Improving Your Spoken English

Improving Your Spoken EnglishOne of the basic everyday things that humankind cannot do without is communication. Language is the tool we use to express our needs, thoughts, and emotions. It is essential that communication is very clear for effective transaction of anything. Thanks to ever-increasing globalization, most businesses worldwide use English as the primary language of communication. Effective communication in English plays a crucial role in education, professional growth, and personal life as well.

Importance of Spoken English

Language communication involves integrated skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing; they all go hand in hand. An effective speaker steals the show, charms the audience and proves to be a winner; the situation may be formal/informal, personal/public, or social/professional. Capacity for good Spoken English boosts up your confidence immensely to face any challenge and attempt solutions; the setting may be local, national or global. You are welcome wherever you go!

Sub-skills of Spoken English

Effective listening precedes effective speaking. A good speaker is a good listener, and a good listener often becomes a good speaker. This is because adequate practice is required first in the recognition and production of the sounds of English (vowels and consonants), and the patterns of stress, rhythm and intonation in English.

The following are the skills specifically needed for effective speaking.

  • Perception and production of correct English vowel and consonant sounds, and sound contrasts  (including the problematic ones, for e.g. the first sounds in the words pin and bin, or van and fan)
  • Knowledge and effective use of the weak/reduced forms of words and phrases of spoken English (e.g. I've, I'm, he'll, she'd, you'd rather, etc.)
  • Perception and production of correct stress and tone patterns of English
  • Ability to perceive and produce variations in speed to match different situations and purposes
  • Use of appropriate cohesive devices such as pronouns, articles, tenses, and conjunctions, and other linking words and phrases
  • Use of an adequate stock of words that are needed in everyday speech
  • Mastery of the basic grammar of spoken English
  • A good use of body language and other nonverbal signals (e.g. facial expressions, gestures, etc) to support effective communication
  • Use of appropriate varieties of English to match different situations (e.g. formal/informal, professional/social)
  • Ability to use other suitable ways to express meaning when words by themselves fail to convey full meaning
  • Ability to present the same meanings through different grammatical forms   

Stages of a training course in Spoken English

There can be three stages of a training course in spoken English: controlled practice, partially controlled practice and fully free interaction.

Controlled practice

Language drills can initiate the first stage viz., controlled practice. The drills should be short, with the focus on a single language point at a time [e.g. a sound contrast, a consonant cluster (= two or more consonants appearing side by side), a weak form etc.]. They should have a clear purpose, serve communicative goals (e.g. request, invitation, offer etc.), and should never be overdone. Other wise the drills become mechanical, killing the element of interest.

'Fluency' and 'accuracy' are, like the two sides of a coin, two important aspects of effective speaking. Fluency is the free flow of natural speech without interruptions and undue periods of silence. Accuracy is the correctness of following all the rules of the language. It is necessary to develop both these important aspects of speech.

Partially controlled practice

During this stage, repetitive drills and grammar-based exercises are gradually withdrawn; simple tasks demanding spontaneous real-life speech and genuine interaction are gradually introduced.

Pair work and group work would be of great help during this stage. Questions and answers should be related to real-life functions like introducing, offering and accepting invitations, requesting and thanking for help, etc.

Fully free interaction

The aim of this final stage of practice is training for facing true-to-life situations. The activities during this stage progress from relatively easy tasks to ones that are more difficult.

Learning how to speak naturally, spontaneously and fluently (without sacrificing accuracy) is a long and challenging process. It cannot be achieved in a day. It requires hours of conscious and meticulous practice. You may do well enrolling yourself for an online spoken English training program and acquire the necessary skills right from the comfort of your home/office.

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