How to Improve English Communication Skills

Improving your English communicative ability is about first knowing your goals for learning English and then establishing clear steps for reaching your goals. Once you have done that, focus on fluency rather than accuracy; then work on skills that will help you convey exactly what you mean to say.

How to Improve English Communication Skills
How to Improve English Communication Skills (Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images)

Things You'll Need

  • Video excerpts of native English speakers in conversation
  • Books on English gestures and clarification strategies
  • Audio Books or podcasts

Non-Verbal Cues and Gestures

Step 1:

Get a good book on the gestures that native English speakers employ. This book should be written by an expert in your own language. From this you should gain an understanding of the cultural cues behind the gestures and the norms of their use.

Use hand gesture
Use hand gesture (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)
Step 2:

Watch a 5-minute video of native speakers and take note of the gestures they use. This should be a dialogue. Do not worry about understanding everything they say; comprehension is not as important here as imitation.

Watch a video of native speakers
Watch a video of native speakers (BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)
Step 3:

Watch the video again in short 20- or 30-second increments, and try to repeat as closely as possible the same gestures and intonation. Repeat until you are confident of your performance. If possible, record yourself performing the dialogue. Compare your performance to the original and identify your weak points.

Watch the video again in short 20- or 30-second increments
Watch the video again in short 20- or 30-second increments (Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)
Step 4:

Become confident in using your hands when speaking. You will be amazed at how much you can communicate with your hands. Note that native speakers use such hand gestures in coordination with verbal communication to more clearly convey ideas.

Become confident in using your hands when speaking.
Become confident in using your hands when speaking. (Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images)
Step 5:

Speak with confidence. Remember: native English speakers make mistakes, too. One of the key differences between native and non-native speakers is how they deal with mistakes.

Clarfication Strategies

Step 1:

If you make a mistake when speaking, DON'T WORRY. Watch the facial cues of your conversation partner to see if they understood what you intended to say. If you are unsure that your meaning has been clearly conveyed, ask a question such as "Did that make sense?" or "Am I being clear?" This is an example of a clarification strategy.

Clarfication Strategies
Clarfication Strategies (Visage/Stockbyte/Getty Images)
Step 2:

Study synonyms and antonyms, and practice explaining complicated ideas in simpler words. The key to improving your communicative competency is being understood, in any way possible—it is not to appear "perfect" (in fact, there is no such thing as a perfect English speaker).

Study synonyms and antonyms
Study synonyms and antonyms (John Howard/Lifesize/Getty Images)
Step 3:

Find a conversation partner—someone who will speak English with you for about an hour or two a week. Improving communicative ability will take time. Have patience. Reward yourself frequently for the small gains you make. Be sure to speak only English with your conversation partner.

Find a conversation partner
Find a conversation partner (Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Intonation and Pronunciation

Step 1:

Find some English songs you like and learn to sing them.

Find some English songs you like and learn to sing them.
Find some English songs you like and learn to sing them. (Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)
Step 2:

Observe the mouth movements of native speakers. Again, a good video will be invaluable here.

Observe the mouth movements of native speakers.
Observe the mouth movements of native speakers. (Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)
Step 3:

Buy some audio books. Listen and repeat some parts, even if you don't understand everything. You can do this when doing housework, for example.

Buy some audio books.
Buy some audio books. (Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)
Step 4:

Read aloud in English for 15 to 20 minutes every day, paying special attention to "-s" and "-ed" word endings. This will strengthen your mouth and tongue muscles and accustom your mouth to English pronunciation.

Read aloud in English for 15 to 20 minutes every day
Read aloud in English for 15 to 20 minutes every day (Visage/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Developing an "English Ear"

Step 1:

Do some intense listening practice for 5 to 10 minutes every day. This means focusing intently on a news program, a podcast or an audio book that you find interesting.

Developing an "English Ear"
Developing an "English Ear" (Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)
Step 2:

Do some passive listening for 20 to 30 minutes every day. This means just hearing English in the background while you are doing some other activities. This will acclimate your ear to the rhythm and cadence of English.

Do some passive listening for 20 to 30 minutes every day.
Do some passive listening for 20 to 30 minutes every day. (BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)
Step 3:

Choose a word or two and repeat them to yourself throughout the day. Don't do this in front of other people, though!

Vocabulary

Step 1:

Identify words that are frequently used in subjects that interest you.

Step 2:

Choose five of these words every day. Before going to bed, write the words three times on a piece of paper, and then say each word aloud to yourself three times. Finally, reread the three words and silently repeat them in your head.

Step 3:

Study the same five words when you wake up in the morning, using the same pattern as described in the previous step.

Step 4:

Carry a few flash cards with you throughout the day. During a free moment, quiz yourself with the flashcards or simply review them. Research has shown that a student must use a new word about 15 times before being able to remember it consistently.

Carry a few flash cards with you throughout the day
Carry a few flash cards with you throughout the day (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)
Step 5:

Record yourself saying your target words and their definitions. Carry this recording with you and listen to it at various times during the day, preferably when you are doing something that does not require much attention, e.g., during your commute, when doing housework, while exercising.

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Tips & Warnings

  • Do not set a goal of an error-free, native-like performance. Seldom can anyone reach this goal.

References

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