Students usually tell me they want to improve their speaking. However, ‘speaking’ is such a broad area it’s sometimes unclear exactly what they want to get better and how they intend to do it. Having taught students for ten years, I think that when they say they want to improve their speaking, they’re often talking about fluency.
What is fluency? To me, speaking fluently means producing more language, faster. To speak without hesitating. You want to express yourself as fully and quickly as possible, but the words don’t always come out as easily as you’d like.
The first thing I would recommend students who want to speak fluently is to learn as much vocabulary as possible. And don’t just learn individual words; learn phrases, collocations and expressions. I had a student who would watch shows on Netflix and write down any expressions or collocations he heard. He’d then try and apply them in his speech, which helped him speak fluently (although it took him longer to watch his favourite shows). Learning a good amount of new words every day, testing yourself on them and using them in your speech helps you speak fluently. I’ve seen this with my students.
The second thing that helps you become more fluent is repetition. Sometimes the problem with studying English is you speak about a topic in one class then forget about it. Native speakers of any language become fluent because they talk about the same things again and again. Just think about how fluently you can order a coffee, for example. So repeat words, phrases or conversations, and see how quickly you speak after some time.
The final thing to do is forget about grammar mistakes. You can’t speak fluently if you’re obsessing over which perfect tense to use. So try sometimes to have conversations in and out of class without worrying about making errors. Of course grammar is important, but it’s not the only thing to practise.
So hopefully if you do some of those things, you’ll start expressing yourself without hesitating so much. It takes time and motivation to speak fluently, but I’ve seen my students really improve their speaking skills during their time in London. Push yourself and don’t be afraid of mistakes.