Trash talkSpeaking English is our opportunity to make that best first impression. It is that time when we can interact with other English speakers in real-time and be aware that we are connecting with them in a common language. It is a form of output that is linked with listening in that we perform those actions simultaneously. We listen to ourselves as we speak. We check ourselves and our output and are able to make our own corrections. Because of this connection, language learners may wish to refer to the listening section of this website.

One piece of advice is to 'Keep It Simple.' An anonymous sage once said that, "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." We can just as often be thought of as wise as we can be considered to be foolish. By using certain communicative tools carefully we can give the impression that we are more competent communicatively than we really are. Beware however, this can be risky. We don't want to get in over our heads and find ourselves in a conversation about which we know very little.

There are certain elements of speaking that are not present when we write the language. Spoken English is informal and uses a different register than formalized written English. Speaking is ideally suited for conversations and discussions. These activities can take place by way of writing but that can be slower and more cumbersome. Speaking is spontaneous and because of this speakers (native and non-native) are much more prone to making errors. Often these errors are detected quickly and corrected by the speaker immediately. Public speaking is a skill that serves many purposes, not the least is an improved confidence of the speaker. Making presentations and fielding questions before groups is expected in nearly every higher education program.

Speaking proficiency requires that the speaker keep the listener's attention. Constant and recurring pauses, stumbling over proper words and incomprehensible speech will interfere with the listener's concentration. If we don't have sufficient speaking skills we may find that the listener drifts off to another conversation partner. One tool that is useful is the awareness of and proper use of lexical bundles. These groups of words, which are commonly found together, can be used by the language learner to express ideas without having to retrieve the individual words from memory. This can allow the speaker time to find the vocabulary needed to complete the thought and continue the dialogue.

Only speaking takes place on the telephone. This is a valuable and common way of communication in today's world and is one more reason why one's speaking skills should be satisfactory.

Accents can be obvious and at times, identified when we speak. As long as accents don't interfere with communication, no attempt should be made to eliminate them. It's something to keep in mind that native speakers often think accents are sexy. Maintaining one's accent does not mean that pronunciation is not important. Accurate pronunciation is critical to making oneself understood and conveying meaning.

Speaking a language as opposed to writing it is particularly suited to someone who aspires to become an announcer on radio or TV. One's proficiency at writing English is of little use if the primary activity is oral production. Students are dependent on their teacher's speaking skills. One instructor this website author knows was fluent in English, her second language, but expressed doubts about her ability to lecture in Spanish, her first language. A tourist is also very dependent on speaking skills as asking (and clarifying) directions, ordering meals and engaging in conversations with locals are all important tourist activities.

The next pages are dedicated to explaining and providing opportunities to practice English pronunciation. While it may seem like a simple task to repeat common words, practicing is essential to learn a new language. One might also say that it is easy to learn to swim from a book and that practice is unnecessary. Just try it (in shallow water).

It is highly recommended that any serious language learner find a native speaker to work with. Pay this person as a tutor, if necessary, but practice.


Last Updated: April 21, 2016