Hey there, this is Teacher ola podcast episode 9: Boost Your Fluency By Talking To Yourself
My name’s Ola and I am an English teacher.
This podcast is for you if you’re an English learner who wants to speak English with more confidence and get rid of speaking barriers. You’ll boost your vocabulary, brush up your grammar, improve your pronunciation and go to my website for full transcripts and worksheets to each episode. Happy learning!
Thank you for choosing to listen to this podcast. Later go to my website and download the worksheet to digest and test some vocabulary items from this episode.
I’m a huge fan of learning a language from various authentic sources including songs, TV shows, articles. I always tell everyone to listen as much as possible in English to immerse, to surround yourself with English. Especially if you’re not in English speaking country. Listening is by far a much better way of learning than doing grammar exercises for example. It is much better than reading if you’re goal is being fluent. Listen actively, listen passively, listen to the radio, music, podcasts, but: sole listening won’t give you fluency. Just listening will not make you a better, more confident English speaker. You need to talk, and this episode is all about how to do it if there’s no one to talk to.
In this episode I’m going to tell you 3 things: why, when and how to improve your speaking by talking to yourself.
First things first. The first thing you need to embrace is that talking to yourself isn’t strange. It doesn’t make you a crazy person. If you think it’s weird, it becomes weird, so stop thinking that way. Think about it as of a tool for your better speaking. Speak to yourself when there’s no one around you. Unless you want to get some more attention.
I’d like to make it crystal clear how necessary speaking to yourself is. If you ask me why you should talk to yourself I’ll tell you this, and there are a few reasons, I think there will be about 6, 5 maybe 6. The first one is:
1. Many people know English very well, they can understand close to everything. They watch tv series or films without subtitles, they understand song lyrics. Their level is b2, c1 maybe higher. But when it comes to speaking, they’re stuck. They really can’t feel comfortable, and they struggle to use phrases they know so well. The reason behind it is – lack of speaking practice. Nothing will make your speaking better than speaking. This is the rule of the thumb, nobody should ever argue with me, with this. You should always put speaking above any other language exercises if you want to be fluent. Listening comes second, always. While listening you improve your listening skills. This is the first and the biggest ‘why’ you should speak to yourself.
2. You could tell me now: hey, isn’t it better to talk to someone else? The answer my friend is: no, it’s not. I don’t underestimate the value of conversation with other speakers, it’s amazing what it can do for your skills but speaking to yourself is something else. Listen. if it’s your teacher, you meet him or her twice, maybe even once a week and that’s absolutely not enough. The same is for any other speaking partner you have. You should speak every day. You can always speak to yourself! The more the better. While talking to someone you have to focus on many more aspects of the conversation, like body language, keeping the conversation interesting, listening actively to the person you’re talking to; whereas talking to yourself you don’t have to do that and it gives you a focus on a particular skill. It’s easy to detect the area of vocabulary which needs more attention. When you speak to yourself you can repeat the same passage as many times as you wish, and make it perfect and it doesn’t sound weird. You can change the phrase, use different words, tweak it, replace words with those more suitable ones. Do you know this feeling when you’ve finished a conversation in English and now, when this person is gone you have an avalanche of ideas, words, collocations, you could have used them, but sorry, it’s too late? When you talk to yourself you can have it all. Thanks to that, when a next speaking opportunity comes, you’ll be prepared.
3. You should speak to yourself because this way you get used to your voice in English. Beacuse you know you sound different when you change language. It’s because of different sounds which don’t exist in Polish, different intonation, melody, rhythm. I’ll ask you a question now, think about your answer. How do you feel when you hear yourself speaking English out loud? Do you feel weird? Does it sound sound weird? Ok, if so, you have to get used to your own voice in English. If you feel pressure when there’s nobody around you, how you will manage stress later? Talk to yourself so that your ears get used to how you sound. It’ll take a lot of stress off. It’ll lower the level of anxiety. You’ll adapt to how you sound. You’ll feel more confident, relaxed and at ease.
4. Reason number 4: talking to yourself will improve your pronunciation. If you hear yourself speaking some word which sounds strange, and if you are not sure if it’s correct, or you don’t have the faintest idea how to pronounce a word you look it up. You check it, say it out loud and then remember. Check the pronunciation right away, that’s my tip. If you make up your own pronunciation pattern it might be difficult to fix it later. At least that was my strategy. I still talk to myself, but before, when I was not fluent at all I talked to myself as well. Back in the day I would never check any vocabulary, I would write it down, I mean in Polish, what I don’t know. If I came across a word or idea I could not express with words I would write it down and check it later. Of course I would check it later, but I wouldn’t stop myself, my speaking flow just for the sake of some words. It’s a better idea to seek a synonym, try to give a definition, you know, you have to save yourself somehow. Don’t stop the flow. Pronunciation my friend is different. I want to know how to make it sound right immediately. I don’t want to memorize it wrong way. So, number 4, I would summarize it, so just to recap: check the pronunciation as soon as you come across a problem , but don’t check the vocabulary. Yu’ll just mess up the flow.
