Speaking practice is a must if you want to improve your overall foreign language proficiency. However, getting enough speaking practice is a challenge for many foreign language learners, not in small part because it can be hard to find someone to practice with. Luckily, there are many ways to practice speaking, both with and without a partner. Here, we’ll have a look at 11 things you can do to help you make consistent learning progress. Let’s jump in!
1. Talk to Yourself in Your Target Language
Talking to yourself in your target language may seem strange, but it’s actually a great way to squeeze some extra speaking practice into your day. Talking to yourself is really helpful if you’re having trouble finding a language-learning buddy or don’t yet feel confident enough to talk with a native speaker. One of the benefits of talking to yourself is that you can talk about anything you want! You can run through different scenarios in your head, practice introducing yourself, or even pretend that you are giving some kind of speech or presentation. No topic is off-limits!
2. Try a Language Exchange
Language exchanges are another great way to practice speaking your foreign language. A language exchange is where two people teach each other a language that they speak very well (usually their native language). This is similar to having a pen pal, but instead of writing letters, you meet up in person or link up for a video chat. While language exchanges are great for putting the things you are learning into practice, they can also help you learn about your speaking partner’s background and culture. Try setting different topics for each session and bringing in some props to show and tell. For example, if you are talking about “holidays”, you can bring in something that represents a holiday in your culture and talk about why it’s important. The things you learn from your partner could make all the difference if you ever decide to go abroad!
3. Read Along with Subtitles
Switching on the subtitles and reading along as you watch a movie or TV show is an easy, simple way to practice speaking. When you read along with subtitles, you connect your reading, listening, and speaking skills–a three-for-one special! These days, anyone with an internet connection can watch a foreign-language TV show, so try to watch as many as possible. This way, you’ll become familiar with how language is used in many different contexts!
4. Imitate what You See and Hear on TV
Another good way to help you practice speaking is to imitate what you see and hear on TV. Imitation helps you get a feel for how a language is spoken, and can actually improve both your pronunciation and listening skills. It’s also a useful way to learn vocabulary! Once again, we recommend that you watch as many different shows and movies as possible so you get lots of practice imitating different kinds of speech.
5. Use Video Chat
Using video chat is a great option to practice speaking, especially if you’re having trouble meeting up in person. Video chat gives you practice forming and pronouncing sentences, as well as practicing non-verbal communication (e.g., gestures and facial expressions). Combining these two factors can often go a long way in helping you get your point across! And because video messaging has become a much more common form of communication than in the past, it’s highly accessible. All you need is a smartphone and a stable internet connection!
6. Talk to a Virtual Assistant in Your Target Language
Believe it or not, virtual assistants can be helpful speaking partners for practicing your foreign language. Why? For one, they are portable and can go wherever you do. This means that you can get in some speaking practice at any place and time.
Virtual assistants also provide implicit feedback – if they misunderstand you, they might tell you what they thought they heard. This can give you valuable information about where you may be struggling and need to improve (e.g., pronunciation, properly phrasing questions, etc.).
Try it out yourself in English! If you want to know the time, ask Siri, “When is it?” instead of “What time is it?”. You probably won’t get the answer you were looking for!
7. Narrate Your Day in Your Target Language
Narrating what’s happening in your day is a good technique for practicing everyday speaking. Narration helps you remember and reinforce your language skills because it connects speaking with visual memory and first-person experiences. It’s also very easy to work narration into your day. Try describing what’s happening around you while waiting in line at the store (don’t worry about the weird looks you might get), or even while preparing a meal at home. You’ll see that soon your ability to describe things and actions in conversation will begin to flourish. You may even notice your speech becoming smoother as you become more familiar with the different grammatical structures you practice in your head!
8. Use a Messaging App to Send Voice Messages
Sending and responding to voice messages on a messaging app is a good way to connect your listening and speaking skills, while also keeping the rhythm of a conversation. Just about everyone uses messaging apps nowadays, so it should be easy to find someone to chat with. Try exchanging messages with a language exchange partner, or even with other students in a language class!
9. Sing in Your Target Language
Singing in your target language is a great way to practice speaking and pronunciation. When you sing, you give your brain practice connecting the different speech sounds of a language together and syncing them to a rhythm and melody. The best part about singing is that it’s fun! People tend to learn better when they are motivated, and songs can play a big part in that. Do keep in mind, however, that the language used in songs isn’t always what’s used in everyday life. Just be careful if you’re planning on using lyrics straight out of a song in the real world!
10. Do Tongue Twisters
Tongue twisters may be a challenge to do in your target language, but are a wonderful way to practice speaking. Tongue twisters can help you become familiar with tricky sounds so that you’re able to pronounce them correctly during conversations. Keep in mind, however, that they are called tongue twisters for a reason: even native speakers have trouble doing them (if they can at all!). Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to do them flawlessly. If you’re having trouble conquering some of the more difficult ones, try using a pronunciation dictionary like Forvo! This can be a good resource for seeing how native speakers pronounce certain sounds in just about any language!
11. Take a Language Class
One of the best things you can do to practice speaking is to take a language class. In a language class, you can practice speaking with the teacher and make friends with whom you can practice the language outside the classroom! To really maximize the benefit of learning in a classroom, you should try taking a language class in a country that speaks your target language. After all, if your goal is to truly experience a new culture, then there are few true alternatives to going abroad and living it yourself. If you do decide to take this path, be careful to avoid being too overwhelmed by the work involved in the class and by culture shock. No matter where you take a language class, you should make sure to carry over your in-class practice to the real world. This way, you’ll really cement what you’ve learned in your mind!
How does Speaking Increase Your Foreign Language Skills?
Speaking is a foundational skill in language learning, so improving your speech will increase your foreign language skills as a whole. Speaking ability is one of the most important factors that determine whether you are perceived as fluent in a language. Depending on your goals and desired level of fluency, language learning can last anywhere from a few weeks, to a few years, to an entire lifetime. Never forget that, when speaking, there is no need to be perfect. Try not to let any mistakes you make discourage you from continuing on your language learning journey. Remember: Even native speakers make mistakes sometimes!
What is the Best App to Practice Your Speaking Skills?
Mango Languages is a fantastic app for practicing speaking, with cool features like Phonetic Pop-ups (which lets you interact with any word, at any time to see how it’s pronounced), and Voice Comparison (which lets you record yourself using the language you learn and match up a visual representation of your pronunciation to that of a native speaker). Mango’s lessons are also based on conversations recorded by native speakers, so you can be sure that what you learn is worth putting into practice! The app includes a massive list of languages to choose from, including many hard to find languages!
Of course, many of the ways to improve your speaking skills we’ve mentioned in this post don’t require apps or monetary investment. Just make sure you are comfortable with a given type of practice before using it, and don’t be afraid to try out different ways of practicing! Everyone has their own unique ideal learning style, so keep trying until you find what works best for you.
What are the Other Components of Language Use Apart from Speaking?
Apart from speaking, the other important components of language use are listening, reading, writing, and grammar. You need to practice all of these components in order to truly master a language, so it’s important to use tools and strategies that combine them. For example, practicing with conversations combines speaking, listening, vocabulary, and grammar skills. Finding a pen pal, on the other hand, practices reading and writing skills, alongside grammar and vocabulary. Above all, it is important to balance how much attention you give to the different components of language study. If you still find yourself struggling with speaking, consider some tips on how to have a smooth conversation!