Most adult learners of foreign languages, especially learners of English in Spain and Argentina, where I´ve worked and currently work as a language trainer and coach, express their wish to improve their speaking skill above all other skills. Many need it in order to pass an exam (all certificates, from A1 to C2, have a speaking paper) and some others to be able to communicate at work or while travelling. A stunning number of students say that what doesn’t allow them to speak fluently is their lack of vocabulary and confidence.
Needless to say, suggestions regarding this topic vary mostly according to each learner, the learning stage he/she is in and the learning methodology he/she is using (self directed learning, language school, private teacher, etc.). In this article, I will offer some tips for students who are already studying a foreign language, either at a language school or by themselves.
To improve our language level in any given language skill (by skill I mean writing, reading, listening and speaking), three conditions will generally need to be met: practice, studying the language and having exposure to it.
Language study involves studying and memorizing expressions, doing gramar exercises and practising other skills as well, such as writing, which helps us, without any doubt, to experiment with the target language and reinforce our learning. At the same time, without the language exposure, without listening and reading, we cannot fix new structures. The more we encounter an expression in either written or oral texts, the better we’ll learn it. And, as I have mentioned above, practice is key. I guess you’re asking yourself how you can practise speaking outside the class. Well, fortunately, there are more and more options these days. Here are a few suggestions:
Language partner: they can be found through various websites, such as Conversation Exchange, The Mixxer, Live Mocha, etc. (see full list on this same website under language exchange category). The exchanges can be face-to-face or online. The benefits to having a language partner are several, as I will explain in a future article.
Exchange groups: In Spain, language exchange groups in bars have become extremely popular. Apart from meeting new people and making friends, you can practise and share languages.
Movie clubs: It´s another practice which, though less common than the exchange groups, it is starting to be in fashion little by little. You only need to explore the net to find some. For example, the MeetUp website in Valencia.
Book clubs: For literature lovers this seems to be a good option. Of course, depending on the club, an upper-intermediate or advanced language level will be required.