November 1, 2020

English in Isolation: 5 tips to improve your speaking skills under lockdown

This is a stressful time for everyone. You may be worried about your loved ones, or business or trying to adapt to working from home.

On top of all that, all the progress you’ve been making with your speaking skills has suddenly stopped.

Your regular English class has been cancelled, you’re no longer speaking English every day at work and nobody in your household is a native-English speaker.

If you’re not practising English, will your skills get worse? Will you lose all the confidence you’ve built? Will you have to start all over again once you get back into the ‘real world’?

Like any skill – if you don’t use it; you lose it..

But, fear not! Here are 5 ways to keep practising your speaking skills, even when in isolation:

1. Watch videos, films and T.V. series in English

This may seem like a strange tip – you’re supposed to be practising speaking not listening?!

But listening to English speakers regularly keeps you familiar with the sounds and rhythm of English as well as the words and phrases people use regularly.

Watch interesting TED talks, watch a new (English) series on Netflix or watch English T.V. (without the subtitles if possible!)

Top Tip #1: Find a talk or interview with a speaker you like and listen and repeat what they say. This will help you to practise pronunciation and the rhythm of English.

2. Set aside ‘English Time’

If you are stuck at home with your family; set aside an hour, 30 minutes or even just 15 minutes to talk to each other in English. Do this at the same time every day, maybe over lunch or dinner or when having an afternoon break.

This will seem unnatural at first but the more you do it, the more normal it will feel. Importantly, it will ensure you’re practising putting your thoughts into English every day.

Top Tip #2: Reward family members who only speak English or set forfeits for anyone who speaks your first language during ‘English Time’ – it’s their turn to do the washing up!

3. Go virtual networking

Networking events are great places to make connections in your profession or for your business. They are also great places to practise your speaking skills and build your confidence. You can prepare what you’re going to say beforehand and you just have to talk about what you know: yourself and your work!

Through these uncertain times, many groups have set up a virtual version of the group, which can be really fun. I personally like the 4Networking online networking groups: www.4networking.biz – maybe see you there!

Top Tip #3: If you’re not familiar with the technology, be sure to practise with a friend first to build your confidence. Many of these groups use Zoom for video conferencing: www.zoom.us

4. Find a virtual buddy

Whether it’s a friend from work, someone you met at a virtual networking event or a friend you’ve met through a Facebook group, find someone that you can have a chat with once or twice a week. This could be by phone or, even better, by video call.

Not only is this a great way to keep practising your speaking, but during these times its really important to speak to friends and share your isolation experiences.

Top Tip #4: If you do a video call using Zoom, press record before the chat. You can then go back, listen and take note of what you did well, any mistakes that you can correct or any new words that were mentioned.

5. Do an online course

Maybe you have more time than usual so make the most of it and learn something new. I don’t mean do a ‘Learn English’ course (although you can if you want!) but why not study something that you’ve always wanted to learn, like ‘How to make Jewellery?’ but in English.

Not only will you practise your English listening skills and stay familiar with the sounds and rhythm (see tip 1), but you will also learn a new skill, which may just be the beginning of a new business! Check out www.udemy.com for lots of fantastic online courses.

So don’t let isolation stop you from progressing your skills. Remember, listening to English regularly is important for your speaking skills as well as practising speaking itself.

And, with these tips, your family will also practise, you may make a new friend, you’ll keep in touch with old friends and may even learn a new skill!

Enjoy!

If you are interested in English coaching, my courses are isolation-proof as they are all delivered over Zoom. Contact me for more information: sarah@theenglishcoach.biz

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