How to Learn English Speaking: Everything You Need to Know
The Secret of Learning to Speak English (The Right Way)
Here’s the secret: you must learn to speak English by doing, NOT by studying.
Examples of learning by doing (what you should do):
- Listen to English conversations.
- Talk to native speakers.
- Practice speaking English with other students.
- Imitate (copy) native speakers.
Examples of learning by studying (what you should NOT do):
- Read grammar textbooks.
- Listen to a teacher explain how the use the Past tense.
- Read an article that explains when to use “a”, “an”, and “the.”
- Watch a YouTube video that teaches the Future tense (will & going to).
Why You Should NOT Learn Spoken English by Studying
The knowledge you gain from studying English is called explicit knowledge.
To use explicit knowledge, you need to “think” about it. Which means that when you speak English, you need to think about grammar rules.
But this is impossible to do! When you’re talking to someone, you don’t have time to think about grammar.
This is why many students can’t speak English even though they have studied English for many years. Their brain is full of explicit knowledge – the kind of knowledge that’s useful when writing in English (because you have time to think), but useless when speaking English.
This is why studying is the wrong way to learn spoken English.
Why You Should Learn to Speak English by “Doing”
The knowledge you gain from learning by doing is called implicit knowledge.
To use implicit knowledge, you don’t need to “think” about it. Which means that you don’t have to think about grammar when you speak English. This is why you can speak your first language fluently without thinking about grammar; your knowledge of your first language is implicit knowledge.
When you don’t have to think about grammar, it frees up your mind so you can concentrate on expressing your thoughts and ideas.
So, how do you gain this type of knowledge?
You gain this type of knowledge by listening to English conversations and by speaking English (learning by doing).
This is the right way to learn English speaking.
Is it possible to speak proper English without studying grammar?
Yes, it’s possible. You just have to expose yourself to correct English. The easiest way to do that is to listen to a lot of English conversations (spoken by native speakers).
When you listen to native speakers, you’re learning how to speak English correctly.
For example, when you hear someone say, “He lied to me,” you’re learning (unconsciously) how to use the word “lie” correctly. If you hear native speakers use this word enough times, you’ll be able to use the word correctly yourself. (You will say, “Don’t lie to me” instead of “Don’t lie me.”)
And the best part is, you’ll be able to use do it automatically. You won’t have to think about it!
This will not happen if you learn the word by “studying.”
If you ask a native speaker to explain how to use the word “lie” to you, you may understand her explanation, but you will have to “think” about that explanation in order to use the word correctly. It will not be automatic.
This is why you must learn spoken English by doing, not by studying.
3 Correct Ways to Learn Spoken English (Alone)
If you don’t live where people speak English, don’t worry; there are 3 ways to learn spoken English by yourself, at home. I’ve used these methods myself. They’re all effective.
1) Listen to correct English as much as possible.
It’s impossible to become a good English speaker without a lot of listening.
Why is that?
To speak English well, you need to build implicit knowledge of English (as much as possible). You more implicit knowledge you have, the better.
And guess what…listening is the easiest way to develop your implicit knowledge of English.
Let’s say we take two groups of English students, and we tell the first group to study English every day, and tell the second group to listen to English every day.
After 6 months, you will find that the second group speak English much better than the first group. Why is that? The reason is that the second group has more implicit knowledge of English than the first group. More implicit knowledge means better speaking.
This is why you must listen to English regularly. If you don’t do that, the best you can accomplish is being able to speak just basic or low-intermediate English (but not advanced English).
If you want to know how to improve and practice your listening skills, read the two articles below.
- How to improve your English listening skills (step-by-step).
- 3 exercises to improve your listening comprehension.
Of course, you can’t improve your speaking just by listening to English. You have to combine listening with some sort of speaking practice. So, let talk about the next method.
2) Use English speaking lessons.
Unlike normal English lessons, English speaking lessons let you practice speaking English. When you use these lessons, you can’t just listen passively; you have to open your mouth and speak English.
I already wrote an article about these lessons. Click here if you want to know how it works.
3) Imitate (copy) native speakers.
This is the best way to learn spoken English alone.
Here are some benefits of imitating native speakers:
- It makes you sound more like native speakers.
- It improve your spoken grammar.
- It expands your “speaking” vocabulary (words you can when you speak English).
I teach how to practice this technique in my premium English speaking course. But you don’t have to purchase the course to learn how it works. I also teach this technique in this video tutorial:
Note: I made this tutorial some time ago (in 2014), so the content is a little out of date. But you can still watch it to get an idea of how the technique works.
Learning Spoken English with Others: How to Do It Right
There are several ways to learn to speak English with other people:
- Take English classes.
- Talk to native speakers online (via Skype or other chat software).
- Talk to other English students online/offline.
If won’t go into detail here because I don’t use these methods myself (because they’re inconvenient and time consuming). But if you want to use any of these methods, just remember that you must learn to speak English by doing, not studying.
Here are a few guidelines for you:
- If you want to take a class, don’t pick a class that teaches grammar. Instead, pick a class that encourages students to speak English.
- If you’re talking to another English student, focus on communicating your ideas. Don’t think about grammar.
- If you’re chatting with a native speaker on Skype, don’t ask her to explain grammar rules. Don’t ask her to explain how to use a particular word or phrase. Talk to her about something else that has nothing to do with grammar.
Remember, spoken English cannot be taught. You must learn it by listening and by speaking English.