How to Improve Your English Speaking Skills

This article is sponsored by OET

Improving your English speaking skills is essential to enjoying your international student experience. During your academic journey here in Australia, you will have to speak to your classmates, teachers and colleagues in English. It’s likely that you will have to speak in front of your class and attend a job interview. If you decide to stay in Australia or move to another English-speaking country after your education is complete, then your English speaking skills become even more important.

These are our best tips for improving your English speaking skills as an international student. 

Improving your English vocabulary

Expanding your vocabulary will improve your speaking skills and allow you to have more sophisticated conversations in English. If you learn just one new English word every day, you will have added roughly 365 new words to your English vocabulary by the end of the year. You might decide to learn five new words per day, or challenge yourself to learn ten. If you write down any unfamiliar words you hear during the day and dedicate some time to reviewing them each night, your English vocabulary will quickly grow.  

Learn phrases 

Learning a group of words that are commonly used together will help you string your sentences together and sound more like a native speaker. For example, it’s better to learn the phrase ‘a bowl of soup’, than to simply learn the word ‘soup’. When you learn a new word, it is good practice to refer to a dictionary to see how that word is used in a sentence. 

Practise your pronunciation 

Some English words will be harder to say than others. However, getting your pronunciation right is essential to being understood. Listen to how native speakers pronounce the word you are learning and try to copy it. You can ask one of your English-speaking friends or teachers to say the word out loud, or you can refer to online dictionaries and websites that have an audio option. 

Use apps and online resources 

There are so many apps and free online resources that you can use to improve your English speaking. Duolingo is a free language learning app that teaches English through a fun mix of reading, listening and speaking challenges. The apps Tandem and HelloTalk match you with English speakers who want to practise your own native language; together, you help each other practise. You can also check out the YouTube channels Aussie English, BBC Learning English and Speak English With Mr Duncan

If you’re planning to take an English test, such as OET, you can also use online sample speaking tests to help you prepare.

Talk to yourself 

It might feel strange at first, but talking to yourself is the best way to get comfortable with speaking English. Try reading a few pages from a book aloud, or simply narrate whatever activity you’re doing. It might be as simple as practicing “I’m chopping up the carrots”, or “I’m going to go to the shops”. This way, you can get used to common words and phrases without worrying about making a mistake in front of others.

Speak with others 

One of the best ways to get better at speaking English is to speak to other English speakers. Take advantage of living in Australia and chat to the people in your local community. Have a conversation with your supermarket cashier or the barista at your favourite café. You can also talk to your classmates, your co-workers and your teachers. Check if your local community centre offers English language meet-ups or research online learner communities. 

Record your voice

Consider pressing record the next time you practise speaking English. Listening back to your own speech will help you hear anything that needs improving. For example, you might be incorrectly pronouncing a word, stumbling over a phrase, or simply speaking too slow or too fast. If you have a recording, you can also ask an English-speaking teacher or friend for their feedback. 

Books and PDF resources 

Books and PDF resources are valuable tools that can help improve your English. Your university will be able to recommend the best coursebooks for you to use. It’s also worth purchasing a good dictionary. Consider the Oxford English Dictionary, the Macmillan Australian Dictionary or the Oxford ESL Dictionary. Many websites also offer downloadable PDF resources with useful information, tips and tricks to assist with learning English. 

Listen to English  

One of the easiest ways to improve your English speaking skills is to consume English media. You might choose to tune into an English radio station or podcast, watch an English movie or TV show, or simply listen to some English music. Make note of any new words, slang or expressions that you hear so that you can look them up afterwards and begin using them yourself.