If you don’t use it, you lose it.
But, how to speak English regularly in a non-native English-speaking country?
Decidedly, that constitutes a major obstacle to overcome but not an impossible one. Although a long stay in an English-speaking country is the most effective way to become fluent in a language, there are strategies to adopt when that is not an option. I
would make a distinction here between students that have already been fluent but whose English is getting rusty as time goes by (due to lack of use), and those who are still learning the ropes. For the latter, I would definitely recommend attending a course in order to receive some guidance and in addition, follow some of these tips to reinforce the learning process. For the former, I would say: take the reins!
Let’s dive in and get more specific.
You could find a LANGUAGE EXCHANGE PARTNER who wants to learn Spanish or Basque and trade in that knowledge for English. You can put up a note on the university notice board or post it on an online service such as kaleaonline or milanuncios.com. Given that you find someone you get along with, this is probably the most natural way to keep up your speaking outside class in a non-native speaking country.
§ You may have to invest some time before you find the right person. Be prepared for some uncertainty, you are going outside your comfort zone.
§ If you are very busy, bear in mind that this system requires that you put in the time/effort as a teacher as well. That person may need patience, explanations and motivation, just like you.
§ Your mistakes will most probably not be corrected. (but there is always a silver lining, check the last but one entry in the pros section).
§ It creates a relaxed atmosphere of cooperation where both people are teachers and learners at the same time. So much so, that it can lead into a friendship. I am talking from experience, I met one of my best friends in a language exchange.
§ It’s flexible in terms of “when” and “how often”. You two decide.
§ The same goes for the “where”.
§ You get to choose the methodology and topics to deal with.
§ Correcting your partner’s mistakes can help you analyse yours.
§ We have established that correction-wise it’s not ideal, sometimes you can’t have two for the price of one. But in this case, the one you get if fluency. The more exposure, the more freely the words will flow and that is a skill that will take you to a different level. Speak, speak, speak! At this point, that’s all that matters. String words and sentences together. Doubts will pop up; take notes and look them up at home.
§ And last but not least, it’s fun and it saves you money.
The way I see it, the advantages clearly outweigh the disadvantages. The effort you may have to put in at first, pays off in the end.
Form an ENGLISH CONVERSATION CLUB with friends, colleagues or acquaintances that have your same level of English. Make sure the people who team up with you are on the same wavelength and as motivated as you, if you want to keep the boat afloat. This procedure requires commitment and consistency, just as the language exchange. But isn’t the language learning process all about commitment and consistency?
Some tips on the how to …..
o Steer clear of Spanish or Basque. Perhaps you could create some sort of rules you all want to adhere to, the first one being “the only English policy” during the meet-ups and chats leading up to it.
o How to spark conversations and keep it flowing. Appoint a person in charge of finding a topic each time you meet. This way, you will make sure that the issues are assorted and that they cater for all tastes. Articles, podcasts, videos, films, books … or the like, could form the basis to spark off conversation.
o Find a suitable meeting point. A quiet café/bar could be ideal. Or else, somebody’s living room. And in the summer months, why not a park or somewhere outdoors?
More ideas to come.
Feel free to contribute yours if you think it can help others. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve heard of students who have improved their speaking by talking to themselves. This idea doesn’t suit everybody but if it does suit you, go ahead and harness it. How? Speaking your thoughts aloud, rambling; Reading an article and summarising it; Rehearsing real life situations, like a job interview… etc. Using your mobile or another device to record your voice could turn out to be a useful tool to assess yourself.
For the very bold and creative ones. Create a youtube channel: I must admit I’m not cut out for being in front of a camera but if you are, make the most of it. You surely have a passion, an area of knowledge you excel at. Why not share it with the world all the while you are practising English?
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