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!
Let’s get started
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.
I needed something more enjoyable. I needed to use the Japanese that I was learning.
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:
“I spent more time thinking about what I was going to say rather than listening to the people I was talking to.”
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.
What did I do?
Basically, I started talking to myself aloud. That’s right – I was the weird guy who talked to himself.
Before you start judging me, imagine:
- Feeling more confident when speaking
- Using words that you know without thinking
- Responding to questions quickly
- Speaking more fluently
- Not translating in your head as much
- Understanding how conversations in English work
- Having your own voice
- Always having something to say
- Knowing the gaps in your language
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.”
How to Start Talking
Honestly, you’ve probably tried talking to yourself before, but it didn’t really work for you. This could be due to two factors:
- You didn’t practice enough – the saying is: consistency is key.
- You didn’t have a plan of action.
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…
Follow this plan of action:
Note: move on to the next step when you feel comfortable.
- Start small and talk about things that you see in front of you
- Talk about what you’re doing
- Then, you can start talking about what you’re going to do or want to do
- Talk about abstract or complex topics
- Ask yourself questions & give your opinions (WARNING: only do this when you’re alone!
This was just an example plan. There are many others you could try.
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.
I challenge you to try it for a week or a month, and then report back to me and tell me if it helped.