How to be More Confident in English
This post is inspired by one of our lovely listeners from our podcast (The English Journey Podcast). We were asked what can someone do if they can read and understand everything very well in English but when they try to speak, nothing happens. It’s important for everyone to understand that this is VERY common. When learning a new language, often speaking is the most difficult aspect because it requires you to take a leap of faith. This means, to have the courage to do something even if it scares you.
You see, the issue is not that you don’t have the proper vocabulary or ability to speak English, the problem is that you lack the confidence to speak English. So now what? How do you move from a shy English speaker to someone who is confident in English? The truth is, the battle is completely in your mind and we need to find strategies and tips to break that belief that you can’t speak the language. Let’s take a look at our most important tips in order to overcome your fear of speaking English.
5 Ways to become more confident in English:
1. Know when it is the time to start speaking.
Sometimes there’s a reason you don’t feel ready to start speaking English yet. And the fact is, perhaps you’re genuinely not ready to start yet. This is the first and most important tip. You must realize and understand your needs. Let’s say you just started learning English 2 months ago and you try to speak, and well… no sounds come out. That isn’t so surprising. Language learners must spend at least 1 hour a day listening to content in the language they are trying to learn, in order to possess the vocabulary and language skills needed to have a proper conversation.
You wouldn’t expect a child to start learning their first language without ever hearing the language spoken out loud, would you? It’s the same thing here! If you’ve been listening to English podcasts, music, and various other forms of content while even reading too, you’ll know when it’s time to start speaking the language because you’ll start to feel more confident in English. In your heart, you’ll feel like you are ready to take your language to the next level. If you don’t feel this way, it is possible that you’re not truly ready yet and that’s okay. There is no rush when it comes to learning a language. You learn a language for life, as we learn more about the ways to communicate as life goes on.
I’m a native English speaker and I’ll never be perfect with the English language, and this is something you need to accept, as I have. It is all part of the journey. Now it’s possible that you have been doing lots of practice and putting in all the hard work and still, you’re not able to speak English. This brings me to my next point…
2. Take baby steps by speaking out loud (by yourself in private).
Maybe you’re simply embarrassed to make mistakes or you feel scared because you think you won’t know what to say when someone talks to you in English. Once again, that is normal! Take baby steps. Start off by simply speaking English out loud in your own private home, apartment, room or wherever you are. No one has to hear you but you should make it a point to speak out loud, and not only in your head. Let’s be real, everything we say sounds nicer in our heads. In my head, I’m a fantastic Spanish speaker… until I speak out loud and realize that truthfully, I’m not. I have only just recently started learning Spanish and I’m not ready yet to start speaking to others and that’s fine. I’m starting with the 1st step, by listening to podcasts and playing games and apps.
The next step will be to start speaking out loud. If you’re in a situation like me, where you live with another person (or multiple people) in your home and want to be able to speak privately, try the shower! I’m serious- the shower is one of my favourite places to speak out loud because unless you’re really screaming, others won’t be able to hear you. My favourite is to sing songs while in the shower but do what feels comfortable for you! Practice reading English stories and texts out loud. Sing your favourite English songs out loud. Repeat what a native English speaker says from a Youtube video or a podcast. Whatever you’re doing, just make sure you’re speaking out loud. Your mouth needs to be moving and you need to be training your muscles to work with the proper English pronunciation. This will only happen if you force yourself to speak out loud. It will feel strange and uncomfortable at first, I know but it’s necessary if you want to eventually speak and feel confident in English.
3. Plan out what you’re going to say!
You’d think that my next step would be to start speaking with real people besides yourselves but nope, we’re not there yet. After you feel confident speaking English privately to yourself, it’s time to start preparing for what you are going to talk about with others. This might sound weird because a natural conversation should never be planned, we just say whatever we feel like. However, for a non-native English speaker, this is one of the best ways to feel more ready and confident in English.
Here’s what you need to do. Start practising what you would say in a certain situation. Let’s say you know you’re going on a trip to an English speaking country soon, where will you need to be able to have English conversations? Hmm, probably the airport when you land, maybe the hotel you are staying at and possibly some restaurants or coffee shops. That’s a great start! Learn the vocabulary needed for those situations and practice making your own sample dialogue. This means to pretend you are both people in the conversation and make-up what you would say and how to respond to questions. Try and practice what you’ll say when you get to the airport and they ask you some questions about why you are travelling to the country or how you will order your favourite drink at Starbucks. You’re going to feel way more confident if you’ve mentally prepared for these conversations first.
