3C: Speaking Practice
In Stages 3A and 3B, you were focused on practicing each of the individual subskills that make up speaking.
- Listening to your conversation partner (Listening practice).
- Thinking of what to say (Writing practice).
- Converting thoughts into words (Writing practice).
- Physically moving your mouth to make the sounds (Pronunciation practice).
Now that you've developed each of these subskills, it's time to combine them and start speaking.
There are two tasks to pay attention to when practicing speaking ability:
- Noticing issues.
- Deliberately practicing correct usage.
Shadowing allows you to notice issues that would otherwise be outside your competence because you can compare your speaking ability to a recording of a native. Rather than feeling what is right or wrong, you only need to feel what is different.
When you're speaking, it can be hard to notice your own mistakes. Your mind is occupied with listening to your conversation partner and crafting your own sentences. Recording yourself allows you to rewatch/relisten later and fully focus on identifying your mistakes.
You can record yourself monologuing or having a conversation with a native. Listen back to these recordings to identify issues and deliberately practice the correct usage.
Performance is limited by competence. When you have a competence gap, you won’t be able to notice the issue without native feedback. If you can’t notice a mistake, then you can’t fix it.
You can get this native feedback during a conversation, but it's easier to record yourself and send your recordings to a native speaker. This way, they can listen to it multiple times and give you written feedback.
When it comes to output, there's no substitute for real conversation. You'll never get comfortable speaking without practicing with real people.
If you can afford a professional tutor, iTalki is also a great place to practice conversation and get corrected.
If you experience social anxiety when trying to speak with other people, you may be more comfortable with monologuing. Monologuing means talking while alone or in front of a camera.
It’s important to not prepare these monologues in advance. You want them to be as unscripted and natural as possible so that they demonstrate your true speaking ability.
You can talk about anything you want. You can summarize a movie you just saw or you can tell a personal story. If you’re not sure where to start, then watch a random YouTube video and summarize what it was about.
Shadowing allows you to practice pronunciation and cadence in isolation without needing to think about what you want to say. Once you have mastered your parent’s speaking style while shadowing, the next step is to try to imitate your parent while conveying your own thoughts.
If you can express your thoughts in the voice of your parent, then you have achieved native-like fluency.
There are many issues you might run into when practicing speaking. To help you overcome these issues, we’ve collected questions from our community and written a Speaking FAQ.
To improve your speaking skills, focus on the following speaking practice loop:
- Have conversations with natives.
- Record yourself and listen back to fix performance errors.
- Ask a native to correct you to identify competence errors.
- Notice correct usage in immersion.
If you feel like any speaking subskill is getting in the way of your speaking ability, then feel free to focus on that subskill for 1-2 weeks before returning to the speaking practice loop.
To improve language activation, focus on writing and monologuing. To improve accent, focus on shadowing and imitation.
Move on to Stage 4 when you are comfortable speaking in casual conversation with natives. In Stage 4, you’ll expand your competence into new domains while improving your performance until you can speak like a native.