When we are learning a language, we usually reach a point where we understand quite well; we can read, write, listen to easy conversations and understand, but when it comes to using our oral skills, panic sets in!
What can you do to go a step further when it comes to speaking another language?
Training your listening abilities is the first step to achieving good pronunciation, so it is essential to start there; although it may sound like a stereotype, watching series or movies, listening to music, podcasts, radio programs or any type of content in the language you are learning is an excellent exercise for this. Start with content that has been dubbed from another language, then it will be much easier to understand this way and as soon as you get a good understanding, move on to content that has been originally recorded in the language, this will give you much more vocabulary and will also help you find a natural accent.
Once you are familiar with the sounds of your target language, I recommend doing the following exercises:
Don't worry! It is not necessary to read for someone else, if you don't feel comfortable in front of another person, find a quiet and solitary place, some reading according to your level and read aloud; you can use your cell phone to record while you are reading, then you should listen and ask yourself. How do I feel when I hear myself speaking in another language? what could I improve in my accent? Why do I have some difficulties in pronunciation?
Make a diagnosis of everything you consider important, based on the initial training or exercise to sharpen your ear and your own audio recordings; this will help you to clearly know which aspects of your oral expression require more attention and you can look for exercises focused on this; for example, Spanish learners usually have a little difficulty with the pronunciation of the letter R and
a very good exercise to improve this is the repetition of the following tongue twister: Rápido ruedan los carros cargados de azúcar al ferrocarril.
Repeat this exercise usually, so you can keep track of your progress.
- imitate a native speaker who you admire
You are going to look for a public figure with whom you feel identified, and you are going to try to copy his way of speaking; all the details are important, what expressions he uses frequently, how he changes his verbal communication according to his environment or context, the speed at which
he speaks, the way he moves his mouth... absolutely all the details are important. In this way, your brain stores information that will be used unconsciously when you are talking to other people.
- pronunciation exercises
Every language has its "tricks" when it comes to speaking; make sure you know the correct position of the tongue to pronounce each different sound and you will see how your fluency improves a lot and with it your confidence.
- start with 1-to-1 conversations
If you feel fearful when you have to talk, exposing yourself to conversations in large groups of people or in unfamiliar environments can be very difficult and frustrating…so try to find alternatives that make this experience much easier for you; actually I think that, although starting it is better to find a language partner, you should expand the number of people you speak with, even if you keep having 1 to 1 conversations, try not to talk with the same person every time, then you learn to understand different accents, speeds, etc. Once you have mastered 1-to-1 conversations in environments that are comfortable for you, it is time to go into “natural places" and gradually loosen the control you had over your initial conversations. Finally, recognize your effort and progress Although it is very important to identify your shortcomings in order to improve your fluency, it is really important to learn to recognize your successes, because, even when they may seem insignificant, learning a language is a path that is built on those 'small' successes so, let go the control and just try to enjoy your own process.