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Practical tips to improve your English speaking skills

Have you ever been suddenly thrust into a situation where you have to speak in front of a group of people like a family gathering or during your school assembly? Feeling nervous is completely natural. You might be surprised to know that even people who you thought are great at public speaking get nervous to some extent before each event.

This is why it is critical to improving your skills in English speaking. We will walk you through a complete guide on how to get better.

● Reasons to get fluent
● Methods.
● Measuring your progress.
● Leverage in career progression.
● Conclusion.

Reasons to get fluent – Usually, people will give you reasons like if you want to meet new people you have to get better at English. In a country like India where most are comfortable speaking our native language, it is actually easier to form a genuine connection with someone in the native language. Of course, English can help in a situation where neither of you speaks the same native language. For example, if your friend introduces you (who speaks Hindi) to someone who speaks Tamil.

We will instead focus on more tangible outcomes where improving your skills for communication will lead to a more successive career progression. Let’s look at some of the major reasons:

Managerial roles and progression – In any large company, the chosen form of communication is English even in India. As you gain experience after your graduation you will realize that getting a promotion is divided into either technical mastery or people management. Ex: A software developer can become an expert in ‘front end’ (creating a great UI for the end-user, like when you use the Instagram app that is completely a front end interface powered by a back end database of photos and user data). The other option is to become a manager where you would be responsible for a team. Not only would the team need to deliver on deadlines, but you would also need to manage internal conflicts, communicate with other teams etc.

A manager no matter the industry will have to communicate effectively. It is important to note that even if you take the route of becoming a technical expert you will still have to work with other people. Hence, listening and finding out their needs requires a significant level of fluency.

Salary appreciation – Promotions go hand in hand most times with a salary increase. We strongly encourage you to speak to people who have at least 5+ years of work experience. Try asking them what is the best way to get promoted. They will tell you there are 3 major factors: People management, communication skills and technical knowledge. It is not enough to be really good at your job. You need to be able to show others your work and work with other people with ease.

More effective learning – At the school level, most private schools teach subjects in the English medium. If your foundation in English is not strong then it will take you to double the effort to learn a concept than someone who was able to understand the concept being taught in class. As you know, you would have to go back home and read the concept multiple times.

Studies have shown that learning a second language improves your skills for lateral thinking and creative problem-solving.

Studying or working abroad – For any kind of immigration to a western country like the USA or the UK you need to be fluent in English. You would have to give an exam like TOEFL or IELTS. These exams would be tough to get a good score in if you do not practice from a young age. If you follow the methods we mention below then you will not even have to prepare before you give the below exams.

Working abroad has similar requirements. A work ‘Visa’ has rigorous background verification to check your reason for immigration, language fluency etc

  • Methods to improve your skills.

Listening – Two of the major reasons that listening is important are to understand native pronunciation and respond correctly. Ex: When someone says,” What do you want to do about the issue we discussed yesterday?” It actually sounds like,” Whachu want to do about the issue …?”.

Pro Tip # 1.
We suggest learning about ‘reduced forms’ and intonation. It will really help you interpret and adapt to different forms of English dialect.

Pro Tip # 2.
Listening to interesting topics which are information-dense is the best way to improve your skills. However, most topics are difficult to interpret in such a format. This is why we recommend TED talks on Youtube. They always get great speakers who have too often break down complex topics for a large live audience.

Pro Tip # 3.
When listening to these talks make sure you write down the points that stood out to you and what do you understand. An implication of what was said shows you absorbed the point being made well.

Pro Tip # 4.
This is a great tool to apply in your day-to-day life. Do not use subtitles anymore. Make it a rule to watch any show or movie without subtitles. It will ensure your listening skills improve without you knowing!

Imitate – Earlier when we mentioned TED talks it has an additional use. A strong technique is to study the speech patterns of a strong orator that fits your style. For example, using your hands to the community shows confidence but if it does not suit your style find an orator that fits. Once you do check to see if they have at least 5-7 videos in a public setting.

Carefully study and Imitate the way they deliver the talk. Start off by repeating what they said including the mannerisms. They write your own material, it does not have to belong. 5-6 paragraphs would suffice. Practicing this in front of a mirror would help.

Read – The biggest issue with reading? It takes time, especially if you do not like the topic every minute can feel like an hour. The most important factor here is to build the habit. Your goal for the 1st 2 weeks should be to read 10 minutes daily. Keep increasing the quota by 5 minutes. Until you reach 20 minutes. At this point, you are ahead of many native speakers in terms of daily reading.

