Recently, I got a call from one of my past students. He was quite frustrated and disheartened about his spoken English skills. He had cleared two interview rounds in a well known company, but had failed in the third round (HR round). There was only one reason-his weak spoken English skills.
The HR person told him that everything else is just fine but he needs to work upon his spoken English skills. And just like me, the student I am talking about is also from a rural background. He asked me how he could improve his spoken English. And I told him what I did to improve my spoken English.
Do you also want to know what I told him? Well, that’s exactly what I am going to explain in this article. What you’re about to read are my personal life experiences regarding spoken English. I hope you’ll get some help out of this article.
Now, to start with, I know how it feels to get rejected in a job interview because your spoken English was not good enough. It feels really bad. And I also know what it means to belong to a farmer family from Western UP, where students who try to practice English are ridiculed as ‘Angrez ka baccha’.
In most rural parts of Western UP, English is an alien language. Well, because, it IS alien.
I too, was born in a farmer family in Muzaffarnagar, Western UP. I went to school in my home town Muzaffarnagar, then we shifted to Haridwar, Uttrakhand, where I studied in a decent school, and then we shifted to Delhi. I was fortunate enough to get admission in a nice public school, but was also unfortunate enough to leave the school the very next year. My father couldn’t afford the fee. He had to enroll me in a government school. To me, English was not of utmost importance till 10th standard. But then, I see one of my cousins working quite hard to improve his spoken English skills. It made me realize that I also need to work in that direction. See, I am an Indian at heart and I respect my mother tongue- Khadi Boli and my national language-Hindi. But you also need to sharpen your spoken English skills, because English is the language in demand in global market.
I had read somewhere that to get successful in life, you must be fluent in three languages-Your local dialect-which, in my case, is Khadi Boli, Hindi (my national language) and English (the global language).
I had realized that it’s not sufficient to read and understand English. I must be able to converse fluently in English. And the kind of school I was studying in, there was no atmosphere to learn the language. In fact, whenever I tried to speak a little bit in English with my fellow classmates, I was ridiculed (oh, ye aa gaya angrez ka baccha, angrez chale gaye, isye chhod gaye)
So, there was no hope of my fellow classmates helping me. Neither they were able to converse in English, nor were they interested in learning. But I knew I had to do it. I asked one of my classmates who was also my neighbor if he would be interested in improving his spoken English. And he said yes!
Both of us used to go to school by bicycle. We decided, that from today onwards, on our way to school and on our way back to home, either we’ll speak in English or we won’t speak at all. It was between him and me. Things started to change.
Take Improving Spoken English Skills as a Challenge and Not as a Problem
The very first obstacle in learning or improving spoken English is the tendency to consider it a problem. I encourage you to take it as a challenge. This will change your whole outlook towards spoken English. Just like any other skill, this too, is a skill.
Tell me, did you know anything about your subject before you took admission in college? Absolutely not! In fact you had a little or no idea about what you’re going to learn in your classes. But then, you learned, haven’t you?
You studied hard and polished you skills. Same is the case with spoken English. It is a skill that can be learned.
So, take it as a challenge. And I know you are ready to accept the challenge, that’s why you are reading this article.
Feel Proud About Your Local Dialect (Mother Tongue)
As I told you, I belong to Western UP. The local dialect of my area is ‘Khadi Boli’ and I am proud of it.
I am sorry to say that I have met a lot of people from Western UP who try to hide the fact that they belong to a rural region. And I find that shameful. No matter where I am in the next 10 years, no matter how much money I would be earning. The fact remains that I am from a rural background and I see no point in trying to hide this fact. if you don’t feel proud of your local dialect, you’re doomed. Shame on you! If you cannot feel proud or at least not bad about your own language, then I cannot understand how you expect yourself to learn a language that’s not even your national language. English-it’s a foreign language. No, it’s not fair to improve you r spoken English skills without accepting your local dialect as your own and feeling proud of it.
