by Marc Anderson

Tips On How to Build Up Your Confidence When Speaking English

Portrait Of A Man Yelling Into A Megaphone

Update: There is a follow up to this blog post.  If you’d like to read about additional tips on improving your confidence in English, please read the post.  Also, I wrote another more recent post on confidence in English learning.  If you like this blog post, please make sure to visit the two links.

TalktoEveryone.com

Did I fool you?  I don’t think there really is a website by this name. But “talking to everyone” is one way to gain confidence in speaking English.  As an English as a Second Language teacher for over 3 decades, I hope to share some confidence-building skills with you. Thanks to the many students (and my friend who is a non-native English speaker) who gave me these insights through these years. If you make small goals and accomplish them, it gives you the confidence to go on to higher goals.John H. Johnson, Founder of Johnson Publishing, Co., 1st African-American to appear on Forbes 400 (the top richest 400 people in America), author of his autobiography that states, “If a poor boy from Arkansas can succeed, then anyone can.

Speak as Much as Possible

Group of children

Learning a language is just about like learning anything else.  The more you practice, the better you get. That’s worth repeating.  Learning a language is just like learning anything else.  The more you practice, the better you get (by ronke). There, that’s more like it… Maybe you can still remember what it was like to ride a two-wheeler for the first time or to swim your first lap. Stop to think about the first time you got in a car to drive, when you cooked a favorite recipe, or skied down that slippery slope.

  • Do you remember how you felt?  
  • Do you remember when it “just clicked”?
  • Perhaps, you felt a little scared. 
  • Perhaps, you were a little doubtful. 
  • Perhaps, you even wanted to q-u-i-t!

But, do you also remember that each time you continued that you got better and better until finally it became a habit?  How did you feel then?

  • I bet you felt proud. 
  • I know you felt confident. 
  • I think you probably wanted to go and do whatever it was, over and over again.
  • You probably even told someone, or maybe more than one person, about it.

Well, that is the same with speaking another language.  The more you speak, the easier it will be to speak.  The more you speak, the better your English will become. The better you speak, the more confident you will be at speaking a second language.  This will be an incentive to encourage you to speak even more. Before you know it, speaking English will be as natural as riding that bike or swimming a lap, driving a car or skiing down that hill. Let’s think of some of the natural ways you can speak English in your day.

So then, make it your goal to speak to one or two new people each day.

  • Speaking on the phone

Listen to those telemarketers and then respond. Ask them a question or tell them you are not interested in their product or service.

  • Repeating television or radio lines or songs

Turn on your favorite English station and try to mimic what you hear.  This will help you with proper pronunciation, grammar, understanding various phrases, and to practice the speed of everyday speech.  You might even become a better singer!

  • Reading out loud

Find something you enjoy reading.  By reading out loud, you will develop fluency, which is the art of speaking smoothly and having the words, phrases and sentences flow. It’s okay to stumble on a few words or have to look a word or two up in the dictionary. Hey, you can even skip a few words. Just continue to read.

  • Chatting with people on-line

Find opportunities to chat.  You will use many literacy skills. This is a great way to practice listening and visual attention, speaking and comprehension.

  • Talking to people while doing errands (grocery store, post office, library, gas station, bus depot/bus, taxi, theater, department store, etc.)

You probably encounter more people in more situations than you realize.  So that means more opportunity to speak.  For example, you could ask a question to the grocery clerk or ask how she/he is doing.  You could ask about a product or the cost of something.  You could ask the hours that the store is open. You could talk to people in line.  Anything to give you practice with general English conversation.

  • Volunteering

Volunteer to say something. Maybe you raise your hand in class and offer an idea or an answer.  Maybe you help a classmate understand something better.  Maybe you sign-up to help with some event at school, at church/mosque/synagogue etc, in your neighborhood. Is there some community facility that needs help?  How about an animal shelter or a hospital?  Maybe there is a place for those less fortunate so you can help with preparing food, clothing or toys.  Maybe you can talk to elementary students about your country?  Or if your native language is taught at the local high school, you can volunteer to talk to the class one day about your country and culture.  Any of these will get you out of the office or house and meeting people to talk more. And, in turn you will gain confidence.

Practice with a Friend

two beautiful young women having fun in the city

I found the ELL (English Language Learner) students who were the most successful and the most confident in speaking English were those students who became engaged with other English-speaking students.  Join a class or a club.  Go to some community event to meet people.  Join a gym.  Cultivate friendships.  Then practice English with this friend.  You will learn so much more about the culture and you will learn the language much faster. This was the best advice I used to give parents.  When they asked what more they could do for their children to be successful in another language, I encouraged them to sign their children up for something they liked.  Maybe a sports team or scouts. Maybe a camp or lessons in something.  Maybe playing an instrument in a local band or an art class. Maybe a chess club or dance club.  Maybe an exercise class or karate.  The sky is the limit. You just need to do a little looking at what is out there in your community. Read the local paper.  Pay attention to local advertisements.  This will help so much.  You will meet other people, use English, most likely enjoy the activity, feel confident in the activity especially if it something you have chosen to do or already know how to do or it is something you like, increase your confidence in English, begin to understand more of the culture and the language, feel a sense of belonging and assimilation, etc.  I guarantee you, that from this experience your knowledge will build and help you to gain even more confidence.

