Of the four English language courses skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing), speaking is by far the scariest one to try improve outside of the classroom. Not only does it require talking to strangers, there’s no specific topic or theme you’ll be required to speak about. Unlike the classroom, anything goes in a conversation in the real world. Rest assured, most people won’t judge you on your English ability.
How can you improve your English speaking skills outside of class? Practice.
Meet new people:
A terrifying prospect for introverts, I know, but trust me – if I can do it, so can you. Meeting people in your adult life can be difficult, and tends to happen in one of three ways.
- Your job (note, job, not work). Talking to people in your job is your most likely chance of meeting new people. Even if you work with a lot of people who speak the same language, there will probably be at least one or two who don’t. Find those people.
- Your social life. Dicey’s, Riverbar, Bad Bob’s… They all have one thing in common – they’re all filled with language students. Now, you could go to these places and find other language learners who don’t speak your language. Or you could go to places that are mostly filled with locals. Dublin has a lot of choices when it comes to its nightlife. Don’t stick to the places that best reflect your culture at home.
- Your hobbies. Continuing to practise your hobbies in Ireland will lead to you meeting new people. If you play football, find a group, and join it. Art? There are plenty of events and places to go. Where can you find these places? meetup.com
Meetup has events for all different sorts of hobbies, and is one of the best places to find language exchange groups and nights.
Language Exchange at the library
The local library (the Central Library in the ILAC Shopping Centre) has weekly language exchanges. Friday is their multilingual exchange, and it runs from 3.30-4.30pm.
This one can be difficult, but try it out. Even at lower levels, this can work. In your homes, you are more than likely sharing with other people who speak your language. Together, pick an evening that you only speak English.
While this sounds difficult, and it is for some, that’s not the point. The point is to build your confidence, and make yourself understood. You don’t need to be fluent to communicate. Practise this at home, and then take it to the streets of Dublin and beyond.
Shops and Restaurants:
Finding someone to practise your English with can be difficult. I present to you, dear students, Dublin’s shops and restaurants (and cafés, bars, etc…).
- Good customer service is important to shops in Dublin. The shops where people are most likely to just talk to you are the ones with the geeky or nerdy stuff. The people hired for these stores have to be passionate. Eg, Disney (Grafton Street), the Lego Store (Grafton Street), Smyths (Parnell) and HMV (Henry Street).
- Use your local supermarket to help with your speaking. Ask where things are, even if you already know. Use the checkouts with a person, not the self-checkout. It’s the little bits of English that you use that will help build your confidence.
- The same goes for restaurants. Ask what the waiter recommends, what they think is good, tell them what kind of food you like and see if they can help you. You might already know what you want, but use this time to your own advantage.
Singing is useful for pronunciation. Sing in the shower. We all do it. Copy a native singer in English, it will help – especially if your language is missing sounds that are in English.
Date a native:
Easier said than done, but this will force you to speak English, and listen to it, too. Try dating sites, but be careful.