Here are 33 ways to speak better
English, without going to classes.
1. Record yourself speaking English. Listening to
yourself can be strange at first but you get used to it. Listen to a recording of a fluent English speaker (a short audio file) and then record yourself repeating what they said. Compare the
difference and try again. Humans are natural mimics so you will find yourself getting better and better. Soundcloudis an
excellent tool for voice recording as you or your teacher can make notes about your errors.
2. Read aloud, especially dialogue. Reading aloud
is not the same as speaking naturally. However, it is very useful for exercising the vocal muscles. Practise for 5 or 10 minutes a day and you will begin to notice which sounds are difficult for you
to produce. Find transcripts of natural dialogues, such as these here, and
practise acting them with a friend, you will also learn common phrases which we use when speaking.
3. Sing along to English songs while you’re driving or
in the shower. The lyrics to pop songs are often conversational so you can learn lots of common expressions by listening to them. Humans are also able to remember words when used together with
music which is why it is difficult to remember poems but easy to remember the words to songs. Here are some songs to get started
4. Watch short video clips and pause and repeat what you
hear. YouTube is an amazing resource for language learners and you probably already have your favourite clips. My advice is to watch short clips and really study them. With longer videos, you
may find your attention wanders. The key to improving by watching videos is to really listen carefully and use the pause button to focus on sounds and words. Many YouTube videos now have captions.
5. Learn vowel and consonant sounds in
English. The Phonemic chart is a list of the different vowel and consonant sounds in English. Learning how to make these sounds and then using them to pronounce words correctly will
really help you speak English clearly. This is a great resource from the British
6. Learn and identify schwa. What is schwa you
might be asking? Well, it’s the most common sound in English: Click here. We use it all
the time in words like ‘teacher’ and ‘around’.
7. Learn about weak and strong forms of common
words. When you know about the ‘schwa’ sound, you will listen to native speakers in a different way. English is a stress-timed language which means that we use a combination of strong and
weak forms of some words. For example, which words do we stress in the following sentence?
I want to go for a drink tonight.
How do native speakers pronounce to / for / a in the sentence? We use the schwa sound so it sounds like:
I wanna go ferra drink tenigh.
Learn how and when to use weak
forms and your speaking will improve overnight. You will also learn to focus on stressed words when listening to fast, native-speaker English and you will finally be able to
8. Learn about word stress. When words have
more than one syllable, we stress one or more of them. For example, the word intelligent has four syllables but which syllable do we
stress? Click here to find out. Remember
that the small vertical mark above the word identifies the stressed syllable: /ɪnˈtel.ɪ.dʒənt/
9. Learn about sentence stress. Sentence stress
refers to the word or words we stress in a phrase of a sentence. When we stress a word, we help the listener understand what is important. If we stress the wrong word or don’t stress the key word,
the listener may get confused or not realise what is important in the sentence. A few years ago, I enrolled in a gym. I was asked to attend an introductory class at ‘five to six‘. The Hungarian receptionist stressed the word
‘six‘ so I arrived at 5.55. She looked at me and told
me that I was late and the class had nearly finished. She should have stressed ‘five‘ and ‘six‘ so would have understood that the class lasted for one
hour and began at 5pm! For more on sentence stress, read
10. Identify fixed and semi-fixed phrases and practise
them. Fixed phrases usually contain between 3 and 7 words and include items like:
to be honest
in a moment
on the other hand
A conversation is made of grammatical structures, vocabulary and fixed or semi-fixed phrases. In fact, to tell the truth , on the whole, most of the time, my friends and I , communicate with each
other in a series of fixed and
11. Learn about
collocations.Words don’t like being
alone. They prefer to hang out with their friends and, just like people, some words form close friendships and other never speak to each other.
Yellow doesn’t get on well with hair. Maybe yellow is
jealous of blond because blond and hair are frequently seen out together having a great time. Yellow doesn’t understand why hair prefers blond because yellow and blond are so similar.
Listen carefully for common combinations of words. Short and small have similar meanings but people
have short hair not small hair. High and tall are often not so different but people
have high hopes but not tall hopes. Foxes are sly not devious. Hours can be happy but are never cheerful. Idiots are stupid but rarely silly.
