One simple way to improve your confidence in English is to have real conversations and express how you feel. But some learners miss out on having real interaction by worrying about grammar and vocabulary and making ‘mistakes’. Is this you?
Confidence. How can you improve your spoken English if you just stick to ‘studying’ the grammar and vocabulary and not express how you feel?
Sometimes during my time in Prague I’ve ask students about an issue in the media but they reply “I don’t know” or “I’m not interested in this topic” or (my personal favourite) “I don’t like politics.” I understand to some extent that this is cultural – in this country at least it was only 20 or so years ago when there was a communist government and people were afraid to give their opinions.
But imagine you go on a date with someone. Perhaps you met online or at a party. What kind of conversation will you have if you’re afraid to give your opinion? Or what kind of conversation will you have if your potential boy or girlfriend says “I don’t know” the whole evening?
You’ll be bored out of your mind!
Communicating with more confidence involves sharing ideas, thoughts, asking your friend what they think and responding to how they reply.
You can only achieve this by doing it.
So I really encourage you to think more about how you develop your conversations and less about those ‘mistakes’ you’re afraid of making.
Interactive communication in Cambridge Exams
One thing I find helpful in encouraging learners to say more about how they feel about a particular topic is to mention that this is tested in the main English exams, which quite often they are preparing for.
For example, in the Cambridge FCE exam, you are expected to give your opinion on a variety of familiar topics, such as travel, sport, family, the environment, and so on.
The higher the level, the more you are expected to justify your opinions, give reasons for your opinions, and respond to what others say. As well, the higher the level, the more you’re expected to speak about unfamiliar or abstract topics.
Read the newspaper!
Why not check out your favourite news site, preferably in English, and ask yourself:
- What are the top 3 news stories of today or this week?
- How do I feel about these stories?
- Would I be able to summarise a story that interests me and give my opinion on it within 1-2 minutes?
I say this because reading the newspaper helps with understanding what the main issues of the day are, and gives you a richer bank of knowledge to draw upon when you speak with others. Just like with reading literature and documentaries.
Broaden your mind
If you only worry about the grammar and vocabulary, you’ll miss out on the chance to develop as a person. Giving your opinion and exchanging your thoughts and ideas helps build confidence. It also helps build healthy relationships.
So next time your English teacher asks you about today’s news or about something that’s happening in your city or country, express how you feel. If you don’t have an opinion, ask others for more information about it and then say what you think.
You can even make up your opinion in an English lesson!
Beyond this, what’s the point of learning all these cool phrases for giving your opinion (eg in my opinion; as far as I’m concerned) if you can’t complete the sentence with your own thoughts?