It can be said that listening is the most important action in learning another language. Because without hearing another language, you would have no idea how words are supposed to sound. Well, although we believe here at World English Club that listening is the best method, we also believe that the other “Mores” are equally as important and need to be practiced just as much. Those are Speaking More, Reading More and Writing More. And the next important in line is speaking more.
Speaking is how a language is actually communicated to another person. You learn by listening, but you do by speaking. It is by listening that you learn to speak.
Try thinking of how a baby is able to learn a language. When they say their first words, it wasn’t because they were learning it from a book. It was because their Mom or Dad were repeating the words they want them to say. But after that what do you notice a baby does? Thats right, the baby repeats the words over and over. The baby is speaking.
You may be saying to yourself that you want to learn a language in a month or two. Although you are more advanced than a baby, it still takes time to learn a language fluently. Children around the age of three to five are finally getting the little intricacies of their language down. And a few years later, have no problems. It shouldn’t take you that long, but the point is that you need to spend some time in learning and take baby steps. Listen first. Then speak. (and listen a lot)
When you are at home thinking about English, say the words out loud. One way that I practiced when I was trying to remember the numbers, I would repeat them. This not only helps with speaking, but memory also. I would go and listen to my native speaking friends. Then I would go home and try to mimic their accents. And also while thinking about the numbers, I would say them out loud. I would also start trying to say them faster and faster. At least once I had the words down I would.
When you are speaking out loud, you hear the words differently than you do in your head. Native speakers always understand you better when you speak in their accent as opposed to yours. I am not talking about losing your accent, that is for another lesson. I am simply saying that if you hear a word spoken a certain way, try to practice that word the way you heard it. Be a “copy cat”. When you hear something, say it and copy it. But say it out loud!
When learning English as a second language, many students feel that they have failed if they don`t speak it flawlessly and without an accent. The simple truth is, however, that the majority of ESL students will not be able to completely get rid of their accent in English without many years of hard work. If you are able to speak clearly and have others understand you, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with having an accent.
What IS Important
Being able to speak like a native doesn’t necessarily mean that you`ll be accent free. In fact, your accent could be just what you need to set your voice apart from millions of others. But there are a few things that you do need to know if you are serious about speaking the language well.
Avoid common mispronunciations. This varies depending on your mother tongue, but most people have some set pronunciations that can cause problems in English. For example, most adult Asians pronounce the letter “r” as “l”. Spanish speakers will usually say “b” for the letter “v”. If you know what your particular mispronunciations are, you can be conscious of them and make a real effort not to say these sounds wrong. This will make your English far more understandable. Children will have less of a problem with this than adults.
In your rush to speak English like a native, you may try to speed up, but this can make it hard for people to understand you. Slow down a little and make sure you say each word clearly and there will be far less chance of misunderstanding. You can practice your enunciation, as well. This doesn`t mean that you need to get rid of your accent, only that you need to speak clearly so everyone will understand what you have said . . . this is something that many native English speakers also have problems with. Increase your vocabulary. It`s far easier to express yourself if you know what words to use. This basically means you need to do a lot of studying and reading. Watching movies and television shows in English can also help with building vocabulary, as well as improving your accent. Speaking with others is another method of learning new words, as long as you are with someone you feel comfortable asking the definition from. Otherwise, get in the practice of carrying a small pocket dictionary with you.
Practice, Practice, Practice
The more you practice, the better you`ll get at speaking English. That means striking up conversations with strangers, calling up friends on the phone to speak English (phones can be difficult, but are excellent practice for speaking clearly), and getting in as much conversation time as possible. Many English students even hire someone to converse with them, but you should be able to find plenty of people who are happy to just have a conversation.
If you really do wish to reduce your accent, then there are specialists who help people with this. A speech therapist will be able to help you move your mouth differently than you are accustomed to and help you correct the more common pronunciation problems so that you will be able to speak more like a native speaker.
Speaking English well takes time and practice. There`s no instant method for picking up a new language perfectly and while you may want to work on speaking more like a native, it isn’t necessary. In fact, you may find that many people enjoy listening to an accent, as long as you are able to speak clearly and be understood.