We actually have an entire Glish course all about these real-life situations. There are 12 lessons, with 12 different common situations for speaking English like at the airport, at the coffee shop, at the restaurant, at the doctor’s, on the street and more. The course is $19.99 and goes over the vocabulary needed in these situations, conversation tips and cultural elements that are maybe different from these places in your hometown and then a sample dialogue which mimics a real conversation in one of those situations, that you can practice repeating on your own or with a friend.
4. Speak slowly and use filler words.
A lot of English language learners make the mistake that they need to speak quickly in order to sound fluent. While it’s true that native English speakers do speak fast, sometimes it can actually make you sound less confident. We all know that when someone speaks way too fast, they sound erratic or nervous. Why would you ever want to show other people that you are nervous (even if you actually are!).
Learn to slow yourself down when you speak. Not only will you sound calmer, but you’ll actually sound more confident. Have you heard of the saying “fake it till you make it”? This means fake the confidence and one day, you won’t have to fake it anymore because you’ll have the real confidence. Even if you are nervous, pretend you’re not! Speak slow, take your time to think of what you’re going to say, and you’ll sound so much better.
If you can convince yourself that you are not nervous, you will actually feel less nervous and more confident! There’s no race and you don’t win a prize for speaking English fast. I honestly prefer having casual conversations with English language learners who speak slow but make sense, rather than those who try and speak fast like a native speaker but are constantly making mistakes and confusing their listeners.
Another great tip would be to use filler words! I can make an entirely separate post on filler words, as there are so many in English, but to start off with the most common ones. Have you ever heard English speakers say “umm…” and “so…”? I’m sure you have! We native speakers use filler words often out of habit. Many languages actually have these filler words so it is normal to use them. The great thing about using these filler words is not only do you sound super calm and relaxed (which makes you look confident), but you’ll sound like a native speaker since we use them a lot!
Another bonus, and probably the best part of these filler words, is that it allows you more time to think of what you’re going to say. It drags your thoughts on for longer, allowing you to prepare the next words or sentences. For example, if you are at an ice cream shop and the server asks you which flavour you’d like to get, using a filler word can give you more time to think and prepare your mouth to pronounce the flavour. You could say something like “Ummmm, I think I’ll go with Vanilla.”
Those extra few seconds can really help you get your mind clear and ready to speak English.
5. Find people to speak with you.
Last but certainly not least, if you really want to sound confident in English, you’ll want to actually start speaking English with other people. If you’ve done the previous 4 steps properly, chances are you are definitely ready to take this step and face your fears. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
Don’t you want to start achieving your goals, speaking English and feeling great?
Start by speaking with a friend that you know. You’ll feel more confident speaking with someone you already know than a complete stranger. Maybe you know someone who is also trying to learn English! That would make for a great language partner! Try and hang out once or twice a week to practice speaking out loud. You’ll be able to learn together and feel more confident, as you start talking out loud in English with each other.
Another option would be to use English learning apps to find someone who you can talk to online. Sometimes it’s hard to find people in your town or city that are willing to practice with you. Luckily there are plenty of free English learning apps that allow you to connect with English language learners all over the world and have phone calls or facetime calls and practice. You need to obviously be willing to speak with a stranger, but don’t all friends first start off as strangers anyways?
*Bonus*: Take a conversational English course or lessons
My final suggestion would be to take some conversation classes or lessons. You can do this by hiring a tutor or enrolling in a school where the focus is on speaking skills. Make sure you don’t sign up for ANY English course, as you may end up doing more grammar or reading than you thought.
Choose lessons that focus specifically on speaking and having conversations. If it’s in your budget, this is a great way to gain confidence while speaking with a professional who can help you identify your mistakes and how to fix them.
We’re actually offering conversational English lessons, where you can choose from the list of topics we’ve created, and practice having a real conversation with a native English speaker. This is great for you to develop how to engage and hold a conversation when discussing a specific topic such as food, family, dating, travelling, school or whatever it may be. The lessons take place on zoom and you’ll receive the recorded lesson to be able to practice over and over again after the call.
I really hope these tips have helped you to develop a plan so that you can finally feel confident in English. Life is too short to play it safe all the time. Make a plan and achieve your goals.
I challenge you to try one of the five ideas for an entire week straight and see if you start feeling more confident with your speaking. I have a big feeling you will! Embrace the mistakes and have fun with it!
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