can also read out loud. Do this at home if you feel too self-conscious. But by reading out loud you will become accustomed to the sound of your own voice saying English words. It will seem normal and you will feel less and less conscious of speaking English.
Choose a fixed time to do this every day. Then just treat that as your ‘reading-out-loud’ time. You will practice two skills at the same time; reading and speaking English.
Use a Mirror
Many ESL teachers recommend that their students use a mirror when practising spoken English.
I have told hundreds of students to practice English speaking at home with a mirror. They always give me a look of suspicion.
Practice speaking English in a mirror?
Who does that?
Well, many people do. For one, politicians. You think politicians don’t practice their speeches? They do. And they practice in front of a mirror.
Other people that use the mirror technique include actors, TV newsreaders, public speakers…
And you too.
You can also use this great technique to give your confidence a massive boost. Just stand in front of the mirror and read out loud from a book or recite one of your rehearsed passages. Or simply talk about your day.
The great thing about this is that no one is watching you. You are all alone and there is no need to feel awkward or shy. Just speak out loud and observe yourself speaking the English language.
Try to do this every day. Do it for just ten or fifteen minutes a day. Or longer if you have time.
Your confidence will grow each time.
Don’t Worry about English Grammar
When trying to speak English don’t worry about English grammar.
Many students get really anxious about this. They say to themselves that unless their grammar is perfect, they cannot say anything in English. So they end up saying nothing at all.
Yes, grammar is important. But it’s not that big a deal.
For example, someone says the following: Yesterday, I go shopping.
The grammar is not accurate. They should say Yesterday I went shopping. But if someone said the first sentence to me I would still understand exactly what they meant.
Do not worry about English grammar.
Just open your mouth and try to speak.
Mistakes Happen — Don’t Worry!
Everyone makes mistakes. It is perfectly natural.
When you are trying to speak English do not worry about making mistakes. Just accept that mistakes happen and move on.
If you get too concerned about the mistakes you make, it will shatter your confidence and you won’t open your mouth again.
The truth is most native English speakers won’t care that much if you make mistakes. Most people are kind and will understand that you are trying to improve your English.
So don’t worry.
Slow Down, Breathe and Smile
And finally, my last three pieces of advice.
You must slow down when speaking English to others. Don’t get so stressed out you start to speak at 1000 kilometres an hour.
And breathe. Take a deep breath now and then. Allow oxygen into your lungs and take a short moment.
Smiling will make you feel more relaxed, which will make you feel more at ease when speaking English. Which will make you feel more confident.
Practice all three of these very important things when speaking English and you will feel much better.
And that is it.
Please try to use some of the tactics I have described above. Each one will help you make tiny little improvements in your spoken English every single day.
Over time, you will see bigger improvements. You will look back in a few months and wonder why you had no confidence to speak English out loud.
Speaking English is a learned skill just like any other. Like riding a bike or juggling or whistling. Anyone can do it, all it requires is the right mental state where you say to yourself I CAN every day.
Keep trying and if you stumble for a while, get up and try again.
Best of luck and let me know about your improvements in the comments below.