12. Replace regular verbs with phrasal
verbs. Many learners of English don’t understand why native speakers use so many phrasal verbs where there are normal verbs (usually with Latin roots) which have the same meaning. English
was originally a Germanic language which imported lots of Latin vocabulary after the Norman conquest in the 11th century. Regardless of the historical factors, the fact is that native English speakers use
lots and lots of phrasal verbs. If you want to understand us, then try to include them in your conversation. If you make a mistake, you’ll probably make us laugh but you are
unlikely to confuse us as we can usually guess what you want to say from the context. Phrasal verbs are spatial and originally referred to movement so when you learn a new one, make physical
movements while saying them to help you remember.
13. Learn short automatic responses. Many of
our responses are automatic (Right, OK, no problem, alright, fine thanks, just a minute, you’re welcome, fine by me, let’s do it!, yup, no way! you’re joking, right?, Do I have to? etc.) Collect
these short automatic responses and start using them.
14. Practise telling stories and using narrative
tenses. Humans are designed to tell stories. We use the past simple, past continuous and past perfect for telling stories but when the listener is hooked (very interested), they feel like they
are actually experiencing the story right now. So, we often use present tenses to make our stories more dramatic!
15. Learn when to pause for effect. Speaking
quickly in English does not make you an effective English speaker. Knowing when to pause to give the listener time to think about what you have said, respond appropriately, and predict what you are
going to say does. Imagine you’re an actor on a stage, pausing keeps people interested.Great strategy if you need to speak English in
16. Learn about chunking. Chunking means
joining words together to make meaningful units. You don’t need to analyse every word to use a phrase. Look at the phrase: Nice to meet you. It’s a short phrase (4 words) which can be
remembered as a single item. It is also an example of ellipsis (leaving words out) because the words ‘It’ and ‘is’ are missing at the beginning of the phrase. However, we don’t need to include
them. Learn more here.
17. Learn about typical pronunciation problems in your
first language. Japanese learners find it difficult to identify and produce ‘r‘ and ‘l‘ sounds; Spanish don’t distinguish between ‘b‘ and ‘v‘; Germans often use a ‘v‘ sound when they should use a ‘w‘. Find out about the problems people who speak your first
language have when speaking English and you will know what you need to focus on.
19. Find an actor/actress you like and identify what
makes them powerful speakers. Do you want to sound like Barack Obama, Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Homes) Beyonce or Steve Jobs? If you want to sound like David Beckham, I advise you to
reconsider, unless you want to sound like a young girl!
20. Use a mirror and / or a sheet of paper for
identifying aspirated and non-aspirated sounds. Aspirated sounds are those with a short burst of here, such as ‘p‘ in ‘pen, and unaspirated sounds have no or little air, such as the
‘b‘ in ‘Ben‘. Watch this video to learn
What a terrible tongue twister. What a terrible tongue
twister. What a terrible tongue twister.
22. Practise spelling names, numbers and dates
aloud. This may seem very basic to some of you but if you don’t practise, you forget how to say them.Have a go here at numbers here and
at place names here.
23. Learn about common intonation
patterns. Intonation (when the pitch of the voice goes up and down) is complex in English but it is very important as it expresses the feeling or emotion of the speaker. Here is
an amusing introduction to
24. Learn about places of articulation. The
articulators are the parts of the mouth we use to turn sound into speech. They can be fixed parts (the teeth, behind the teeth and the roof of the mouth) and mobile parts (the tongue, the lips, the
soft palate, and the jaw). Click here for more
25. After looking at places of articulation, practise
making the movements that native speakers use when they speak.Here’s a video and remember
to open the jaws, move the lips and get your tongue moving!
26. Learn why English is a stress-timed
language. The rhythm of the language is based on stressed syllables so we shorten the unstressed syllables to fit the rhythm. Syllable-timed languages (such as Spanish) take the same time
to pronounce each syllable. Here’s an explanationwhich might
explain why you speak English like a robot or watch this funny cliphere.
29. Speak lower not higher. Studies show
that you command attention and demonstrate authority with a deeper vocal tone, especially men. This is particularly important if you have to speak in public. Here is a quick guide.
30. Listen and read along to poetry (or rap songs) to
practise the rhythm of English. Limericks (short, funny, rhyming
poems) are really useful and demonstrate how English is stress-timed and how we use weak forms.
32. Learn how to paraphrase. Paraphrasing is when
we repeat what we have just said to make it clear to the listener or when we repeat what the other person has said by using different words. Here are a few to get started.
33. Use contractions more. Contractions make
your speech more efficient because they save time and energy. Say ‘should not’ and then say ‘shouldn’t’: which is easier to say? Very common in fluent speech.
next 33 days, spend 15 minutes every day on one of the tips. I’m sure you’ll notice a huge improvement.