Acceptance of my mother tongue is the base of my communication skills. I don’t get offended when people call me ‘ganvaar.’ I AM a ‘ganvaar.’ I belong to a ‘gaanv’ (village) for heaven sakes!
So, this is fucking important. Feel proud about your local dialect (your mother tongue)
Don’t Join any Spoken English Institute Yet
I don’t recommend joining any spoken English institute yet because your skills are in primary stage. I highly recommend that you should try to get some individual, one-on-one tuition. At this stage, you need a lot more attention and support than students in an institute would. And believe it or not, there’s a lot of difference between learning in a class of 35 students and, learning from a teacher where you’re the only student.
Find some good English teacher in your area, or wherever you think you can afford to go and get some individual classes first. This is the right way to make you familiar with the language. Once you’re a little bit familiar, it’s advisable to join an English institute.
But Why Do I Need to Join an Institute?
Well, simply, because you need to get some confidence while speaking in English. When you speak even two lines in front of 20-30 people, you feel good about yourself and it boosts your confidence level. It’s not that you don’t know how to speak in English, but there’s a barrier-the hesitation, the drops of sweat on your forehead, that dry mouth…get my point? You need to overcome that. That’s why an institute is a must to help you open up.
Activate Your Throat Chakra
According to Indian philosophy, there are 7 chakras in your body (chakras are like 7 contact points which connects your physical body with your subtle body) and each one of them governs a part of your body.
Throat chakra is responsible for your speaking abilities. And it’s a good idea to activate this chakra.
Now, there’s a very simple method for activating throat chakra. Just before you go to sleep, sit with your eyes closed. Imagine that in your throat, there’s a soft sky color ball revolving. just imagine. Don’t push yourself too hard.
Initially, it might be a little difficult to visualize such a thing if you have never done anything like this before. Be patient, and with a little practice and time, you should be able to imagine that easily. Just imagine the ball revolving around your throat chakra for about 3-5 minutes and then sleep.
In the morning when you feel it’s time to wake up, don’t get up from bed. Lie there for a while with your eyes closed. Again, imagine that the sky blue color ball revolving and massaging your throat chakra. This will again help stimulate throat chakra. I would recommend that you do this exercise daily to keep your throat chakra open.
Don’t Try to Learn English by Translating English Words to Your Mother Tongue
Now, don’t get me wrong. But this is why most of the students from rural background fail to improve their spoken English skills. They translate English words into Hindi to understand them.
How did you learn your mother tongue? When you say ‘kutta’, do you try to understand its meaning in some other language? No. When someone refers to ‘kutta’, you know its meaning. A’ kutta’ is a ‘kutta’. Likewise when someone refers to a ‘dog’, he means a ‘dog.’ And the dog should not be made ‘kutta’.
Don’t say ‘dog’ means ‘kutta.’ Dog means dog. Learn how to think, speak and understand words in English only and don’t try to translate them into your mother tongue.
I am an old school guy and I believe when you’re stuck, go back to basics. And here is one basic thing about improving your spoken English skills. It’s called LSRW
We’ll cover L and S in this article. R and W shall be kept reserved (may be for a future article to help you improve your English reading and writing skills.)
How did you learn your mother tongue? Did you start reading when you were a child? No, you had listened to your parents, family members and other people around you speak. Listening them speak helped you get familiar with the language and then you stated copying those words by trying to speak the way people around your spoke. You see the first step to learn any language is to listen. And English is no exception.
Since rarely anyone around you speak in English, how do you get familiar with English language? I have an idea-start watching English movies. I know, what you’re thinking-“I don’t even know what the actors speak in those movies. How can I understand those dialogues?”
See, right now it’s not important to understand each and every dialogue. Just watch and listen carefully, even if nothing makes sense to you. And yes, please don’t enable subtitles. That would be a really bad idea. When you look at subtitles, you’re again reading and not listening. You’re missing the point. You need to listen first.
