Michelle's independent resources for ESL Students at Vancouver Community College

This is a Canadian ESL blog for Intermediate and Advanced Students who want to learn and improve their English. Each PAGE above contains thousands of free English lessons, tutorials and practice exercises to help you learn and improve your English grammar, reading, listening, pronunciation, speaking, writing and editing. Some of the resources are Canadian. Others are from around the world.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Go out and Practice Speaking English

I've been thinking of all of you who are discouraged because learning  English is harder than you thought it would be.  You never seem to be able to write or speak without making mistakes. You rarely,  if ever,  try to speak English to real English speakers because you are afraid of making mistakes, so of course, you never improve. 

Many of you are ready to give up. DON'T!  You CAN do it. Remember, even the "greats" had to fail and pick themselves up again. Just take it one step at a time.  

Remember that LIFE IS RISK. If you don't try, you can't possibly succeed. If you don't jump into the water, you will never  learn how to swim. Of course you will make mistakes. Accept this and get over it. 

If you live in a city like Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, New York, San Fransisco, Chicago,  Los Angeles, London, Sidney and many others half the people you speak to will have an accent. They will probably be making mistakes with their English too. That is the kind of world we live in now. Cities are fmulticultural. They're full of people from somewhere else. We all have to learn how to get along with one another whether or not we have an accent, or make grammar mistakes.   

Talk to yourself in the mirror 
So, talk to yourself in the mirror. Conduct entire conversations with yourself. You won't find a better listener! You can even play both parts and practice new vocabulary and pronunciation at the same time. 

Believe me, it works. That's exactly what I did when I was learning how to speak English. I started improving right away.  I gained a lot of confidence, which started the ball rolling in the right direction. I started speaking more and better English. My vocabulary improved and I began to be able to express my ideas much more fluently and naturally.

Take a risk. Dive into that pool. 
Go out there and  practice! practice! practice!
  • Talk to strangers at bus stops, in elevators, in the cafeteria, in stores, in the doctor or dentist's office, outside of class.
  • Talk to people in every line up you find yourself standing in in - at the supermarket, the bank, the post office, or the pharmacy.  
  • Join a meetup group in your city., or join a conversation club.  
  • Start attending a church where you can meet English speakers who will be friendly.  You don't have to be religious, or join that religion. Small churches are great because they usually have social activities, both after church and at other times. People there are very welcoming to newcomers, and nobody will force religion on you.    
  •  Volunteer. Find your local volunteer centre and find a volunteer position that you are genuinely interested in. There are literally thousands of volunteer jobs just waiting for you. Stay with it. You will speak English, gain skills and make new friends.
  • Go to dog parks and make small talk with dog owners. They absolutely love talking about their pets.  
  •  Take a fun class like woodworking, flower arranging, or dance, or get involved in a sport. Most community centres have drop in sports leagues, or even regular leagues. You can also learn a new sport. 
  • A number of my homestay students from Japan and China have done just that and their English improved beyond their wildest dreams. Kaori, one young woman from Japan took skating lessons. Then she took up "power skating", and finally joined a mixed (men and women's hockey team where she met a ton of English speaking friends. They are still friends today even though she is back in Japan teaching English. Akiyo, another Japanese student enrolled in a scuba diving class where she actually met her Canadian husband. Still another, Junko, enrolled in a sign language course at night school. She also spoke a lot of English and made new friends. 
  •  If you have young children, join a mother and children group ( they're often called mum and tot groups). You'll meet a lot of other young mothers who have a lot in common with you.  
  • Go to community centres, and playgrounds  where you can talk to other mothers.
  • If your child is enrolled in a swimming , ballet, gymnastics or any other class , talk to other parents while you are waiting for your children. 
  • If your child plays hockey, soccer, baseball, volleyball, or any other sport, talk to the other parents who will also be cheering their children on. They WILL talk back. 
  • If your child is in school, join the parent association. Parents in these associations are only too happy to talk to other interested parents. Believe me, they WILL be much more patient and understanding than you think.    

Whatever you do, be willing to feel uncomfortable for a while. You can't take risks and be compltely comfortable at the same time. Learn ing how to do anything involves feeling  uncomfortable at first. Remember when you learned how to ride a bicycle. Where you at ease at the beginning? How about when you learned to drive? Were you comfortable? How do you feel now?  
Just try. You will eventually thank yourself if you keep it up. You will also improve a lot!   Take it from me. I speak English like a native speaker. No one who meets me even realizes that French was my first language. 

Do you have any other suggestions to offer? How do you feel about this? Let me know how it goes. I love getting your comments.


  1. Great Suggestions. I have tried some of them yet. But I felt I still stay in my level because we all talk about the same small things like introducing yourself, your family and your country, your city. I always only can speak out what I have known or what I feel confident to say. If I am not able to express what I want to say, nobody can help me as my listener was lost while I was trying hard to find the appropriate words from my limited vocabulary. I want to try another ways to find more English speakers to practice.

  2. i definitely agree with you,there is nothing impossible in this world!!. though,i wish i could spend some time with English speakers,they are helpful...as you said" STEP OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE"!!


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  4. Sally, At least you are making an effort. The more you try, the more comfortable you will become. Read as much as you can. Keep up with the news, celebrity gossip, even sports. Learn some of the vocabulary you need for topics you would like to talk about and practice by having conversations with yourself. It really helped me a lot because I developed some confidence with the actual vocabulary and topics themselves. Keep working at it and you will begin to find the words.
    Suad, you are completely right. Unless you step out of your comfort zone, you will remain "stuck." Go out and find those English speakers. They are there. You will be very happy you did after a while.

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