“How can I improve my spoken English?”
He was disappointed, frustrated, and angry.
And rightly so.
He cleared two rounds of a job interview with a reputed company but failed the last one (because of poor English speaking skills): the group discussion.
“Sir, will I be able to improve my spoken English, ever? Is there any hope for me?
(He was one of my ex-students from Subharti University, Meerut.)
Getting rejected in a job interview because of poor spoken English?
I mean, what could be more frustrating for a deserving candidate?
But, yeah. Shit happens!
And he’s not the first to get rejected in a job interview ONLY because of his spoken English. Many bright students fail to grab their dream jobs because of poor English.
So, like it or not, improving your spoken English is a necessary evil.
In this article, I will share 7 simple tips you can start using today to improve your spoken English.
Are you ready?
Let’s do this.
1. Take Improving Your English Speaking Skills As an Opportunity
Do you see English as a problem?
Nah! You shouldn’t do that.
You see, how you approach your English learning makes all the difference. Why not take it as an opportunity? Learning English is similar to how you master your college subjects.
Let me clarify:
You had only a vague idea about your subjects before you enrolled yourself in college, right?
And then, you familiarized yourself with the details, and today you understand your subjects reasonably well. You can do the same exact thing with spoken English.
Basically, take improving your English speaking skills not as an obstacle but as an opportunity.
Remember: a positive mental attitude always helps.
2. Embrace Your Local Dialect
Here’s the thing:
No matter how famous, successful, or wealthy you become (for instance, you might make a career in modelling)—you shall always remain who you are at the core. And if you are ashamed of your mother tongue, then learning somebody else’s language (English) is no use.
Your mother tongue is the basis of your communication skills.
You spoke your first words in your mother tongue and not in English. So, be proud of your local dialect, and from there, start building English fluency.
Don’t join a Spoken English Institute. Not Yet.
Since you’re at the primary learning stage, it’s no use joining an institute right now.
At the moment, the right choice for you would be private English tuition and self-study. I’ll tell you why.
The fact is that right now, you need more attention and support than students in an institute.
And there’s a hell of a difference between learning in a class of 35 and learning one-on-one—with you as the only student. So, here’s my advice for you:
Find a good teacher and get some individual classes to familiarize yourself with the language.
And when you get comfortable, join an institute.
3. Enrol in a Decent Spoken English Institute
Now, here’s the thing:
When it comes to building confidence, nothing beats an institute.
When you speak even two lines in English in front of 20-30 people, you feel good about yourself, which eventually gives you the confidence to speak more and more in English.
And by the way, what if I told you that you already know how to speak English?
Let me explain.
You see, you do understand English (at least a bit), and all you need is a little help—a little support to overcome the hesitation—that lump in your throat, those drops of sweat on your forehead, and that dry mouth. And that’s why you must join an institute if you’re serious about improving your spoken English.
My recommendation (if you’re in Delhi):
New Delhi YMCA offers an English-speaking course titled “General and Professional English.” (The YMCA building is behind Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, Near Patel Chowk Metro Station).
This English course is one of the best out there. I know because I also did that.
But remember: an institute can help you only if you help yourself—if you take an active part in the classroom.
Can Joining a Spoken English Institute Help You?
It was 1996.
I was pursuing a three-year computer programming course from NIIT, and as part of the curriculum, the students were supposed to deliver a presentation.
It was a question of scoring better marks, and I couldn’t afford to be shy, so I joined the YMCA.
Now, picture a jam-packed classroom (57 students, to be specific).
The teacher asked us to speak: a trip to a weekly market, an exciting incident, or a movie—anything. The catch? We were allowed to speak English only. I was astonished to see all the boys and girls silent as if somebody had cut off their tongues.
I wanted to speak but had no clue how. Still, I stood up. My palms were sweaty, my heart was pounding, and my mouth was dry like anything, but I managed to speak 4-5 lines.
And that’s exactly what you must do—speak.
Because the more you do, the better you shall get.
4. Activate Your “Vishudda Chakra”
We have 7 of them.
Basically, Chakras are the contact points between your physical body and you, and each Chakra governs a particular area of your body.
The Charka that governs your throat is called Vishuddha. This energy point is responsible for your speaking skills. And so, it’s a no-brainer that you should activate it to enhance your communication skills.
Here’s a how:
Sit in a quiet place.
Close your eyes, take three deep breaths, and relax.
Now, visualize a soft sky-blue-colored ball in your throat (if visualizing doesn’t feel natural to you, then thinking about it will also work). And now, imagine that ball moving and massaging your throat.
Do this for about five minutes twice daily—before going to bed and in the morning. And within days, you shall notice an improvement in your ability to express yourself.
5. Don’t Translate English into Your Mother Tongue
Most of the students (especially those from rural backgrounds) fail to improve their speaking of English fluently.
They try to translate English into their mother tongues, and they fail miserably because every language is different—the way English works is not how Hindi or any other Indian language works.
Let me ask you this:
How did you learn Hindi? When somebody said “Kutta,” did you try to understand its meaning in some other language?
And so, now, when someone refers to a Kutta, you know that a Kutta is a Kutta. Likewise, when someone talks about a dog, he means a dog, and you must not translate the dog to “Kutta.” Don’t say dog means Kutta.
A dog is a dog.
Of course, it’s only natural to translate English words into your mother tongue because that feels easier. But, try this: think, speak, and understand English words as they are. Avoid translating them into your mother tongue. And remember, whenever you get stuck, go back to the basics.
I have devised a term to help you remember them: L S R W.
Since we’re learning how to improve our spoken English, here we’ll cover L and S only.
