There are many reasons why people attend my courses of English Without Books. But they all have one thing in common – everyone would like to improve their speaking.
Okay, that’s a valid need.
But there is a catch in it if we take it as some kind of a sport. If we start to approach it as something that we “should probably improve somehow”. In that case I recommend to give it up. Or change your mindset. Let’s be honest, with this attitude, your speaking will never get better. We need to learn English because we want to enjoy speaking with people, speak in front of them or, at least, speak with one at a time. Otherwise, it isn’t worth our energy. One of the reasons, ideally the main one, for learning English should be to connect with others.
So how to do it if you really mean it?
One of the best known and most effective recommendations. If you are a beginner, first describe objects, your surroundings and people. Then, start with short sentences, describe what you see when you, for example, travel by tram – The man opposite me is reading the news. Or There are many people in the centre today. And then you can talk to yourself in larger chunks. And if you think your English sounds kind of better in your head, know you’re not alone! It’s normal, so don’t let that discourage you.
I swear by music when learning languages. If you like music, invest in a paid version of Spotify (it is then free of ads) or actively listen to music anywhere else and read the song lyrics. And sing. When you “shazam” the song (I recommend the free Shazam app that can recognize what’s playing from your mobile or a nearby radio), the app will automatically offer you the song’s lyrics and you can sing along. Or go to Youtube and add “lyrics” to the song’s title, e.g. “bohemian rhapsody lyrics“. By singing, “you feel” the words and grammar, and you will know how to pronounce everything, and when the time comes, your English will be stronger.
Or any other apps where you have to record yourself and the app then gives you feedback on how you pronounce words/sentences. Duolingo is free and is more suitable for beginners. English Central is paid and for more advanced students. Access to English Central costs $15-30 per month, depending on how many months you buy (the more months, the cheaper). At English Central you record yourself (in the Speaking section) and compare with the original. This is what the Voice Recognition System can do for you. It records you and gives you feedback on your pronunciation, diction and pauses. In this 1-minute video, see how the app works.
I have been promoting tv series and movies on my blog and in all my courses for a long time.
A great technique you can use in order to be more active when watching series and movies is to repeat everything after the actors for about 30 seconds and do it 2 or 3 times during one episode, ideally without reading the subtitles. Start with the simpler shows, where there are no lengthy sentences, e.g. action movies, animated movies and reality TV shows. Gradually you can move to family drama, romance, psychodrama and the highest level are political movies and documentaries on philosophical or scientific topics. I describe more on how to work with movies in the article “12 Best Christmas Movies in English“.
When you read something and nobody is in the room with you, read it out loud sometimes. It helps with your articulation and practising intonation. You can also read fairy tales to your children in the evening, or read English subtitles aloud at times. You will get used to the pronunciation that is simply different, and you will be able to jump into a conversation more quickly.
Summer is an ideal opportunity because you can travel more. If you get a chance to make friends with someone abroad, go for it! And keep in touch after the summer. At the festival, on the plane, in the hotel, on the beach, in the restaurant, at the campsite …people spend more time out. They stay out later in the summer and everyone is more open to communicate. Just stop worrying about whether you’re making a lot of mistakes, have a glass of wine or beer and it will work like magic, I promise!
Whether in your city or while travelling – on a tram, bus, train or airplane – why not chat with people when you get a chance? For example, when you are waiting at the airport to get on your plane or when you meet someone on a train, why not ask where the person is going? You never know if this will make a friendship for life! Do you know this scene from Before Sunrise?
Whether you go for a beer, do some activity, have dinner after a fair trade show or after signing a contract, or once a month with your foreign colleagues in the bar, everything counts. Yes, it is for more outgoing individuals, but I also know a lot of introverts who, for example, go out for a beer with a Dutch colleague after a business meeting.
Where to find foreigners in our cities? There is the Couchsurfing community, events organized by Foreigners, or so called English Meetings (I know about those in Brno, Prague, Ostrava and Liberec . If you know more about them please write in the comment section under the article). There is another special place: Toastmasters – international clubs for public speaking skills. Some of my students attend their meetings and speak highly of them, I was once a member too for a year and it helped me with my public speaking enormously. There are also various interest groups on FB in Brno. There are, for example, groups for women, for families, for entrepreneurs or for those who like to knit.
For less outgoing types, it is more pleasant to find one speaking partner, not a group of people. There are plenty of places where this is possible. The best known language learning network is perhaps italki.com, where you find both paid tutors and study buddies for mutual help with foreign languages. Other language exchange pages include Conversation Exchange and Hello Talk mobile app.
If you are shy and yet want to join us, I can promise you that: our courses are free of coursebooks and school desks, you meet with foreigners, and speaking is our priority. The graduates often mention at the end of the course that they understand better and that they feel more talkative, not to mention that they gained higher self-confidence.
Feel free to contact us to find out which course would be the most suitable for you.
And what works for you? I will be very happy if you share your comments below in the comment section!