Think about how you spend your time, and try to maximise the opportunities you
have to speak English:
If you spend your social life with a friend or a partner
who is a native English speaker, you will improve your speaking skills faster.
Try to become involved in your local community. You can go to social
events where you can meet other people.
When you are by yourself, you can use the telephone, voice mail or video conferencing
to speak to people.
If you are studying in the UK, try to find accommodation
which is shared with native English speakers.
Try to find a job in which you will need to speak English.
Choose a school or class in which there are not too many
people who speak the same language as you.
Travel within the UK.
(handling everyday situations with confidence)
Author: Dorothy Massey
Publisher: Studymates Limited
Date: May 2003
Author: Michael Ockenden
Date: March 1987
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Make an English-speaking friend is a good way to improve your English
while enjoying yourself at the same time. It is not always easy for foreign
students to make British friends, however. Many British people do not talk much
to people they don't know (strangers). Many people create a group (known as
a circle) of close friends and usually meet people who are introduced by one
of those friends. This can make it difficult at first for a foreign student
to make friends in the UK (it is also difficult for a British person who moves
to a new area of the country). This doesn't mean that people are unfriendly,
just that they are conservative about making a friend. Be patient, and don't
assume that the person doesn't like you. Once you have made a friend, that friendship
will often be a very warm one and may last for life.
Even if your friend is not a native English speaker, you will still learn a
lot by talking to each other in English. If you are in the UK, try to avoid
making friends only with people of your own nationality, or agree to speak in
English when you meet.
You will not make any British friends unless you meet British people! If you
do not meet many in your daily life, try attending some social
Offering a personal language exchange can be a good way of making a friend
who is interested in your culture, and learning English too. You offer to meet
a British person regularly, and when you meet you speak in English for half
of the time and in your own language for the other half of the time. If you
are living in the UK and there is a university in your town, contact its language
department and find out if you can leave an advertisement there for an exchange
with one of its students. You could also advertise for such a partner in a local
newspaper or free ads paper, or ask to put an advertisement on a noticeboard
in your local library or newsagent's window. If you are living outside the UK,
place an advertisement in a newspaper of magazine used by the English-speaking
HOST is a voluntary organisation which arranges short stays with British
families for international students at universities or colleges in the UK: http://www.hostuk.org.
Some universities organise their own International Student Friendship
scheme, in which overseas students are given the chance to stay for a weekend
with local families.
International Student House (ISH) in London organise social events, a
film club and a travel club for international students (you do not have to be
a member of one of their language schools). For details, see their website:
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You will have more chances to speak to native
English speakers if you try to get involved in the British community in some way.
Events connected with your culture
If you are not in the UK, ask your local office of the British Council
about social events in your country involving local British people.
In the UK, you may want to ask the cultural section of your London embassy
about events or societies for people interested in your country, culture or language.
You may find details of clubs in newsletters aimed at your nationality.
You can also try to use an internet search engine such as http://www.google.co.uk.
Enter both nationalities or countries in the search together with a word such
as club or society. Note that you may want to try using Anglo
instead of British/English (you can specify Scottish, Welsh or Irish if you wish
to limit yourself to these countries). Clubs are often referred to as, for example,
Anglo-Japanese, Anglo-Brazilian, Anglo-German societies (the
Anglo- part is always placed first).
Sometimes there are clubs or events for people speaking a certain language or
coming from a certain region of the world (for example, the Africa Centre
in London: http://www.africacentre.org.uk).
You can find links to useful websites (including the British Council and your
embassy) by selecting Country from the menu at the top of the screen and
choosing your region and country.
There are also international societies, which do not limit themselves to
people from one country of speakers of a certain language. These clubs are often
run by university or college students who are interested in foreign cultures (you
can often join these even if you are not a member of the university or college).
See Meetings for some international
social meetings in London.
for details of some Christian groups in the UK which offer friendship to international
Some groups may also be listed on the Links
page (select your country for a list of links that are relevant to people from
General social events
As well as joining events connected with your culture, try to join other types
of club or activity in which you may get a chance to speak with British people.
Some examples are:
- local "meetup" groups: see http://www.meetup.com
(for example, English as a Second Language meetups or those for people who are
interested in your culture/language)
- a local club or youth club
- your local pub: see Britain/Food/Pubs
- a local gym, health club, sports team or walking club: see Life/Sport/Guide
- evening classes (adult education) at a local school: see school
- a local orchestra (but you may need your own instrument)
- voluntary work: see Work/Job/Volunteer
- a local church
- clubs or activities organised by your university, college or embassy (for example,
a film club or travel club)
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Living with a British host family can be a good way of doing this, although
the amount of contact you have varies a lot between different families, and sometimes
the family may not be native speakers or may have an accent which you find difficult
to understand, making conversation with them difficult. If you are sharing accommodation
with people with the same native language as you, ask them if they will agree
to speak English to you, at least most of the time.
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For advice about finding a job, see Work/Search.
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Schools often concentrate their marketing in a few countries, or only have agreements
with agents in a few countries, so this can mean that a high percentage of students
in your class come from your country. In July and August there may be many students
from France, Italy and Spain at language schools, because in Europe summer is
the time of the longest school holidays. If class sizes are large, there may not
be many opportunities to speak.One Conversation class
Join an evening class in something that interests you (many courses start
in September or October, at the same times as local school terms).
If you take courses in subjects which are of interest to local people, most of
your classmates will probably be English speakers.
In London, there are two main publications giving information about local courses:
(1) Hot Courses: http://www.hotcourses.com
(2) Floodlight: http://www.floodlight.co.uk
If you are an advanced student of English and wish to take a course in London
which focuses on pronunciation, accent reduction, phonetics,
word stress or intonation
Short courses typically involve classes of 2 hours once per week for about 8-10
Some short courses are for people from a certain language group, eg Slavic/Latin/South
- Pronunciation Studio: http://www.pronunciationlondon.co.uk
- Westminster Training: http://www.westminstertraining.com
Some short courses accept students from mixed language groups, but may have more
than one level
- City Lit: http://www.citylit.ac.uk/courses/Drama%2C_dance_and_speech/Communication_courses_for_speakers_of_other_languages
- London Metropolitan Business School: http://www.londonmet.ac.uk/lmbs/short-courses/english-pronunciation-courses.cfm
- Mary Ward Centre: http://www.marywardcentre.ac.uk/Courses/English/CoursesEnglish.asp
Some voice and dialect coaches offer one-to-one tuition to English learners (they
often also help to train actors)
It is also possible to take an intensive summer course in English phonetics:
- UCL: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/psychlangsci/scep
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If you go travelling, you will have more opportunities to practice your speaking
skills. If you travel independently you will need to arrange travel, accommodation
and sightseeing, and you will have opportunities to meet new people. If you go
on a tour, you will have a chance to speak to the tour guide and other people
on the tour. For ideas about places to visit in the UK, see: Travel/Tours.
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