Improve your English speaking at home, without a teacher - Part 4
Practice makes perfect
This is the final part of my four-part blog post series on improving your English at home when you’re unable to take lessons with a qualified teacher or at a language school or college. We’ve already looked at recording yourself, learning vocabulary in chunks and using your listening skills to improve your speaking. In this final part of the series, we’ll be focusing on perhaps the most important thing of all – making sure you have plenty of opportunity to practise!
Find an IELTS Speaking partner
To improve your ability to answer IELTS Speaking questions, you really need as many opportunities to practise as possible. This isn’t always easy – especially if you haven’t attended an IELTS course recently or you live in a non-English speaking country.
If specific IELTS practice is what you’re looking for, there are some great online resources out there to help you find an IELTS Speaking partner, virtually.
Here are just a few:
- IELTS Buddy speaking request board – This is one of my go-to websites and I always recommend it to students. The Speaking Buddy forum allows you to connect with other people preparing for the IELTS test across the world.
- http://www.speaking24.com/ - This website may look a little bit ‘old school’ but it’s a fabulous resource to connect you with potential speaking partners. Simply complete a very simple profile about yourself and who you’re looking to chat to, and the site will bring up a list of people who are online now with their Skype ID. You can even sort by people who have the same level of English as you.
- https://ieltsspeakingpartner.com – This group has almost 30,000 members so they must be doing something right! You can join via their website or their Facebook page.
Join a conversation club
If you’re more focused on improving your general English at the moment and prefer face to face contact with people, why not try a local conversation group. It’s a great way of making new friends in your area too. Language Exchange Meet ups (https://www.meetup.com/topics/english-language/) - The Meet Up website has exploded in popularity over recent years and is a great way to join local clubs. A simple search on ‘Language Exchange’ or ‘English language’ brings up 100s of English language conversation groups in major cities all over the world.
Get a job where you have to speak English
It might not always be possible if you live in a non-English speaking country, but one of the best ways of immersing yourself in the language is to get a job where you have to speak it. It might be paid work or voluntary, where you’re giving your time for nothing.
Even if you’re a qualified doctor or solicitor in your home country, a job where you’re waiting tables or replenishing shelves in a supermarket will ensure you’re speaking English on a regular basis in the run up to taking your IELTS exam.
A little help from Google
Finally, here’s a little tip using the fabulous Google Assistant to help with your pronunciation.
For those who don’t know, Google Assistant is a piece of software that allows you to interact with your smartphone or computer by asking it questions. It’s just like typing a query into Google, but instead of using your fingers to type, you use your voice to ask the question. You can download Google Assistant as an app on your smart phone or on your laptop or PC for free.
So, essentially, open your Google Assistant app and ask it a question. It could be something serious like ‘Where can I take the IELTS exam in Milan?’ or something trivial and fun like ‘What’s Justin Bieber’s favourite colour?’
It might be that Google struggles to understand your question and runs a search on something completely different. This could indicate that your pronunciation might not be clear enough. If that happens, use a good English Learner’s dictionary such as https://dictionary.cambridge.org/ or https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/ to check the pronunciation of any tricky words (they all have a facility where you can listen to a word being said in UK or US English) and try repeating the question. Hopefully you’ll get the answer you were expecting the second time around.
Why not use this technique every time you have a burning question for Google? Not only are you practising your pronunciation, but you’re also giving yourself more opportunities to read in English which can only help!
This is the last post in our ‘How to improve your English speaking at home, without a teacher’ series. I hope it’s given you lots of ideas on how you can develop all aspects of your speaking skills without having to pay for a course.
It would be great to have your feedback on this series of posts or your suggestions on what you have done to develop your spoken English. Please use the comments field below to get in touch.
Laura Plotnek Jones is an experienced English language teacher, specialising in IELTS. She runs Home English - a private language school in Birmingham, The UK – where she helps to prepare 100s of students for the IELTS exam every year. As part of her work, she produces her own teaching materials to address her students’ areas of difficulty, particularly in writing. Laura holds the Diploma in English Language Teaching for Adults (DELTA) and is the National Coordinator for NATECLA (the National Association of Teaching English and Community Languages to Adults).
If you have any comments on or questions about this blog post, she’d love to hear from you!