by Iordanka Yvancheva / Български
Ok, I see you’d love to speak English or another foreign language freely, confidently, fluently. And you’d like to find out how you can do this by yourself.
The number one key to fluency in a foreign language is listening. If you haven’t seen part 1 of this article series, have a look at it here.
Ok, so let’s say you have spent a period of time listening (2 weeks, 3 weeks or more, or less ;). Now what? You’d like to speak, right?
So to be able to speak, you need to practice speaking.
Speaking could involve reading, singing and talking to somebody.
For the moment, we are going to leave out the actual conversations with another person and we are going to focus on your individual speaking practice. What you could do on your own.
So the idea of your speaking practice would be to master the sound system of your target language. Let’s say you are a native Bulgarian and you wish to speak English fluently. Well, Bulgarian and English have sound systems that are quite different from each other. That is, they have different sounds and sound combinations, different intonation and rhythm. So the speaking practice will help you to get used to pronouncing the words and phrases in an authentic English way, that could be more British or more American or more Australian or Canadian.
In any case, the speaking practice will help you get rid of your native accent as mush as possible and allow you to speak English more easily.
So you need to train your speaking muscles.
How do we do that?
First, you need to be clear about the main sounds that are specific to your target language, in this case English. So you need to have a clear idea of what the key sounds are that you need to master and how to produce them.
There are many videos out there focusing on pronunciation and how to produce these authentic sounds. Watch this type of videos to understand better how to produce the sounds yourself. And practice while watching.
The next step is “Listen and Repeat while Reading”
So, choose an interesting video or audio material of a native English speaker who is not too fast or a material where you can adjust the speed. You also need to see the subtitles or to have a transcript of the recording. So, after listening to this content a few times, when it is already familiar to you, you can listen to it again, this time phrase by phrase. Play the recording, listen to one phrase, pause and repeat the phrase, looking at the text (the subtitles or the transcript). Then you listen to the next phrase, stop and repeat (while looking at the text). Try to imitate the pronunciation and the intonation of the speaker. Pay attention to the words or phrases that are difficult for you to pronounce. Repeat them as many times as necessary until you get them right. If you have a printout of the transcript, that will allow you to take notes on it on any specifics that are important to you.
Then we come to the “Shadowing”
This time you are going to try to speak over the original presenter. So again you need to have the text and while speaking, try to imitate the presenter. It’s also possible to speak with a bit of a lag, so it’s like listening and repeating but without stopping the recording, and you could do that with or without looking at the text.
Singing along your favourite songs is a wonderful way of shadowing. So you need to have the lyrics handy, play the song and sing along while listening to the original. Singing makes pronunciation easier and helps you relax.
And then it’s time to do some “Expressive Reading”
What you do here is you take a dialogue or a transcript of a podcast, preferably a material that you have listened to before and you read it out loud. Watch out, not in a robot voice. Read expressively instead. Emphasizing some words, raising or lowering your voice, playing with intonation. Having listened to the material before helps a lot because you would try to imitate the original speaker.
While reading expressively, you could record yourself reading and then listen to the recording and compare to the original one to find out what you could improve. You could also read out loud to someone who is a native speaker or fluent in the language and is willing to listen to you and help you improve your reading.
Now let me summarize my main suggestions of how you could practice speaking on your own.
• Get familiar with the main authentic sounds of the language and try to master them.
• Listen and repeat while looking at the text
• Shadowing with or without the text
• Expressive reading
I can assure you that while you practice speaking this way, you will not only improve your pronunciation, but you’ll also be able to easily memorize a lot of words and expressions. This kind of practice will help you speak more confidently in a conversation as well.
So good luck and have fun!
I invite you to join our Facebook group where you can get additional tips and specific suggestions about content to use for your English practice:
Butterfly English Open
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Thank you. I appreciate it.