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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Speak English for "Just A Minute"

Are you trying to improve your spoken English or get a better mark on an important speaking test such as the IELTS?

Are you interested in improving one specific aspect of your speaking?     

Watch the following video for some instructions on a speaking game called Just a Minute. This is a game that help you improve your speaking skills while you have  fun at the same time.

In the game, you can focus on all aspects of spoken English, OR simply one aspect at a time, for example, grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation OR fluency.  In order to play. you need at least one partner, but playing with three people and even four people also works well.

This is a useful game to play in an English classroom. but the great thing about it is that you don't have to play it in class. You can play it with your friends anywhere you want - at home, on the bus or subway, at the beach or at the park. All you need is a series of topics and the instructions on how to pay the game. 

Watch and listen to the instructions:   

Watch two native speakers playing Just a Minute 

Here are a few more suggestions:

Watch or listen to yourselves

Try video-taping or audio taping yourself. For example, you could use a regular  video camera, or simply the video function of your smart phone. After playing several rounds of Just A Minute, stop, watch yourself and be prepared to discuss things you did right as well as areas where you need improvement.  Remember, many athletes do this all the time in order to improve their performance. Make sure you find both the good and the bad. No one does everything wrong, so you need to acknowledge the positive aspects of your performance. 

Focus on specific problems:

Focus on improving on specific areas you have problems with in grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, fluency. For example, if you have trouble consistently using the past tense(s) when you speak, choose topics that force you to use the past tense. Here are a few to get you started: your first day in school, first time away from home. first kiss, first date, first cigarette, first punishment, first teacher.

If you have problems with constantly saying uh...uh...uh..., focus on trying not to hesitate.  Change the rules so that instead of taking your place the first time you say ah, your partner simply counts the number of times you do it. Keep a record, and focus on reducing the number of times you stop and hesitate with ah..ah... In the Toastmasters organization, this person is called an ah counter. 

Practice New Vocabulary  

If you are trying to practice using new vocabulary, make it a rule that specific words MUST be built into your one minute speech. Even if you speak perfectly for one minute, you lose a point if you don't use ALL of the words.  These could be any kind of words: words about the environment, parenting, psychology, crime, descriptive adjectives, power verbs , etc.

Don't Get too Anxious  
As the speaker in the first video said, no one is perfect. Native speakers can have problems with this game, especially when it comes to repeating words, so don't expect too much of yourselves. Make sure you are serious about practicing, but make sure you have fun at the same time. Try to make some of the content entertaining and funny. Laugh at yourself and your mistakes.

Choose Appropriate topics

Choose topics are small and narrow enough for you to be able to come up with something without having to think too hard.  For example, the topics of  sausages, bottled water, showers, shoes, lip piercing are all topics that you can probably start talking about immediately. Controversial topics such as capital punishment and  euthanasia, however, are better topics for prepared speeches in which you can do some research.

Develop Some Strategies

There are a number of strategies you can use to help yourself improve speaking about anything spontaneously. One of them, is to keep up with things that are going on around you - not just  news, but interesting developments in the areas of psychology, science, technology, child care .....  The more you know,  the more you can say.

I will discuss other strategies you can use in another post, but in the meantime, go to the SPEAKING PAGE  for more information on preparing for important advanced level speaking tests,  making presentations or simply holding a conversation.

One Minute topics

I have several lists of potential ONE MINUTE TOPICS topics that I am currently revising. I will post them within the next day or two. 


  1. Good article. I pay my attention a lot on this "Don't Get too Anxious". I have been teaching English, though my English is not perfect. Many students too worry they can succeed learning English. I have ever had a students from other island. It was so far. He came to the village where I was teaching English "Kampung Inggris/English Village". When he saw other students spoke English with me, he came to me and ask me to back home, "I don't think I can speak English like the others." Most students said, I have been learning English for so long, but my English is still bad.

    They need to be motivated and need example that learning is easy and just need patient to follow the process.

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