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Date: Oct 29 2007

Topic: Conversational English

Author: Griffin



By Griffin Leadabrand


For any non-native-English speaking student studying and hoping to improve their spoken English skills; there are a wide range of useful techniques that can be of benefit to them.

As an experienced IELTS “speaking” course instructor I believe that the first major issue that any student must tackle is their confidence when speaking another language, to be truly fluent in English means that the speaker is uninhibited and comfortable when speaking.

So in order to become comfortable, and confident, each student must be prepared to find a practice partner to talk with as often as possible in English. Through constant dialogue and practice, the student will find that their ability grows and their confidence develops.


But what about when speaking to a foreigner or native English speaker?

In this instance it is very normal to feel nervous, but try to see this as your opportunity to test yourself, and demonstrate an enthusiasm for their language. If you make a mistake, encourage the foreign listener to help you. And similarly, offer to teach them some Chinese as a form of Ice-breaker. Through these conversations will you develop the quickest and gain the most benefit.


When not able to find a speaking partner, there are still useful techniques worth considering. In the three stages of the IELTS Speaking test, you are presented with three structured varieties of questioning. The first is conversation style dialogue, questions similar to that which you might be asked if you met a friend after a long period apart. The second is a topic presentation, and the third is a discussion relating to the previous topic. Looking at stage three, you are being asked for your opinions, and views, being asked to speculate, and give predictions. Now these questions are not dissimilar to the questions you read in magazine, and newspaper interviews. Looking through magazines and reading interviews you will find a useful source of English questions. You can check words, read the reply answers, and learn new speech forms. The same is found when listening to Radio Chat shows.

Other media that can help you can be as simple as DVDs and TV programs. Watching western TV is not just entertaining, but is also a practical aid to learning another language, provided of course that you watch it in it’s original English format. Check if the movie has subtitles, and for the first viewing, watch and read the subtitles (in English) and listen to the audio. Be prepared to re-wind and read words and lines again. Be prepared to do this a few times until you understand the words being spoken, and the meaning and context. Then watch the whole program or movie again, this time without the subtitles and you will be able to understand a lot more of what is being said.

For more direct, hands-on learning; language groups like “English Corner” are helpful too. If there are enough foreign people there for the student to talk to, this can be a tremendously enjoyable and constructive means of improving your English. One to One training in also very helpful and valuable to the student wanting to spend more time speaking face to face with a native English speaker.


All these techniques and suggestions can prove to be incredibly useful, and with the right amount of determination and confidence, high levels of English ability can be achieved.

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