Do you ever freeze before replying to someone because you don’t know what to say?
Or, do you avoid speaking to people, so you don’t have to use English?
I know how it feels – I was the same (in another language). But I figured out a solution.
So, if you have ever felt lost, scared or nervous about speaking English, don’t worry! By the end of this post, you’ll have a good idea of how to improve the way that you use English.
I’m going to tell you the story of how I impressed my friends by talking to myself, and how (and why!) you can do the same.
Oh, and I’ve got an awesome surprise for you at the end, too! Something that you REALLY don’t want to miss!
The story starts back when I was a first year university student. My university offered free language courses to full time students, so I decided to do something I had always wanted to do: study Japanese.
I already had some Japanese language experience, but this was my chance to take it seriously! I bought the textbooks and I was ready to work.
I did my homework and I went to class. I even did some extra grammar and writing practice outside of class. The first half a year I made some great progress.
But that’s when I started losing motivation. I was spending less time studying and more time doing other things. It wasn’t long until I started to get bored of the textbooks and the generic “look, cover, write, check, repeat” method of learning vocabulary.
So I joined the Japanese society at my university (good idea, right?), and made some Japanese friends. But there was another problem; it was just too easy to use my first language.
In fact, I was embarrassed about speaking Japanese! If you’re a member of the English For Study newsletter, you will have seen the email where I said:
Have you ever done that? Do you know what that feels like? Basically, someone talks, and you’re thinking so much about what you’re going to say, that you just say “あー そうですか”？ – “ah is that so?”
Students, that is not the way to improve your speaking ability in any language!
I decided that I wanted to have real conversations in Japanese AND enjoy them. I made a goal and a plan.
I wanted people to say to me, “Sam, your Japanese is really good!”
It took me about a year or so to get to the point where I could actually tell a joke in Japanese (unfortunately, I’ve forgotten the joke now!). I used a combination of different strategies to help me do it.
Today, you’re going to learn one of the key strategies that I used. This strategy helped me to become more comfortable with speaking, and it will help you too.
Basically, I started talking to myself aloud. That’s right – I was the weird guy who talked to himself.
This is what happened to me when I started talking to myself in Japanese AND it can happen to you in English, too. Honestly, talking to yourself is not as weird as you may think. You actually talk to yourself silently all the time.
For example, you talk to yourself when you’re deciding what to wear, or when you’re writing a shopping list… or when it’s 2AM and you’re in the middle of writing an essay which you haven’t saved for a few hours and your computer crashes…
You’d probably have a lot of things to say if that happened. (Tip: save your work often)
I started talking to myself in Japanese whenever I was doing something alone. Sometimes I planned topics to talk about, other times I just talked about what was in my mind. And I didn’t just talk about what I was doing, I also asked myself questions.
After a while, I was talking without thinking too much. I was just talking. Success!
And, yes, someone eventually told me: “Sam, your Japanese is pretty good.”
Honestly, you’ve probably tried talking to yourself before, but it didn’t really work for you. This could be due to two factors:
I can’t really help you with the first one – unless I called you every day to do it (that would be pretty expensive!), but I can help you with the second one…
Note: move on to the next step when you feel comfortable.
The worst thing you can do is *NOT* speak to yourself. Speaking to yourself has so many benefits, that when you do it correctly, it can really help you to improve your English.
This isn’t a joke.. I’m not just saying it to make you seem crazy in front of your friends and family…
But, don’t take my word for it.
Sam is the founder and creator of English For Study. He's also lecturer in EAP/Academic English. Apart from making Academic English easy, he likes learning languages, lifting weights and eating good food.