Study Methods: Improving Speaking
When you think about it, the vast majority of people learn a language to speak it. It’s pretty obvious that that’s a big motivator. But a question that is commonly asked (“how can I improve my speaking?”) gets the all-too-often reply of “to improve your speaking you have to speak”. Sounds crazy right?
It’s not as stupid as it sounds though. And it’s a not a matter of only stumbling around in the dark groping for expressions in a conversation where the other party doesn’t seem too engrossed in your grasp of what foods you like nor about how the wind is blowing strongly today. Sure, these topics are great for idle chit-chat and you feel a sense of achievement when you can have these kind of basic textbook style conversations, but let’s be honest…. that’s not really what you want to talk about is it?
So what do want to talk about it? Anything you have an interest in most likely…. and how can you talk about them? By speaking… 😉
Let me get to the point… to improve your writing skills (no, I’m no digressing!) you write, right? You write a diary most likely and you find your diary entries become more natural and you can write quicker and quicker and in more depth than you could initially… You develop some form of natural automacity. So, a while ago I thought, why don’t we adapt this to help our speaking skills?
Technology is a great thing and has moved at such a rate over the last decade that you -the reader – probably has a mp3 recorder on your mobile phone or at the very least, some way of recording on your computer (download Audacity if you need some free software). Now this is the best bit… instead of writing a diary, why don’t you just speak? Talk about your day, your interests, your plans… that cute girl you saw on the bus… anything! Whatever you want to be able to talk about in a naturally manner, just try to talk about it.
Don’t be afraid of how much you pause or how many mistakes you make, just speak. If you come to a word you want to use but don’t know, don’t look it up in the dictionary, rather just insert it in another language. You’re recording your speaking, so when you listen to yourself and review what you said you can look those words up and make notes for next time.
Of course, you don’t want to reinforce errors, so it’s much better if you have someone that is willing to listen to your audioblog and offer corrections or suggestions. You can find an online language exchange that is likely to help you out – you can correct one another in exchange in the form of audio emails – and when you both progress in your skills you can begin live conversations with one another via Skype.
It’s also worth noting that this is a great idea for the classroom too. Quite often we assign journal writing to our students, so why not modify this to an audio journal? On some levels, it’s actually less work for the student because it doesn’t have to be as accurate as the writing in the sense that you’re permitting them to substitute the words they don’t have an active knowledge in their initial recording. Rather, they can offer a written notation of the words they became aware of needing for that particular journal.
Also, the idea of an audio journal may be less confronting to the student than the idea of a presentation or role-play in class where there are not particularly confident of their abilities. So, through doing the audio journals as homework, the students get the chance to not only improve their spoken ability but also to build their confidence when it comes to their speaking.