How did you learn to speak your mother tongue?
You listened to your parents, family members, and other people speak, and you imitated them, right?
Essentially, listening is the first step to learning any language, and English is no exception.
But there’s a challenge: Since no one around you speaks English, how can you possibly get familiar with it? Well, how about watching English movies?
I know what you’re thinking:
“I don’t understand English that well, and you’re asking me to watch English movies?”
Well, let me remind you:
You could not understand many words in your mother tongue when you were little, but over time, your understanding improved, right?
So, why not learn English like a child trying to learn a new language?
The point is:
Understanding the dialogue in a movie is not that important. Just watch them (even if nothing makes sense to you). And please don’t enable subtitles because you’d be reading the dialogues instead of listening to them if you did.
Why Listening is Important to Master English
I had been watching a YouTube channel.
The channel belongs to a Haryanvi guy who makes funny videos. And I noticed, within days, that I started speaking just like that guy—the choice of words, the tone, the expressions, almost everything!
But why am I not surprised?
Because I know this is how the human brain works—it loves imitation.
Have you noticed how you start copying your peers, friends, or family members’ speaking styles without even realizing it?
The more you listen to a particular language or style of speaking, the faster you start imitating it.
You can take full advantage of your mind’s tendency to imitate. Start listening to as much English as you can.
6. Don’t Read English Newspapers Hoping to Improve Your Spoken English
Reading newspapers to improve speaking English is a silly idea.
And yet, the first piece of advice you get is:
“Oh! Do you want to improve your English speaking skills? How about reading English newspapers?”
Have you noticed how even an illiterate person speaks well enough Hindi? Do you know why? Because while growing up, he listened to other people speaking Hindi. By the way, he didn’t read Hindi newspapers (an illiterate person cannot read, remember?)
So, am I saying you shouldn’t read English newspapers?
No, that’s not what I am saying. My point is…
Newspapers Use Written English Style, Not the Spoken One
And we don’t speak the way we write, do we?
Do you talk to your friends like this:
“Good morning, my dear friend. It gives me immense pleasure to invite you to dinner?”
Or do you speak like this:
“Hey, how are you? Why don’t you come over to my place tonight? Let’s eat together.”
Notice the difference?
That’s the difference between spoken English and written English.
But, I know many students read English newspapers, hoping it’ll improve their English, particularly vocabulary. Heck, they even mark new words and look up their meanings in dictionaries.
The bad news?
Their spoken English will never improve because they are trying to develop speaking skills by reading, which cannot happen.
Remember a simple rule:
If you want to improve your written English, read.
And if you want to improve your spoken English, listen.
Now, it’s time for you to speak.
“But I don’t know how to speak English,” You say.
All you have to do is find a partner. And when you do, start talking with him in English. In the beginning, don’t fear speaking wrong or broken English.
Right or wrong. Broken or Unbroken. Speak as much as you can. The idea is to make your tongue, mouth, and vocal cords familiar with English.
Oh! Yes, one more thing:
Most of us feel uncomfortable listening to our own voices. Perhaps that’s the reason you feel awkward when you speak English. And since nobody likes being uncomfortable, you talk in English for a while and fall back to your mother tongue.
I know it’s challenging. But you can overcome it. Here’s how:
Record 2-3 small paragraphs from a book or newspaper on your mobile phone, and then listen to the audio at least thrice.
Repeat the process until you get comfortable with the sound of your own voice.
7. Decide If You Really Want to Improve Your English Speaking Skills
I know many students who pretend to improve their English.
They work hard consciously but sabotage their efforts (unconsciously) by being lazy.
In other words, they fool themselves. They know that reasonably good English skills are a must to succeed in today’s competitive world. But it demands them to work their asses off, which they don’t want to do.
So, if you’re going to improve your spoken English, be clear about that.
And if you don’t want to, be clear about that too.
Don’t Blame Luck, God, or Your Neighbor.
“No power in the world can stop me from improving my spoken English.” I’ve heard many people say this.
And to be honest, I hate it.
I mean, why would anybody be interested in stopping you?
Who do you think you are—a superhero, trying to defy gravity to flaunt the flag—bearing your name in golden ink—on some faraway planet called ‘Englishopiateredia’—and the people on earth trying to pull you back?
Remember that only you are responsible for where you are at the moment and where you will (or will not be) in the future. No ‘powers’ are trying to stop you.
So, stop using fancy words such as bad luck, unfavorable circumstances, or evil people.
No, sir, we’re not interested in stopping you. In fact, we’re way too busy watching our own goddamn asses.
But Nobody Speaks English In My Family, Not Even My Dog
My younger brother had a friend who could speak anything but English. I met the guy a couple of times, and he appeared an average guy. Nothing outstanding or extraordinary.
Then one day, my brother revealed that that guy was serving in the British army.
A boy who couldn’t utter a word in English now serves in the British army?
How did he do that?
So, don’t beat yourself down if nobody speaks English in your family. You can be the first.
Practice. A lot.
You Can Improve Your Spoken English, And Remember: Life Doesn’t End At a Language
One of my friends runs an institute in rural Delhi.
There I met a girl desperate to improve her spoken English as if her life depended on it. She was very low on confidence, so much so that her voice was trembling.
She described how, despite her best efforts, she wasn’t able to improve her speaking of English fluently.
I listened to her. And then, did something radical: I told her to remember a Sutra: To hell with English!
If you aren’t getting the knack for it, then screw it. I mean, why should you lose sleep over a language that’s not even yours?
Remember: feeling good in your skin is way more important than improving your English.
Even if you can not speak English, you’ll live—millions do!