So, you’ve decided to start learning a new language? Congratulations! Knowing another language can open many new doors for you. But how can you improve speaking skills quickly and efficiently? Learn more in our beginner’s guide! And for more commonly asked language-learning questions, check out our How to Learn a Language FAQ.
If you’d prefer to listen to this article, you can head over to our MosaLingua Language Lab podcast:
Listen to “#58 – How to Improve your Speaking Skills in a Foreign Language” on Spreaker.
Beginner’s Guide: 4 Tips to Improve Speaking Skills
Ordering the perfect Italian pizza and getting the toppings you actually wanted… Complimenting a stranger on their outfit on the metro and getting the address to their favorite Parisian boutique… Hopping in a New York cab and not ending up on the opposite side of town from where you’re going… None of these will be possible if you don’t work on honing your speaking skills in the language you’re learning. But the good news is that all of them are within reach—even for beginners! Welcome to our beginner’s guide, designed to help you to improve speaking skills in your new language.
1. Learn common set phrases and expressions
In the beginning, we recommend that you focus on learning vocabulary and phrases you’ll need instead of just random, isolated words. For example, if you’re learning English for your career in marketing, focus on this field. Don’t spend time learning vocabulary about nature, animals, or cooking. Plus, this way you don’t have to know how grammar works just yet to be able to use the language you’re learning correctly. Grammar is a big turn-off for lots of learners, so if you can, avoid it for a while! (There’s a time and a place for grammar. Find out when and how you should start learning it.)
Having basic, repetitive conversations based on practical situations that you’re likely to encounter is a good way to prepare yourself for the real thing. You can even listen to dialogues like the ones in your MosaLingua app and try to play one of the roles. If you can see your speaking skills in action right away and feel like you can actually communicate, you’ll be more likely to stick with it, and less likely to develop a complex about speaking.
2. Don’t be shy, embrace mistakes
Perfectionism can be a good quality to have, for lots of things. But language learning is not one of them!
Beginners in particular need to let go of any perfectionist tendencies, at least while practicing their speaking skills! That’s because it can keep them from improving as quickly as they otherwise could. Mistakes are your friends and allies when it comes to learning a language. Of course, it doesn’t always feel great to be corrected, but don’t take it personally. You’ll likely make the mistake again, but next time you’ll probably be able to catch it and correct it yourself. And eventually you’ll stop making it (and start making new mistakes!).
If you’re shy or afraid you might not be able to express yourself how you want, there are solutions, such as preparing yourself beforehand. Write out scripts and practice in the mirror, a technique called self-talk or self-conversation.
3. Speak up!
There’s only so much prep work you can do before you need to get your boots on the ground and start digging into real-life practice. No matter how intimidating it may seem!
However, if you are shy, or don’t think you’ll have enough to talk about with a conversation partner since you’re just getting started, we suggest seeking out a one-on-one tutor via services like italki. Tutors are used to working with language learners, so they’ll be very understanding when you inevitably make mistakes. They can help correct your vocabulary and pronunciation on the spot. That will keep your mistakes from becoming ingrained, like they might if you only practice by yourself and never get feedback.
These days, it’s super easy to find tutors and conversation partners online or via mobile apps, so you don’t even have to leave your house to practice! Some people might be hesitant to pay for someone’s services, but making a small financial commitment is actually a great way to keep yourself motivated to practice even when you don’t really feel like it, and keep on track toward your goals. Nobody wants to waste their money or a tutor’s time.
4. Make pronunciation a priority
Finally, don’t forget pronunciation. It’s easier to get it right the first time than go back and fix it after it’s already become a bad habit. Don’t skip the pronunciation step when you learn a new flashcard, even if you think you know it. Listen carefully to the native speaker’s recording, try it out for yourself, and compare.
Do your research and focus on three or four sounds in your target language that speakers of your native language tend to struggle with. By making sure you get them right, you’ll really stand out from your peers.
Check out the MosaLingua prounciation guides for help:
- English Pronunciation Guide
- Spanish Pronunciation Guide
- How to Roll Your R in Italian, A MosaLingua Pronunciation Guide [VIDEO]
- How to Improve Your Pronunciation in Any Language
Shadowing is another great way to practice your accent, no matter your level. You can watch a recent video of mine on the topic here. Another way to practice pronunciation on your own is to test it out on a virtual assistant like Siri or Alexa. Set your device to the language you’re learning, and try out some of the sentences you’ve been working on. If it doesn’t understand you, that might be an indication that you need to keep practicing certain sounds. You can also use the voice-to-text feature to double-check that the machine “understood” what you meant to say.
Video: How to Improve Speaking Skills in Your Target Language
You can find all these tips in a video on our YouTube channel. This video is in English, but you can find the subtitles by clicking on the Settings gear at the bottom right. You can also slow down the playback speed (also by clicking on the gear).
Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more tips!
And, if you’d like to dig into this topic a little further, here are a few other articles we recommend:
- Overcome Obstacles and Speak More Confidently
- When and How to Start Speaking a Language [VIDEO]
- How to Become Fluent, and What Fluency Really Means
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