One wrong step and you’ll fall to your doom. That’s what it’s like to be on a tightrope.
With English too, you might say every word carefully because you’re scared of making a mistake. And you might dread coming up blank when you can’t remember the right word–with everyone looking at you.
The moment that you slip, you don’t know what to say anymore. You might even be tempted to drop it all in the moment and go back to a language that you’re much more comfortable with.
The good thing is, it’s a lot safer to speak in English than being on a tightrope, thousands of miles high above the ground. But actually, being able to speak confident English is possible. And it’s not just possible, but it’s inevitable if you follow the right steps.
Let’s face it: picking up a language as an adult is a challenge. But that doesn’t mean that your English has to be perfect for you to be confident in it. Confidence can be boiled down to hours and hours of practice along with being able to fall down repeatedly–and then picking yourself back up and letting yourself enjoy the process.
In this post, we’ve gathered our most actionable tips for speaking English confidently. There are no shortcuts, but you’ll be proud of yourself once you test these out and see how much progress you’re making:
1. Read, listen, and watch to your heart’s content
Are you a movie buff? Or maybe you’re more into fiction books, or cooking shows, or binge-worthy podcasts while working out. Whatever it is, there’s probably a form of media that you’re happy to consume for hours – and that should be part of your language learning plan.
To speak English confidently, you’ll need to have a secure foundation in understanding the language. Aside from having English conversations, it’s also important to balance this out with tons of input – specifically comprehensible input, where you understand the general message even though you might know every single word in it.
The more comprehensible input that you take in, the more your brain will intuitively understand the language. Eventually, you might even surprise yourself by blurting out sentences in correct English without thinking too hard about it.
Textbooks can only take you so far, so the key to getting yourself addicted to learning is by choosing comprehensible input that you like. Yes, you have the permission to go all out on what you love watching, reading, or listening to – the catch is it has to be in English.
2. Imitate how native English speakers talk
Here’s a fun tip: instead of watching English videos passively, go one step further and try to imitate how the people in the video talk. When a sentence sounds complicated, hit pause on the video, then record yourself saying it out loud. You can then compare the difference.
Regardless of your level of English, this is a helpful exercise. You don’t often notice how you sound when you talk, so catching it on recording will help you see where to improve your pronunciation and intonation.
Scouting for videos can seem like a wild hunt because you’d want ones that are close to your English level. You’ll have a much easier time with FluentU, which takes authentic videos – like music videos, movie trailers, news, and inspiring talks – and turns them into personalized language lessons. It has tons of fun clips that you can select by level. The spaced repetition system also allows you to solidify your knowledge and build speaking confidence with ease.
3. Practice confident body language
When you imagine someone who’s confident at speaking English, what comes to mind? They can speak smoothly and clearly in English, yes, but they also have the body language to match that. Around other people, they’re smiling and making gestures at the right moment, and they’re making direct eye contact while keeping their voice firm.
Body language can be incredibly underrated when it comes to fluency, but how you hold yourself says a lot about how confident you are in the language. If you want an accurate look at your body language while speaking in English, take a video of yourself. Are your gestures matching up with your words?
It can be near impossible to learn body language through reading, so here’s a top resource that feels much more interactive: the Creativa meeting mastery course. It has engaging, high-quality video courses that tackle all aspects of business English – including vocabulary, body language, and intonation.
Through realistic reenactments, you’ll see exactly how to use and interpret body language to excel in professional scenarios. You can get started by checking out this free video straight from the course.
4. Change your environment
If your goal is to speak well in English, there’s one piece of advice that’s often brought up: move to an English-speaking country so you won’t have a choice but to talk in English constantly. This isn’t realistic for everyone, though. Besides, English is so common all over the world that you can recreate a similar environment, wherever you are.
Start with baby steps. Buy more English books and stash them in your room so you’re more likely to read them. Listen to more English playlists, try to look for dubbed English versions when you watch movies, or even change the language on your phone or computer to English. You can even sign up for online meetups or events where the default language is English.
You might still be tripping up sometimes, but one main benefit of this is psychological: you’ll be less self-conscious when you’re using English constantly. You’ll know it’s working when you catch yourself automatically thinking in English – no extra translation needed.
5. Seek out conversations
You probably already know this, but it’s a hard truth: the only way to become confident in speaking English is to do it more often. Aside from changing your environment, you’ll have to take the plunge and actively seek out people that you can talk to in English.
The first few times are often the hardest. It can be an adjustment to go from structured exercises to keeping pace with a conversation, especially as the topics get more varied and complicated.
There are several options for this, each with its own pros and cons:
- Chatting with other people learning English can be enjoyable because you can help each other improve and study together. However, there’s the risk of repeating each other’s mistakes, so they shouldn’t be the only people that you’re talking to in English.
- Native English speakers are definitely among the best conversational partners. You can learn a lot just by absorbing the vocabulary words that they use, and you’ll also pick up on slang words and cultural nuances. The downside is they might not be the best at explaining certain language concepts because English is too instinctive for them.
