|Multicultural members of the a dragon boat team|
The only way to improve English listening, speaking or pronunciation skills is: practice, practice, practice. If you live in an English-speaking country, you must actually speak to English-speaking people.
If you live in China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Vietnam etc., join English conversation clubs, watch/listen to movies, YouTube videos, podcasts, and talk to tourists, Internet speaking partners, etc.
English is NOT just a school subject.
I frequently tell my students that life is NOT a multiple choice test.When you need to talk to friends, customers, co-workers, bosses, clerks or anyone else, you will never have the opportunity to choose one out of four answers and answer a, b or c.
When you must listen to and understand an English-speaking friend, customer, boss, etc. you will never be able to respond a,b, or c . You will have to produce meaningful words and sentences.
This means you'll need to learn how to speak comfortably without struggling. It also means your words and sentences must be clear enough for someone else to understand what you are saying. Finally, it means that you must prove that you understand what someone has said by responding appropriately.
So......if you really want to increase your English fluency and be understood by others, you have to go out and actually live your life in English.
This means finding ways to use it as many ways as you can every day, even at home with members of your family.
"But I don't have the chance to practice out of class"
One of my students' biggest excuses to explain the lack of improvement in their English listening and speaking skills is that they don't have the opportunity to practice outside of class.
"It's not my fault that my English speaking is so weak," they often say. "My family doesn't speak English and I don't have any English-speaking friends."
I realize that in cities such as Vancouver, Toronto, San Francisco, London, Sidney etc.
there are very large Asian communities. Immigrants or international students can avoid speaking real English to real English speakers for years, even for their entire life.
This is because they can shop for food, clothing, household items, rent or buy apartments or houses, or even cars in their own language. They can go to the doctor, have their car fixed, see an accountant, go to the bank, get a prescription, take their driver's test, or eat in a restaurant without speaking a word of English.
If you are one of these people, even after five, ten, 15 years in Canada, your spoken English may still sound as if you just arrived last week. Your understanding of the culture you live in will be limited and you'll have the same misconceptions about native born Canadians, Americans, Australians, New Zealanders and Britons.
I personally know a number of people, including my next door neighbours, who fall into this category. Although they've lived here for more than 20 years, they only use about 500 English words with great difficulty.
Their children, who were born in Canada, speak perfect English and often have to translate for their parents. I've often heard their18 year old daughter fighting with her mom in English, shouting that it's frustrating to have a mother who speaks so little English and how she can't bring her English-speaking friends home.
Make the Choice to Practice and Use English
To improve your English speaking and listening skills you must make an active, conscious choice. This involves stepping outside your own safe community, and participating in the English community. Remember, Canada, USA, Britain, Australia and New Zealand are mainly English-speaking countries.
Step Outside your Comfort Zone - you'll be glad you did!
I've even had students who have left good jobs for lower paying ones where they have to speak a lot of English. They did this specifically to improve their English fluency.
These students have no intention of spending their lives in low-paying or boring jobs. They are making a choice to work where they must speak English because although their previous job paid a higher wage, they were only using their own language.
The students who try and make small talk with English speakers or set up English practice time with their children have dramatically increased their English fluency, often faster than they ever expected.
Yes, they still have an accent, but they can be understood, and that's all that matters. Yes, they still make grammar mistakes, but they're working to improve their oral grammar.
There is no question that sometimes native speakers will be rude to you because you don't speak English well. Learn how to ignore them and focus on those who are not only polite, but willing to engage in real conversation, simply because you started talking to them in English.
Many native English speakers are angry at people who don't even want to try speaking English to them. They feel that those people choose to ignore the language of their new country. When native speakers find themselves surrounded by people who only speak Chinese, Korean, Japanese etc., they feel very defensive and offended.
Develop a Plan and a Schedule
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