How to Speak English Better
A simple search on Google using “how to speak English better” will lead to a number of excellent pages. For the record, our personal favorite is the second one: 33 ways to speak better English - British English Coach.
Some of you might (rightly) be wondering, Why write a new article on a topic that has already been thoroughly covered? Well, there are just as many (if not more) websites that offer tips on writing better, but that didn’t keep us from composing this article. (It remains our most-read story.)
This topic is always on the back of our mind because we get a question about it regularly. For instance, we received this one earlier today:
We’ve pointed many followers to the aforementioned website, including the anon above. Most people have replied with appreciation and gratitude, but a handful have commented that 33 tips are too many. Even though most of British English Coach’s tips are concise, we understand that trying to follow 33 tips can seem daunting. In this article, we will attempt to offer just three tips. If you adhere to them, we are confident that you will soon find yourself communicating in English with aplomb and flair.
1. Read out loud
The point of this article is to improve your speaking—not writing—skills, so it is more important that you learn how to use natural, colloquial expressions that comprise everyday conversations. Speaking of which, there is one genre that is replete with dialogue. At the risk of sounding monotonous, we recommend that you read comic books or manga. (We also recommend reading plays, but they obviously do not provide the advantage of being able to see facial expressions that depict the speaker’s tone or emotion.)
Take a look at this gem in just one digital page of a typical manga (One-Punch Man, Vol. 1, p.23):
Notice the interrobang (?!) and the emphatic “fun” in the last panel. We often speak that way when we’re skeptical of, frustrated by, or shocked by something. This translation (from the official Viz Media version) also cleverly used “insidious” correctly. Reading pages like this aloud will allow the reader to 1) get a sense of the rhythm and flow of spoken English and 2) learn how to use difficult words in the proper context.
Reading out loud is like listening to a song. Reading silently is like looking at the lyrics of a song. Which do you think is more effective?
Speaking of songs, …
2. Sing along to your faves
Henry, our proud leader, learned Korean by listening to—and singing along with—K-pop songs. Whenever he stumbled upon a difficult word, he looked it up. Whenever he came upon a slang phrase (e.g., 쩔어 [Zutter]—a word that is prominent in songs from both BIGBANG and BTS), he looked it up. The Internet makes following along to songs in a different language so easy, with translated and romanized lyrics.
We’re not sure if we’re going to get in legal trouble for suggesting this, but if you can, sing along to your favorite Taylor Swift song by looking at the lyrics. YouTube is rife with unofficial videos that have lyrics. Here’s one we found in five seconds:
As you sing along, pay close attention to the singer’s pronunciation and imitate it as best you can. Pick up on slang words and informal expressions, and if you can’t figure out what they mean, 1) look them up on Google or 2) ask us. (Option 1 will generally be much faster.)
3. Speak English all the time
Having struggled with learning Spanish and Korean, we know the temptation to stick to a language we know well. Instead of fumbling for words in an unfamiliar language, it would have been infinitely easier to revert to using English. We learned the hard way, however, that habitually doing so will eliminate all the progress we have made in learning Korean and Spanish.
Even if your speaking level in English is low, don’t worry about it: we’ve all had to start from the bottom. Heed the sage words of Jake the Dog, who offers encouragement for everyone who is trying to improve at something:
If you’re a student who doesn’t have many English-speaking friends, then join (or start) a campus club that promotes speaking in English. If your school doesn’t allow it, then talk to yourself. It might be awkward at first (or perhaps even forever), but you can make it less so by recording yourself talk and playing it back. You can then compare it to how a native speaker sounds and make necessary adjustments. Once you get better, you can even try out different accents—like this guy:
The key to getting good at anything is consistency. Following one of the three things once in a while isn’t going to make any impact. At all.
We’ll leave you with one of our favorite motivational quotes. We hope that it spurs you to stick with these tips until you achieve your goal of speaking English better.