I’d say most of my English Language students are upper intermediate or advanced which would lead us to believe that they are comfortable enough to speak using their Second Language.
However, living in a gigantic monolingual country as Brazil, and not working in a
company that requires international contacts, language learners can find themselves stranded on a single-language island or continent (Portuguese).
Today one of these students – whose class lasts only 90 minutes once a week – when she doesn’t cancel or must finish earlier – became frustrated when trying to say something in English and blurted out in Portuguese – “tá ficando cada vez mais difícil falar inglês” (it’s becoming increasingly harder for me to speak English). Didn’t she know any of those words or the necessary grammar to say that? Yes, she knew all the words and the structure but CHOSE the easiest way – spitting it out in her mother tongue.
Dear students, I’ve got news for you. If you don’t practice your target language you will NEVER feel comfortable using it. No matter what academic level you’ve reached. And here comes my point:
My student in question likes to play tennis – 2 or 3 times a week – how about English? Once a week, sometimes. I rest my case.
So how can you feel more comfortable speaking in English?
- No one to talk to? Talk to yourself. I’m sure you do that in your mother tongue. Do it in English or whatever language you are learning.
- Read aloud a paragraph or a page. Everyday. It can be a transcript, an interview, a news story, a cake recipe… . It doesn’t matter, as long as you’re listening and producing sounds in your target language.
- To speak you must learn to listen. Focus on a poem, a song, etc and listen to it. Then read it aloud. YouTube has thousands of videos with poems and songs+lyrics for you to practice.
- Look for opportunities to use your target language. Can’t travel abroad? Look for a friend or co-worker who’s also learning and practice with them. Look for a place where that language is spoken. For example, São Paulo has a few English language religious services – visit them – it’s a FREE and enriching experience. My favorite English Bible class website (www.believes.com.br) meets every Saturday in the morning. Also Calvary International Church is a great diverse and inclusive community (www.calvary.org.br) and Sampa Community Church (http://sampacommunity.com/1/
Now my students will be saying: “Come on, teacher. I’m too busy. I don’t have time for all that. It takes too much effort.”
Cheers and happy conversations,