We always suggest starting your reading with something that interests you. We suggest picking up an autobiography from a comedian. It would be a light topic with a lot of jokes and well-paced. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin is a great read.

Additionally, if you struggle with setting your own goals then join a spoken English class. This would ensure that there is a set curriculum followed. Experts would guide you and it would be goal-based learning. Most importantly you would get to practice with other people.

Reflect – You might have read that ‘thinking in English’ is another great way to improve your skills. However, this is very difficult when it is not your 1st language. It will end up becoming frustrating. The more natural the method the higher chance you actually end up using it.

Reflection would involve assessing your progress and the methods you have used for that day. However, this is not practical as you might spread your efforts throughout the day. Trying to recall exactly what you did and how you could have improved is quite difficult in this case.

A more direct approach would be to record yourself while speaking. Start with the audio recording first as it would be easier to analyze. This is the most helpful tip that can bring a change in how you speak overnight. Listening to yourself will help you immediately notice things like: unnecessary pauses, your tone, flow etc. The best part about this method is you can practice this method by yourself and still reap many benefits.

Preparation and Practice – The most important Insight we can give is that some of the best orators do not just show up to the event and deliver a powerful message. They practice relentlessly, this is true for even the smaller meetings. Once you make this a practice you will realize that being considered a good orator can be mimicked by practicing your speech.

By practice, we mean that even if you have a 3-minute part in a presentation practice it at least 15 times till you are unable to deliver it flawlessly. You will notice that everyone in your team and peers will immediately appreciate you.

Also, you can choose how you want your delivery to be. Either remember the main points of each topic/slide or make a script. We find that the impact of delivering with a script is unmatched. You will notice that managerial executives (CEO level) always deliver crisp presentations. This is only because they have developed a script and have practiced it, not because they are considered a good orator.

Build vocabulary – Building your vocabulary is crucial but also really tedious. Apart from reading as mentioned earlier another way to build it is to watch documentaries. While watching educational content is a great way it does not actively build your vocabulary until you actually look up the words which is easier said than done.

A more practical approach would be to play word games on your phone. You can even play online by yourself. We suggest playing Wordle online. It is like Sudoku but with words. It is a great way to build your vocabulary and you can do it any time of the day with breaks.

Measuring your progression – Every month you should assess your performance overall, a great way to do this is to take a topic and create a 5-minute speech. Record it and analyze the improvements and mistakes. If you follow even half the techniques we have mentioned above you will see a month-on-month improvement. The Memrise app is a great way to learn conversational phrases and test yourself. If you want a formal assessment the best way is to give an official test by IELTS or TOEFL. However, both of these tests are expensive.

Fluency vs grammar – You will notice that many great orators do not have perfect grammar. So why are they considered great speakers? This is because the flow and the impact of your speech matter much more than the grammar you use. So like we covered earlier, do not break the flow when you are presenting. Taking appropriate pauses does not break the flow, we will talk about it more during pacing.

Confidence and Pacing – Ultimately, the quality that defines the best orator is their confidence. This can not be practiced, it comes with experience. However, if you prepare before every presentation you will notice that within 10-15 presentations you will see a massive jump in your confidence.

The more you practice and study others the more you will notice that they have a pace that they keep modulating along with their tone. This is because listeners get bored and distracted easily. We suggest that maintaining a slow constant pace, in the beginning, will ensure that you will be clear and not fumble.

Career Progression – Earlier we have covered how effective communication is important both from a technical role and the perspective of a managerial role. But let us look into this concept a little deeper. Your appraisal cycle (yearly performance review) depends on 2 factors: Your performance as per your job role and your standing with your manager has he/she also gives you an assessment.

In any field be it a technical role or not the industry has many terms that are specific to the field of work. For example, even in a regular business setting terms like ‘Wheelhouse’ and ‘Synergise’. These terms can be explained simply but you need a good understanding of communication to break down more complex terms.

The path to improving your skills in terms of oration seems intimidating but we want you to quickly Google some of the most powerful CEOs in the tech industry. You will notice most of them are introverts! However they still manage to present confidently when required. This is all because of planning and practice.

In case you are in a pinch and need to present in a few days there is a quick hack. Take the help of a friend who speaks well and make the script together. Once you practice it 20 times we guarantee that you will be able to present well. It is important to know where you stand. A test to find out your speaking and written skills will help you understand where you stand. At Lcarro, we have such a test to measure various abilities.

online english speaking classes – Improving your communication ability is the best investment you can make in yourself professionally. This has been proven time and again. Reach out to friends and family members for guidance. You can also reach out to our expert counselors for guidance.