If you’re like the majority of professionals who want to improve their English, your main goal is to be able to speak English confidently and communicate your ideas effectively. And of course, in order to hold a conversation with a client, supplier or international colleague, you also need to understand what they say. If not, how will you be able to reply to them?
As opposed to when you write and read emails, when you speak you have less time to think about what you want to say. When you write emails, you can think about the best way to form a sentence or transmit your message as well as the vocabulary you want to use. Furthermore, you can use a dictionary to look up any vocabulary you don’t know, which you can also do when you read an email.
It isn’t like that when you speak. That’s why the majority of people find it much harder to speak in English than to write in English.
The reason for this is that when you speak, everything happens more quickly. You have to organise and structure your thoughts more quickly, making connections in your brain at great speed to find the words you’re looking for and conjugate the verbs you want to use.
Moreover, to understand what the other person says, you need to process the information you receive instantly. You won’t manage to understand what they say to you if you try to translate from Spanish. The brain can’t process the information and convert it into Spanish quickly enough, unless the other person speaks very slowly.
Below I offer you 3 tips to help you speak and understand better in English.
1. Read in English
Read? But I want to speak and understand!
Yes, but reading is one of the most powerful activities you can do to improve your English in all areas. Reading helps you to:
- understand grammar better
- learn new vocabulary
- consolidate your knowledge of the overall structure of the language and how it works
Mastering the vocabulary you need when you speak with a client, supplier or international colleague will help you to speak more confidently and fluently, without the need to search for the word in the depths of your brain.
All this strengthens the connections related to English in your brain, allowing you to process it more quickly and more automatically. And we have seen that this is essential in order to organise your thoughts and understand what people say to you.
2. Listen, listen, listen
To improve your listening skills, you have to listen to English, and listen to it regularly and often. You need to develop these skills little by little and it’s something that requires time and dedication.
If understanding English when people speak to you is your main weakness, listening while at the same time reading what is being said is a good place to start. Audiobooks as well as videos, TED Talks or films with English subtitles are great resources which allow you to connect the sound and pronunciation with the written form.
3. Practise speaking
If you want to speak well in English, you have to speak.
Don’t wait until you find yoursef in a siutation in which you need to contribute your ideas in a meeting or participate in a conference call to start speaking English. Practise before in more relaxed situations: in classes, with a language exchange partner, or even speak with yourself so that you have the confidence necessary to express yourself in English when it really matters.
It’s better to be prepared for when you need English rather than wait until an opportunity presents itself to get started.
In my guide Los 7 Pasos para dominar el inglés I explain in much more detail how to master English and speak it more confidently, accurately and fluently. If that’s of interest to you then I invite you to take a look.