Speaking is a weakness of analytic learners (who learn English from books and tapes). Moreover, in countries where English is not a first language, improving your speaking in English is really difficult. Therefore, I don’t have much experience in practicing speaking. Here are some tips that I got from my teachers and some suggestions that I think they might be helpful for you.
Pronunciation is the most important feature in speaking. If you speak correctly, academically and interestingly, but no one understands what you are talking about, you certainly lose your points.
One of my teachers, who is fluent in 5 languages, shares his experience that pronunciation is the key of learning a language. It might be true since native English speakers can pronounce a unfamiliar word correctly but don’t know how to spell it. Because English is a combination of many languages, there are no totally general rules for pronunciation. As a result, you must remember everything.
So how to pronounce the words correctly?
- Firstly, listen and learn what native English speaker said. As I mentioned, listening can help you in speaking. You can correct yourself in basic words if you listen a lot. Moreover, listening can also help you to learn how to stress important words, how to speak naturally and even how to organize your speech.
- Secondly, if you learn a new word, you must know how to pronounce it first. Typically, when people want to learn new words, they revise these words again and again, and write it down so many times. But now, to improve your speaking and listening, you must hear electronic dictionary pronouncing and repeat after it again and again.
- Thirdly, make sentences with new vocabulary. Everybody might know how to pronounce words correctly, but when they combine them all together, they cannot pronounce correctly anymore, or even if they do, their sentence may sound unnatural. The reason is they lack of intonation. Listening might solve this problem.
- Fourthly, practice pronunciation every week (3-4 times a week) by reading out loud a short passage. At first, you practice to pronounce all the words in that passage correctly. Then read the whole passage slowly and correctly (pay attention to ending sound).
Afterward, increase reading speed in each sentence (’read’ here means you must speak out the words, not read in your mind). If you speak quickly but start to pronounce wrongly, that means you reach your limit, don’t speak faster than that. And finally, you read the whole passage again at normal speed, or may be a bit faster than normal a little bit, but you MUST include intonation.
To find material for practicing this exercise, you can visit this website: http://www.breakingnewsenglish.com. There are hundreds of short news and audio files spoken by a native speaker. I guarantee if you practice this kind of exercise gradually, you pronunciation will improve a lot. (Note: this is the exercise of my teacher, who speaks 5 languages, as I mentioned before)
Now, to prepare for IELTS Speaking test, you should practice some more exercises:
- Pick a topic and stand in front of mirror to practice speaking test. You should go through all three parts of the real speaking test. Standing in front of mirror will help you improve your body language and also your pronunciation. You might find it strange that mirror can correct your pronunciation. In fact, there are some vowels and consonants that you can’t pronounce correctly if you don’t know how to do that (not just simply remember the pronunciation).
- Try to speak naturally. You are advised to speak fast with intonation (the previous reading exercise will certainly help you). You should learn and apply some verb phrases, idioms and slang expressions. This is not the key part of speaking test, but it is better if you know, not only for your test but also for you speaking skill. If you want to get 7.0, you must master pronunciation, accuracy and intonation.
Important tip #1
When you practice in speaking, you must pay attention to the ending sound. But when you take the real test, don’t do that, because it will affect your fluency. In the real test, it is the time you show examiner what you got, not the time you can show them how good you can correct yourself. Using experience you gained from practicing to prove your speaking skill.
Important tip #2
Another wonderful way to practice speaking is to speak English in your dream. If you never do that, you do it now. I have already spoken English in my dreams even before my teacher advice me to do so. I just watch cartoons in English, films in English and listen to songs in English. As a result, I naturally dream in English. Actually, I can control my dreams, lol, it is very interesting, try to do that. By doing that, I can think quickly in my mind, but I still have problems when speaking my ideas out. So, you must do 2 previous exercises in order to improve speaking
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