Many of you guys write me on Facebook asking where you can go to practice your English. Unfortunately, there are not many places where you can do this in Tashkent. But then you wonder how in the world you can improve your speaking skills. I completely understand what you are going through. When I was a student back in 2000 (OMG 14 years ago) I also did not know what to do with my speaking.
So I met with foreign visiting teachers, attended speaking clubs, opened and ran my own English Club and hang out with students whose spoken English was very and very good. It all helped me a lot but most importantly running my own English Club and hangouts with friends helped me most.
The main reason for that was that at English Club I had that freedom, authority and opportunity to create a friendly, supportive and vibrant atmosphere among my club members. And I did it. I ran that club together with my students 5 years until we graduated from the university, got full-time jobs and stopped everything. By that time, I and my students improved our speaking skills.
Now if you think you cannot open and run your own English Club at your school, lyceum, college or university, that’s fine. I understand that. Running a club requires a lot of time, energy, and dedication.
Here is the alternative you can try and this is also a tactic that worked wonders for me too. So in order to practice your speaking skills, find students whose English especially spoken English is almost perfect. Go and make friends with them. I had 3 or 4 such friends when I was studying at the university and their help was out of this world.
However, before getting started knowing the following guidelines can be very useful for you. They will help you to maximize the effect so that your relationship will be long lasting, strong and sincere. All of these tips will make your conversation enjoyable and engaging.
Please note that I did not follow many of them when I was a student back then and I was always wondering why in the world those students did not want to talk to me. The problem was on my side not on theirs. When I fixed the problem (somehow) it was a complete game change. Many things worked the way I wanted. So here today I am sharing with of the tips you can use if you want to make friends with students with almost excellent speaking skills and practice your English for FREE.
1. Position yourself as a learner
Maybe you read a lot of books and think you know more than anybody else. That’s great. However, people do not like when they are talking to someone who always poses himself as smart and all-knower. If you think you are smart and know everything keep everything inside till the right moment comes.
But if you want to make people talk to you, first take the position of a learner, not a teacher, not a preacher, not an all-knower and so on. Make your companion feel good about himself. Be patient. Wait. Oh... I almost forgot. Also do not position yourself as a stupid. Just because you cannot speak English very well does not mean you are dumb. Just relax. Be yourself. Be frank and you will see that more people will be attracted to you.
Bottom line: position yourself properly.
2. Control your talking time
Once you position yourself properly, pay attention how much of a talking you are doing and your partner are doing. If you think you have been talking too much, cut it short as soon as possible. People do not generally want to listen to people for a long time. And if you are speaking English to your friend trying to practice your English, then you must be making those silly grammar mistakes and pronouncing the words incorrectly.
It frustrates anyone. So watch out how long you are speaking. This is something I always try to do myself. I see my conversation with the people as a table tennis. First I shoot and then my partner does. This way I keep the conversation going, engaging and interesting for both of us.
Bottom line: watch out and keep conversations two-sided.
3. Avoid personal questions
Once your conversation becomes engaging your job is to keep it active as long as possible depending on your friend’s time and wish. In this situation if you ask a personal question it can create a discomfort for your friend and push him to end the conversation. That’s why do all your best – do not ask personal questions.
I have so many close friends in Tashkent but rarely do we talk about personal issues unless our topic is about something personal. However, if my friend starts talking about his/her personal life, then I also try to share something personal from my own life. This makes our conversation more personal and makes us more connected. When we are connected we just enjoy our conversation.
Bottom line: no personal questions.
4. Listen with an open heart
When the person you are talking to, asks a question, listen carefully. And not just listen carefully but also show it with your body language and face expression. If you are holding a mobile phone, put it on the table. Stop checking it every five seconds. It really frustrates people and from outside it looks very ugly. Make sure you are shining on your face too and not looking bored, fed up or indifferent. Nothing, nothing can switch the person off than a bored face expression.
Bottom line: listen with a great interest.
5. Complain less
I just hate people who always and always complain about everything. I am not saying I never complain. I also complain. We all complain. But I do all my best not to complain when I am speaking to someone for the first time or if I want to have a warm and productive conversation.
Unfortunately, when I was a student and made friends with those guys to practice my English, our conversations would end very quickly because I used to complain a lot. That’s why complain less because it creates negativity. Negativity creates a bad atmosphere and bad atmosphere kills your and your friend’s spirit. When you both start feeling down, you want to end your conversation as quickly as possible because you just do not want to discuss anything.
Bottom line: watch out your mouth.
6. Be time conscious
During the conversation pay also an attention that you are not keeping your friend in your friend for a long time. I usually ask my partner if he or she is still willing to continue talking and whether I am not taking too much of his and her time.
It helps us maintain our dialogue as civil as possible because depending on our time we either cut our conversation short or we keep it going. This way we both do not make each other feel over pressured. It is good because if we want to meet over again, we will not be reluctant and do our best to meet to talk.
Bottom line: do not waste your friend’s time.
7. Ask interest-based questions
Now this is the last point. Before you try to start a conversation like I said before try to take the position of a learner, listen more so that you can learn more about your friend’s area of interest. Once you understand what topics interest him most, try to ask related questions. This will boost the engagement from your friend’s side.
Just one little another tip though. When you dig in your friend’s area of interest, try to make sure his interests also match to your own interests. Otherwise, you will just end up listening to him till the end and you will just hate that “conversation”. For example, when I meet with my friends and if they suddenly start talking about their car, price of petrol I just feel myself switched off because I do not have a car and news and everything related to car and petrol does not bother much (at the moment).
Bottom line: discuss things that matter to each other most.