Updated: Feb 18
I get asked the question "How do I form better sentences?" often and it's a common problem that English learners struggle with, even if they've spent years learning English. There is no secret formula to this method, other than PRACTICE! In saying this, here are 5 proven ways you can practice your speaking!
Make sure to actually do these by allocating a specific time in your day to this activity. One thing I like to do is add it to my calendar as a reminder or link it to another activity e.g. when having my morning coffee
1. Keep it short and simple
A lot of people struggle with forming cohesive sentences in English and this is where they start to lose confidence in speaking. You don't have to form complex and long sentences to sound fluent in English. In fact, if you form short sentences that use simple vocabulary and grammar structures, you are are less likely to make mistakes and more likely to sound fluent and get your message across. Additionally, if you keep things simple you don't have to think as much, which allows you to be more at ease and therefore you will appear more confident.
2. Watch and speech shadow
A great way to improve your speaking is through imitation, also known as speech shadowing. Yep that's right! You can watch interviews of people, podcasts or even vlogs and pay attention to how they speak. What phrases or fillers they use when they don't know what to say or when their stuck for words. The expressions they use, sentence structure and natural way an interaction occurs. Focus on their intonation. Observing how other people communicate is a great way to extend your own “library” of useful phrases for different situations.
Take it a step further and speech shadow by listening to the speaker, reading the subtitle and then imitating the flow and sentence structure.
*If you really want to take it a step further, record yourself and compare it to the original audio.
3. Practice speaking by yourself
Another great technique is to listen or read about a topic you are interested in and practice speaking to yourself about the topic. Imagine you are debating or conversing with others about this topic and share your opinion and thoughts on the topic. If this is a little weird for you, you can start off by reading information on this topic out loud (I guess this is a bit less weird hehe).
4. Remember that communication is more important than grammar
Don't get too fixated on using the correct tense if you're in doubt and don't let other grammar rules hold you back from speaking. Remember that people will help you when you need it and most of the time they will understand your point. You can always come back to the phrase at a later time and check to see if you said it correctly or not. Once you make your own self corrections, it's easier to remeber them!
5. Practice and prepare when possible
If you know that you will be speaking to someone in English, try to anticipate what the conversation will be about and what words you might need to know or learn in order for the conversation to flow better. For example, the other day we were meeting up with our Brazilian friends and I had to speak to the pregnant wife in Portuguese... I started to think about what questions I would ask her and what words I would need to know and what question structures I would need to form e.g. I looked up words like "pregnant", "cravings" and "morning sickness" in Portuguese and I also looked up how to ask "Are you feeling ...?". These quick searches that I did made me feel confident and even impressed my husband who didn't think I knew those words!
There you have it, my 5 tips that will truly help you speak and form better sentences in English. Lastly, don't forget to relax and enjoy the process as you've come a long way and you should celebrate your achievements. Besides, most of the people you will be speaking to will think it is amazing that you are able to speak more than one language!