It can be difficult to keep improving your speaking skills once you’ve reached an intermediate level.
In the beginning, you couldn’t communicate with anyone but now you can be understood in most situations. You can’t express everything you want to say and you make mistakes but people understand what you mean and you can get by.
You have reached a comfort zone.
So how can you move out of this zone and keep perfecting your skills?
Set motivating goals.
Goals are very individual: what is a good goal for you may not be for someone else. A suitable goal will depend on your level, experience and what you feel comfortable doing.
These are the 3 key characteristics of motivating goals, which can move you towards perfecting your skills:
“I want to improve my fluency” is NOT a motivating goal. How will you know when you’ve achieved this?
In terms of speaking, a specific goal would be creating a situation where you have to use your skills and actually demonstrate your fluency. If you are in business, this could be attending a networking event for the first time or volunteering to give a presentation at work.
By doing this you have:
- a concrete reason to improve your fluency
- a clear time frame for planning your practice
- accountability: when you publicly commit to a goal you are more likely to achieve it
Your goal needs to require effort and scare you a little for it to be rewarding when you achieve it. This is where understanding your current ability and comfort zone are important.
If you often give presentations to colleagues in English, choosing this as your goal is not motivating because it’s inside your comfort zone. This is just practice.
Instead, you could volunteer to give a presentation at a conference. This task is unfamiliar and outside of your comfort zone. It may scare you a little but the thought of reaching it should make you feel excited and proud.
When you achieve this, you will feel motivated to set the next goal.
Your goal must be ‘challenging’ but not to the point where it is so difficult that you can’t realistically achieve it. This is where understanding your current skills and setting a realistic time frame are important.
Imagine your goal is to give a presentation in English to your work colleagues next month.
If you never speak English at work and you have never even given a presentation in your first language, this is an unrealistic goal. It is something to aim for in the future but to do it next month is likely to fill you full of anxiety and may not actually be achievable. This will be demotivating!
However, if you are confident using English and you often give presentations in your first language, then this task is much more realistic. It will make you feel a little scared but in reality you have time to prepare and achieve it.
So, if you want to keep perfecting your speaking skills, make sure you set a specific task at a specific time, which is challenging enough that it excites you but also realistic in terms of your current skills and experience. Once you achieve it, feel the buzz and set your next goal.
Before you know it, you’ll be presenting at international conferences!
If you want help setting goals to help improve your English skills, get in touch!