- English tutors are great for giving you focused attention and drilling you in certain areas of your speaking. A popular online platform for this is iTalki, where you can book one-on-one tutoring sessions for different languages, including English. On the other hand, tutoring sessions can be costly, especially if you’re hoping to do them multiple times a week.
6. Spend time on your pronunciation
When you’re sure that you know the right pronunciation for words, then you can be much more confident in speaking English.
For one, try to figure out which English sounds you find the hardest to pronounce. For example, you might be able to say them on their own, but they blur together with other sounds when you speak in a sentence.
Look up the exact position of your mouth and tongue for those sounds, then practice it every day. This is more or less muscle memory – your mouth has to get physically used to saying those sounds.
Your pronunciation is the building block of your speaking ability in English. If you’re hoping to sound more like a native speaker, then Creativa’s course on Mastering North American English Pronunciation can break it down step by step for you. It goes deep into essential English sounds that learners struggle the most with.
From detailed instructions to real-world examples, the course shows you exactly how to speak English clearly so that native speakers can easily understand you. Click here to get started with a sample video.
7. Don’t be too self-conscious about your accent
One of the main reasons why people feel shy or anxious about speaking in English is their accent. It can be scary to say a sentence out loud – and then to be laughed at or made fun of because of how you’re pronouncing it.
For one, there are many, many English accents out there, even in native English-speaking countries such as the US, UK, and Australia. Aside from English speakers in these three countries having different accents from each other, you’ll also encounter different accents inside the countries themselves. This isn’t even counting all of the non-native English speaking countries where people are fluent in English as a second language but they have their own distinct accent.
Your accent is hugely affected by your environment, so changing it usually means consciously working on your pronunciation or moving to another location. While you can always aim for a more standard English accent, it’s actually okay too as long as you and the other person understand each other.
8. Identify areas that you want to improve in
Most of the time, people aren’t confident in speaking English because they’re very much aware of where they can still improve. You probably have an idea of your own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to English. Maybe you’re great at reading, but it’s harder to speak continuously. Or maybe you can think of the words clearly, but there are some sounds that you struggle to pronounce, such as “th.”
Whatever your areas of improvement are, confronting them and actively working on them will help you feel much more confident. One thing that you can do is to focus on a specific part of your English speaking that you want to improve. You can then look up online guides, blog posts, and videos about it – you’re guaranteed to find a ton of tips since so many people have probably struggled with it before.
From there, create a short plan that you can follow every day to work on your weaknesses. For example, if it’s hard to speak continuously, then force yourself to keep talking in one-on-one conversations. You’ll eventually adapt, especially when the other person’s willing to correct you.
9. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification
Another reason why you might get nervous when speaking English is the fear of making mistakes. In a real-life conversation, the other person might say something that you’re having a hard time understanding, and it can be intimidating to ask them to repeat it or to explain to you what they meant.
Unless you’re in a time-pressured situation, people generally won’t mind clarifying. In fact, they’ll feel better about you fully understanding them rather than if you try to guess instead (and maybe guess wrong).
Here are some phrases that you can use to check in:
- I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that. Did you say…?
- Ah, could you repeat that?
- Oh, do you mean…?
Being able to speak up like this is a must when it comes to learning English – or pretty much any language. Scroll down for a free PDF worksheet that delves into key vocabulary for interrupting politely and asking for clarification. You’ll find out about which phrases work best in various scenarios so you’ll sound fluent and confident, whether you’re at a business meeting or chatting with a stranger.
10. Diversify your English
English may not have the same emphasis on several levels of politeness as Japanese, but it’s still fairly complex, with its own vocabulary for specific situations. You might say “Howdy!” playfully to a friend, but greeting a senior colleague that you’ve never talked to like that might not be appropriate.
On top of this, there’s specialized vocabulary. ”Chocolate” and “meat” are common enough, but what if you go into more specific terms such as “cheesecake” and “marinade”? If you use English professionally, that also has its own set of expressions, ranging from “screen-sharing” to “meeting agenda.” That’s not even going into slang like “chill out” and “unfriend.”
Instead of relying only on vocabulary lists, the best way to absorb these is to expose yourself to diverse settings in English. You’ll discover new vocabulary at a restaurant, at an international conference in your field, and even at a comedy show. This way, you’ll gradually pick up the right contexts for certain words and phrases.
The road to speaking English confidently involves embracing your mistakes and constantly learning from them. One aspect of it is working on your pronunciation and overall fluency, while the other is mindset – facing your fears so you can get out there and talk to people in English outside of a classroom environment.
Speaking confident English is one of those huge goals that can pay off hugely for you, both in terms of your social life and your career. When you’re looking to hone your English in the workplace, the Creativa meeting mastery course has got your back.
Its video episodes show in detail how to speak persuasively and effectively during business meetings. From professional vocabulary to intonation and gestures, it’ll help you present your best self in English. Check it out with this free video!