Also, I am assuming that you have a smart-phone. If you don’t, buy one. Get internet activated on your phone and listen to online BBC radio. That would likely to help you get more familiar with English language.
Don’t Read English Newspapers Hoping to Improve Your Spoken English Skills
I don’t know who started this. But reading English newspapers hoping to improve your spoken English skills is the dumbest thing you could ever do. And yet, the first advice you get when you tell someone that you want to learn spoken English is- “Oh! Simple! Just start reading English newspapers.”
Ask such people “Had you read Hindi newspapers to learn to speak in Hindi?” Even an illiterate person, who doesn’t know how to read, speaks well enough Hindi. How come? He’s been listening to other people around him speaking. Simple!
Now, I am not saying that English newspapers are not good. They are. But the kind of English you’ll find in newspapers is ‘bookish’ and ‘unnatural.’ It’s not spoken English. It’s written English.
You don’t speak the way you write. Do you talk to your friend like this-“Good morning, I feel great pleasure in inviting you for dinner tonight.” Or do you speak like this-“hey, come over to my place tonight. Let eat together.” See the difference?
That is the difference between spoken English and written English.
Reading English newspapers is surely a good idea to improve your written English skills, but it’s the worst idea to improve your spoken English skills.
I have seen many people reading English newspapers daily and yes, also marking some difficult words and looking up their meaning in dictionaries. They have been doing it for years now, but still, their spoken English skills are not improving. So don’t do that. It’s complete non-sense.
Just keep one small thing in mind. If you want to improve you written English skills, read English newspapers, books, magazines and articles. But if you want to improve your spoken English skills, then speak and even before you speak, listen- because listening is the first step in learning any language.
Now is the time for next step-speaking.
“But I don’t know how to speak in English?” Well, that’s why I am here-to help you.
Now, find a partner to practice. As I told you before, when I was in 11th standard, I had made a deal with my friend, who was also my neighbor. The deal was that we’ll speak in English only. Find a partner and agree that both of your shall speak in English only. At this stage, don’t worry at all about speaking wrong English.
The point right now is to speak. Just speak, speak and speak in English as much as you can. This will make your tongue, your chest and your vocal chords get familiar with English.
There’s one more thing. You’re not habituated listening to yourself speaking in English. So, whenever you try to speak even a few sentences in English, your ears and your mind find that uncomfortable (and no one likes being uncomfortable) So what do you do? You speak in English for a few moments, and then switch back to your mother tongue. The way to break this barrier is to speak in English as much as you can. Get into the habit of listening to you speaking in English. Make yourself comfortable.
One More Tip
There’s one more tip I would like to share with you. When you’re going to your college or anywhere else, look at the signboards on the sides of road. “And do what?” Read them.” What?”
Yes. I have done a lot of practice in this way. When I used to travel by a bus or auto or any other mode of transportation, I used to read the signboards on road. I know it might sound crazy to you but the whole idea is to make yourself as much familiar with the language as possible. So, don’t hold yourself back. Do it.
FREE online resources to learn English
www.esl.about.com- for improving your general English
www.howjsay.com – for improving your pronunciation
When a child learns to speak, does he speak clearly from the very first day? No, initially, he speaks the way he could. He fumbles and makes mistakes. As the time passes by, his speech starts getting clearer. That’s how you’re also supposed to learn spoken English. Initially, your pronunciation shall be out of line, the way you’ll speak will be raw, but with time and practice, things will improve. So don’t worry at all about that accent or poor diction or whatever. Just worry about one thing and one thing only-Are you speaking or not?
There’s one English self-study course by Mr. Kev Nair that I would like to recommend. I also have this course and it has helped me a lot. It’s a self-study course, so you’re supposed to do everything on your own. And that’s good. You can practice whenever you want, wherever you want or however long you want. It’s a wonderful resource to help you improve your spoken English skills.
Visit http://www.fluentzy.com. You can order the complete set of books online. It would be the best investment you could ever make for improving your spoken English skills.
Hope you get some help from this article. Best of luck!