5. Talk to yourself, because it gives you better memory. When you talk to yourself you multitask, for example you walk. Walking and talking at the same time improves memory. Body movement, facial expressions, gestures, looking at yourself in a mirror gives you extra stimuli. That means more parts of your brain activate. And it’s not just me, it’s not just my experience, it’s pure science, it’s research.
6. Last but not least, but definitely the shortest: it’s free and you can do it anytime.
OK, let’s move to the second part: when?
Anytime available. It doesn’t matter. As often and as long as you can. I’m sure there’s some amount of time at your disposal, when you can be on your own. At least 20 minutes. If you spoke to yourself for 15 minutes daily, believe you me, your speaking will skyrocket. Maybe this is the best moment to tell you about preparation. If there’s some kind of a speech you have to give in English, rehearse it in front of the mirror. Practice as many times as you need until you start to feel confident. I’ve been rehearsing like this since highschool I guess, and it not only gives me confidence, it makes me feel less stressed, well-prepared, more self-confident as I said, but it also makes super pumped, psyched, I mean excited about the speech itself. It’s similar with this podcast. First I talk to myself and only then I’m ready for recording. I have to organize the content in my head and during this preparation get really excited with it.
Speach, presentation – they sound very serious, and not all of us give them. But you can rehearse anything: job interview, social meetings, small talks, anything! Proper prep eliminates the pressure. Run possible dialogues in your head, let the words sink in, put them in your inventory ready to be used when the time comes. Do it, especially if you’re freaking out before any occasion to speak English. During my studies I worked in a hostel, later also hotel, but I remember in a hostel at the reception desk and used to imagine possible questions from the guests or situations that might occur and I imagined my reactions and I had all dialogues ready made and prepared for being used the next day.
Finally we got to the last aspect, which is HOW to do it. How to talk to yourself? In other words: what to talk about? Well, you need to work out what’s best for you. If you prepare for a dialogue, a presentation, a job interview, a speech practice in front of the mirror. That’s my suggestion. Go through your presentation, think about possible questions from the audience, possible questions from the interviewer, imagine what the conversation will look like. If there’s nothing coming, talk to yourself about different things. I suggest starting with describing what you’re doing at the moment. Be your own narrator.
Now I’m driving a car.
I’m wearing jeans and a t-shirt.
I’m going to the library to find an interesting book.
Then, you can move on to talk to yourself about feelings. Tell yourself how do you feel and why.
I’m worried because tomorrow I’m going to have an important job interview.
You can also look at your surroundings and make educated guesses. When, for example you see somebody who looks nervous you can try guessing why he or she feels this way, for example:
She looks annoyed, she might be late for an important meeting and the bus seems to be late.
Practice probable situations in the future. Prepare yourself for using them in reality. Ask yourself questions and give answers. Imagine somebody asks you about travel. Example questions might be: Where did you spend your last holiday? Do you like visiting different countries? What’s your favourite place in Poland? How did you use to spend holiday in childhood? You can make your own list of questions a day before, or find lists of such questions online. Just type in the search box: conversation questions in English.
You might approach it differently. You can have a list of phrases, phrasal verbs and idioms and whatever you need, whatever you’d like to be able to use in your speaking. Focus on 2, 3 phrases a day and formulate sentences with them. Incorporate them in your speaking.
What I told you about improving your memory and feeling less anxious it’s based not only on my personal experience but also on research. Talking to yourself makes a huge difference. It takes your speaking to a different level. You have no other option really, but to start talking to yourself. No shame. Don’t hesitate and let me know what you think.
Have you ever used this method? How did it go? Or if you’ve never used it, what stops you? Let me know in the comments at teacherola.com/9. Don’t forget to download a worksheet and test yourself on some vocabulary items I used in this episode. Transcript is also available at teacherola.com/9.
If you know someone who might benefit from my podcast spread the word and let them know about me!
Next episode, and it’s already 10th, is a vocabulary booster. I’ll show you phrases to use when you want to agree with someone. Some alternatives to: yes, you’re right. Don’t miss it! Have an amazing week, I’ll be here next Wednesday. Till then, take care!
Happy learning, bye bye.