A GUIDE TO IMPROVING
YOUR SPOKEN ENGLISH
Welcome to Better Speaking. This booklet is designed to help you overcome some of the most common problems which people face when they are learning to speak English. Using extracts from the BBC World Service radio series, Better Speaking, we look at how you can become a more fluent speaker of English, and at some of the skills you need for effective communication.The topics we look at include…
Becoming a confident speaker
Fluency or accuracy?
Finding the right words
Learning language in chunks
Showing where you are going
Keeping the listener interested
Being a supportive listener
How to use this booklet
Each page looks at a different area related spoken English. On each page you’ll find… •
a short introduction to the topic which explains why this aspect of speaking is important. an extract from one of the Better Speaking radio programmes related to the topic. a reading and a language task to accompany the extract.
key tips to help you improve your speaking.
a task to help you practise what has been explained.
On the final page of the booklet, you will find a glossary
of the terms which have been used to talk about Better
Speaking.Words which are in bold and italics (like this)
in the text can be found in the glossary.
Becoming a confident speaker
Confidence is a very important element in learning to speak a language. Many learners worry that they are going to make a mistake, or that the people listening will not understand them. How can you learn to relax when you want to speak English? First, look at a piece of ‘real’ English – taken from an interview with tennis star Goran Ivanisevic just after he had won the Wimbledon tennis championship.
This was my dream, all my life and… er… you know… to serve for the match, suddenly I have a match point out of nowhere, you know… I came here, nobody even talked about me and now I’m holding this trophy. And it’s, it’s just… this support today is like… er… I mean… I was… er… three times in the final but this, this is just unbelievable, this is too good… .
Question a) How does Goran feel about his win? Which words tell you this? Question b) Look for the following words, sounds or phrases: … er… / … you know… / … this is… / … it’s… Why do you think he repeats these words?
When a spoken interview is written down, we can see that many of the sentences are not grammatically correct and that the speaker repeats words to give himself time to think about what he is saying. He also uses ‘fillers’ like ‘er…’ – which are not words but ‘noises’ – to give himself more time. Although the grammar in this extract is not always correct, we can understand Goran Ivanisevic’s message easily. If a message is given confidently, the listener won’t worry about any mistakes.
But how can you sound more confident?
Practise often The more often you speak, the easier it becomes.Try to think of people you can talk to in English, or places in your town where English is spoken a lot.You need to put yourself in a position where you need to speak. How about joining a club, or going to a conversation class?
Relax and think about the message It’s easy to become nervous if you only focus on grammar rules when you are speaking. But, as you see from Goran Ivanisevic’s interview, what you want to say is usually more important than how you say it! The key to relaxing when you are speaking is to talk about something which you find really interesting. Speaking is easier when you have something to say, and you are enjoying the conversation. Rehearse what you want to say If you are very nervous, try to practise saying what you want to say to yourself a few times. Planning and rehearsal can make your speaking more confident. Remember, however, that you need to think about the person who is listening to you – what are they likely to...