Speaking Strategies for English Learners

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Many English students complain that they understand English, but don't feel confident enough to join a conversation. There are a number of reasons for this including:

  • Students are trying to translate from their native language into English.
  • Production "blocking" is occurring due to nervousness, lack of confidence, etc.
  • The speaker is looking for a specific word, rather than using simple language to describe what is meant.
  • There aren't enough conversation opportunities in or outside of class.
  • Students aren't able to speak to peers (for example: mixed classes of adults and teenagers).
  • Exam preparation focuses on grammar, vocabulary, etc. and leaves little time for active use.

Here are a number of resources, lesson plans, suggestion pages and more which will help you and your students improve English speaking skills in and outside of class.

Speaking Strategies

The first rule of improving speaking skills is to speak, converse, talk, gab, etc. as much as you can! However, these strategies can help you - or your students - make the most out of your efforts.

American English Usage Tips - Understanding how Americans use English and what they expect to hear can help improve conversations between native and non-native speakers.

These next two features help you understand how words stress plays a role in both understanding and being understood:

Register use refers to the "tone" of voice and words that you choose when speaking to others. Appropriate register use can help you develop a good rapport with other speakers.

Teaching Conversational Skills will help teachers understand specific challenges involved when teaching speaking skills in class.

Social English Examples

Making sure that your conversation starts well often depends on using social English (standard phrases). These social English examples provide short dialogues and key phases necessary.


Dialogues are useful in learning standard phrases and vocabulary used in common situations. These situations are some of the most common you'll find when practicing your English.

Here are a number of dialogues based on level:

Conversation Lesson Plans

Here are a number of lesson plans which have proven quite popular in ESL / EFL classrooms around the world.

We'll start with debates. Debates can be used in class to help motivate students and use phrases and vocabulary that they may not use on an everyday basis. Here are a few to start off with:

Games are also quite popular in class, and games which encourage to express their point of view are some of the best:

This page will lead you to all the conversation plans located on this site:

Conversation Lesson Plan Resource

Places to Practice Your English Online

Finally, you'll need to find as many English speaking opportunities as you can. Here are a few sites that will help you make English speaking friends over the Internet.