Many people consider “speaking” to be their weakest area when learning a new language. How can you make your speaking better? By practice, of course. Here we’ll provide you with 7 different ways that you can practice speaking your target language.
When learning a new language, using the language is such an important part of the learning process. Speaking can be hard, because it requires learning the pronunciation and thinking in that language at the same time. It also requires a certain level of vulnerability. But once you feel comfortable speaking, your language skills take off in amazing ways.
You might think, “I need to start speaking more, so I’ll just go up to native speakers and start speaking.” While this works for a lot of people, it does not work for everyone. There are many people who find this to be very intimidating or adventurous. If you prefer more introverted or structured ways to practice speaking, then this list is perfect for you.
Another thing to consider: native speakers, especially if they are not friends or family of ours, may not always have the time and patience to wait for us to formulate our simple sentences. If we can practice on our own first, we can start to put sentences together more quickly and fluently and have those conversations in a more natural way, making it more comfortable for our communication partners.
So let’s dive in to 7 different ways that you can practice speaking outside of just talking to random people or with your teacher/tutor.
What is shadowing? Shadowing is a method considered to be invented by a professor named Alexander Arguelles (Source: FluentU). It involves immediately repeating a native speaker’s words in order to improve pronunciation and fluency.
While with this technique you are not using your own thoughts and ideas, by mimicking the native speaker, you can copy their pronunciation, rhythm, tone and pace. You’ll also learn language “chunks,” or words that often go together in phrases. This helps you so that when you are piecing together your own sentences, you can take bits and pieces of what you picked up here, letting muscle memory assist in your production.
2. Speak out loud to yourself (or your cat)
If you’re not quite ready to speak to real people, this is another idea you can do to get speaking practice. I personally have to say that my cat very much enjoys listening to foreign languages, so maybe yours does too.
When you do this, try and imagine yourself speaking to a real person. Often, the difference between speaking to ourselves and speaking to someone is that we are afraid that the other person might be judging us. Our second problem is that we are trying to get it right the first time and don’t want to have to go back and correct what we just said.
By practicing by yourself, you have the ability to go back and correct what you just said or look up a word that would be helpful in your message. You can try out different pronunciations, speeds and volumes. Record yourself or speak in front of the mirror so that you can use that visual feedback to improve your speaking skills. Where do you see yourself using your language when you feel more comfortable? Talk about things that you would normally discuss with people that you’d like to speak your language with.
3. Language exchanges
This is a really great way to practice speaking. In this scenario, there are usually two people. One person is learning language 1 and is a native or advanced speaker of language 2. The other person is learning language 2 and is a native or advanced speaker of language 1. They split the speaking time 50/50 so that language 1 is spoken half the conversation and language 2 is spoken the other half. The duration of the exchange is decided beforehand. These can occur in-person or virtually.
This situation is great, because you both have mutual interests in the exchange. By helping each other, you can also improve your language skills. It’s important to have topics ready to go in these exchanges so that you are not repeating the same conversation each time and you can practice different vocabulary. Check out this incredible list by Marissa Blaszko for topics —> 400+ Language Exchange Topics (organized by language level & theme) (relearnalanguage.com)
You can find exchange partners by putting a post out on social media, using a service such as Tandem, italki, etc, or finding someone in a mutual in-person or online group.
4. Language club
We love a good language club around here. In a language club, you can get a lot of practice speaking with real people. Usually, the stakes are low, people know you are learning, and it can be a really fun time.
In the Language TV Club, we discuss television series and the topics that come up in each episode. In other clubs, there may be certain topics that you discuss more frequently. You can also find different themed clubs, such as a book club, dinner club, sports club or mom’s club in your target language which will likely have topics that are predictable or provided in advance so you can know which vocabulary to expect.
Unless there is a moderator, there may be a chance that in these clubs you won’t get a lot of speaking time. It depends on your personality, the personalities of the other members and the leader of the group. Try and pull one member to the side 1:1 to get more practice or suggest a prompt that everyone answers around the table.
5. Exchange voice messages
This is a method that a lot of people forget about. If you have a friend who is working on the same language as you or is a native speaker of the language, you can communicate with voice messages. Take this opportunity to create productive sentences of your own thoughts.
The great part about this method is that it is not time-bound. If someone sends you a reply and you can’t get back to them until after dinner, no worries. The conversation can continue when each person has the time. But be careful of dwindling conversation. The more things you have in common with this person the better so that you can continue the back-and-forth over the long term.
If you want to get feedback on your speaking, this can be possible with either a very nice friend or with an exchange partner. In this case, they might send their messages to you in your native language. You can both text back corrections, but keep your real conversation voice-audio only.
6. Start a vlog
I feel like “vlog” is starting to become an outdated term. So this doesn’t necessarily have to be a blog with videos on it. It could be a Youtube channel where you create shorts just describing your day in your new language or something new you learned.
You could also use Instagram or Facebook live or reels to create short videos of you speaking. Talk about something you care about, current events or interesting stories from your past. Tiktok is another great avenue as well. Consider remixing videos from native speakers to take a part in one part of the dialogue. Have fun with this method!
*Tip: When posting on social media, consider mentioning in the caption that you are learning the language and ask the audience to either provide helpful feedback or save their feedback, depending on your preference. This can save you from some nasty comments, which are unfortunately all too common in social media.
7. Practice being interviewed in your target language
Look up a news video, podcast, or Youtube video with an interview. Pretend you’re in the hot seat. After the interviewer asks a question, pause it and respond as if you were the special guest.
This increases the pressure level just a little bit compared to just speaking to yourself (#2). You need to respond to an actual question using related vocabulary and you might really feel like you are the one on the show! Record yourself for heightened effect.
Now that we’ve discussed 7 different ways to practice your speaking skills, it’s time for you to go out there and practice! There’s no excuse now that you know there are all of these different ways that can really fit your personality and preferences. Which method are you going to try first? Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!