Speaking is most often considered the most important skill when learning a language. It allows us to communicate effectively, which is usually any student’s ultimate goal. We find ourselves in a predicament though when we want to improve this skill, but have no one to practice with. First of all, this is usually a misconception because we usually know at least one person who has better English than we do. This person can become a “chat buddy” in spaces that you designate to this such as having lunch once a week, holding that weekly meeting in English with coworkers or even just grabbing some coffee during your break. Now, let’s say you want more spaces to practice or truly don’t have anyone to speak with, here’s an idea using a playback technique, so you can practice speaking on your own.
First things first, learning a language is not an over night process, so any learning strategy will require consistency to actually be effective. Keeping this in mind, you should set apart anywhere from 15 to 60 minutes to do this exercise.
1. Video or article of intetest. It can be digital or printed, as long as you can mark it.
2. Cellphone or recording device.
3. English dictionary or computer.
Here’s the process:
1. Choose an article or video that you find interesting from one of the sources suggested below. It can really be from anywhere, just be sure that it has the transcript and the audio available.
2. Read the article or the transcript and be sure to identify the following things:
– new vocabulary
– main idea
You can do this exercise on the computer, but I find it much more pratical to print out the article, so you can write on it.
3. Look up any word you do not understand. Avoid translating! Instead use an English dictionary. Although I prefer using a Thesaurus (dictionary for synonyms and antonyms), which allows you to easily associate the meaning of the word with the synonyms or antonyns, and to learn new words at the same time.
4. Now, play the audio or video and follow along. Underline or highlight any word that you weren’t sure about the pronunciation. Listen to it a few times, if necessary, until you feel comfortable with the meaning, the words and the pronunciation.
5. Read the article out loud and record yourself with your cell phone or voice recording device. It’s better to do this part by sentences or paragraphs, although if you’re more advanced you can do the whole article without stopping. Depending on your level it will make the following step easier.
6. Finally, listen to your recording and compare to the original audio. Identify the mistakes and make any necessary corrections. If you really want to make sure you have it right, repeat step 5 until it sounds just the way you want it to.
Some additional tips:
The best website that I’ve found so far to do this exercise is Ted, because of its Live Transcript feature. When doing step 6, you can simply click on the word and the recording will go to that part of the video. Having said this here are my suggestions for the websites you can use to practice:
-Words in the news (Intermediate to Advanced levels)
-Voice of America (Basic to Intermediate levels)
-TED (Intermediate to Advanced levels)
-English Central (All levels)