Lack of practice? Scared of making mistakes? Tongue-tied when you meet foreigners?
You have been learning English for many years and have memorised an extensive vocabulary list, but still get tongue-tied every time you have to speak English to a foreigner? The English ability of Taiwanese people is actually quite good when compared to other Asian countries. It's not that Taiwanese 'can't' speak English - the problem lies more in shyness, lack of confidence, fear of making mistakes, lack of practice, and not knowing what to talk about. This is a great pity. So then, what is the secret in finding the courage to speak and use English? According to Paul Cooper, British Council English teacher, you need to first overcome your psychological barriers. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Think about how happy we are when we hear foreigners speak Mandarin. We patiently listen to them as they try to express themselves, and we do not constantly stop to correct them. It's the same thing when foreigners hear us speaking English. You should embrace the concept that 'one can only improve by making mistakes'. It is far more important to carry on with the conversation and ensuring that the listener understands you, than to speak with perfect vocabulary and grammar.
Focus on the Present - Understanding Keywords and Responding is the Most Important
How then do we take the first step with our limited English abilities? Paul suggests that we first try to understand what the other person is saying, identify the keywords, and we will be able to carry on with the conversation. Don't be anxious to plan what you need to say next; instead, focus on the present and give timely responses. This will prevent you from missing out on the next section of the conversation and respond promptly. If you really don't understand, you can ask the other person to repeat themselves.
What are some good conversation topics? Talk about your personal hobbies such as singing or travelling, or about movies you watched recently. Paul also suggests that we should get into the habit of listening to English by watching more English TV series and listening to more English songs daily, in order to create our own all-English environment. When we get more and more accustomed to listening to English, we will no longer be afraid of not understanding the language, and we will even be able to start speaking English without thinking.
Do not be afraid, face the challenge bravely and overcome your fear! Find a partner who is on the similar level as you are to build your confidence together! In the British Council's MyClass all-English environment, learners of similar levels take classes together. In addition to making friends who share similar interests and helping to encourage each other, you will also have the opportunity to speak a lot of English to build your confidence. You will no longer be afraid to speak in English and you will even be happy to do so. MyClass includes 400 practical topics which include workplace, social interactions, lifestyle, and travelling etc., so that regardless of the situation you are in, you will be able to hold a conversation on any topic. You will no longer be scared to use English, but instead you will overcome your barriers and communicate smoothly. With many opportunities to practise your listening and speaking skills, you will improve and become even more skilful and fluent. Transform into a brand-new you and say goodbye to the old tongue-tied you!