Let's face it - in a country like India, your ability to communicate in English is crucial to your professional success. While the use of Hindi and state languages are mandatory in the public sector, in the private sector it is the English language that rules the roost. Your English speaking skills will be called upon even more if you work in the BPO (business process outsourcing) software consultancy or hospitality industry. English speaking skills also come in handy when giving English fluency exams such as TOEFL.
What can you do to improve your English speaking skills?
As with any self-improvement initiative, it is important that you have a plan in place. List down all the steps you want to take to improve your English speaking skills. Here are eight suggestions on how you can get started.
1. Subscribe to English Newspapers
Indian English newspapers still have a standard of English language that is superior to the English written on most popular websites. Subscribe to at least one English newspaper. Read the news content aloud to improve your English speaking skills.
2. Watch English TV serials and new channels
Cable TV has made it so much easier to access quality English programming. View programs on English entertainment channels such as Colors Infinity, Star World, Zee Cafe, and Comedy Central, and movies on HBO, Sony Pix, etc. Watch programs of different genres, for instance, live comedy acts, dramas, and documentaries. Hear news channels like BBC and CNN, will help you understand the differences in British and American English. The more English programming you hear, the better your spoken English will become.
3. Make a new word/ phrases list
As you read English newspapers and hear English channels, jot down new words and phrases. Look up the meaning in the dictionary and save the new words in your 'word list'. You can make the word list on your smartphone using an online dictionary such as Dictionay.com, or use the old method of pen and paper. Learn at least two new words a day. Also, learn the use of common English phrases; some examples are 'Green with envy', ' Apple of my eye' and ' My Achilles heel'.
4. Communicate as much as possible in English
Let English become your preferred language for communication, whether it’s sending a text message, or speaking to your family. Articulate your thought in English, and if you find yourself fumbling for words, look up a reverse English dictionary.
5.Participate in English events at school and within your social set-up
Participate in events at school that require you to speak in English, such as English debates, poetry contests, plays for the school annual day. If someone in your family is getting married or has a birthday, memorise an English poem for the occasion and recite to the audience at the celebratory event. Speaking in English at these events will not only improve your English speaking skills, but it will also boost your confidence in public speaking.
6. Speak deliberately and be a better listener
Speak slowly and deliberately when speaking in English. Hear the words that are coming out of your mouth. Recall the new words you have learnt and try to incorporate them as you speak. Listen carefully when others around you are speaking in English; you may learn a new word, or expression, or be reminded of an existing word in your vocabulary.
7. Share your goal with people around you
Achieving a goal is so much easier when you have people around you to support the cause. Don't feel diffident about wanting to improve your English speaking skills. Let friends and family know that you are making a conscious effort to improve your ability to speak English and that they could help by talking to you in English. You may find that an aunt or cousin also wants to improve their English speaking skills, and you can work together towards a common goal.
8. Take professional help
Speak to your English language teacher about your goal to improve your English speaking skill. They may help you by giving English speaking tips, or directing you to valuable English learning resources that have helped other students. If you don't have too much spare time, hire an online tutor to get help from the comfort of your home at a time convenient to you.
Don't be afraid to make mistakes while speaking English, but you must learn from them. As they say, "Laugh at me once, shame on you; laugh at me twice, shame on me". If people fault you for making a mistake once, that's their folly, but if you make the same mistake twice, then you are to blame.
It may not be possible to do all these things at the same time. A staggered approach will work just fine, so put a time-frame around what you want to do. Focus on the first four improvement points for the first month, and on the next four points in the following month.