So then, make it your goal to join one activity this week.

Target an Area

Hand drawing target dartboard with chalk for set goal concept

If you think a bit, you probably can come up with an area of the English language that you need help with.  Maybe it is the use of articles, an idiom you just can’t figure out, or a question of how to use a particular word correctly.  Look at one of these each day, and see if you can improve your English in this area.  Learning new skills, vocabulary and concepts, and applying these to your everyday language will build confidence.  Make a goal to look at one of these areas today and to understand it better. I’ll never forget my friend’s first day in the US.  He took a bus to his language classes at a local college. When he came home, he alerted me that he followed my map and instructions and got on the bus, paid his fare, got off the bus, got to class, and he was able to get home safely and pretty much on time.  But, he had this strange look on his face.  He then asked me, “What’s a pen handy?” I did not know what he was talking about.  But, then he told me this lady who sat next to him on the bus asked him if he had a pen handy.  It was then that I smiled and realized this was just the beginning to a quest to learn another language and to live a life in another culture.  When I slowly explained that this meant “did he have a pen for her to borrow”, my friend was overjoyed that he had learned a new idiom. When he came home the second day, he could hardly wait to tell me that he asked the bus driver when he got on the bus. “Do you have a pen handy?” he grinned.

So, then make it your goal to target an area each day.  Remember, it can be just one simple thing, but bit by bit these simple things will grow into so much more.

Ask for Help

Young woman holding sign Do

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  I remember giving a lesson on how to buy gas at the gas station to someone who just moved to the US from Korea.  His first question to me was that he had a rental car and he needed to know what to do to buy gas.  He was afraid the gas was going to run out.  The next class period, this student was very late.  When he finally made it to class, he seemed overjoyed that he was late for my tutoring session. He excitedly told everyone that his warning light went on in the car and he was so happy because he knew what to say at the gas station to put the gas in and to pay for it. You could make a list of what you would like to learn and then see how you can go about learning this.  Practice asking questions you want answered.  Are there any situations that you anticipate being in?  Do you need help with something right away?  Then when you are in those situations, you will know just what to do and just what to ask.  You will feel immediate success just like the student who could fill up his gas tank and pay for the gas.

So then, make it your goal to ask for help to someone for something this week.

Believe It!

Remember, you can do it.  Say it with me:  I can do it!  You can speak with more confidence.  You can learn English and become a better speaker.  Believe in yourself.In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I have the belief that I can do something, I shall acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have had it in the beginning. So then, make it a goal to start today.

Until Next Time…In my next blog, I will continue to offer more helpful tips on how to become a better English speaker. Tips that I learned along the way from students just like you.  Until then, talk to everyone.  And, let me know what discoveries you make in your daily talks.  Did you meet a new friend?  Find an answer to something?  Join an interesting activity?  Volunteer to make a difference somewhere?  Target an area and succeed in understanding it?  Feel like you gained confidence in speaking?  Let me know by speaking to me via the comments section at the bottom of this blog post. Let me know, too, if you have any questions.

So then, until next time…

Now it’s your turn – what other tips do you have for improving your confidence? (Write them in the comments section below!)

Beautiful young woman with book on her head. Isolated on white.

About the author:

Marc Anderson is the co-founder and CEO of TalktoCanada. Since founding the company in 2006, he has grown it to over 25 staff with operations in 50 countries. Marc spends his time outside of TalktoCanada travelling, playing with his son and working on new business projects.

  • laxman singh

    thanks sir

  • Guest

    Your welcome Laxman Singh

  • Nice to read it

  • Hemant

    absolutely good tips

  • Hemant

    absolutely good tips

  • baran

    thank u so much. veryyyy helpful 🙂

  • baran

    thank u so much. veryyyy helpful 🙂

  • Eden Levii

    thank you from israel 🙂
    very helpful, you really cheered me up 🙂
    im definitely going to check out your other blog

  • Eden Levii

    thank you from israel 🙂
    very helpful, you really cheered me up 🙂
    im definitely going to check out your other blog

  • Laura Butler

    These are fantastic tips! Here’s another one: to build up your confidence when speaking in English, remember to smile at the person you are speaking to! 🙂 It will make them want to smile back, and to listen to what you are saying. Letting people know that you are friendly makes them want to speak with you even more, and to listen to what you are saying and asking. 🙂

    Thanks for a great blog post!

  • Laura Butler

    These are fantastic tips! Here’s another one: to build up your confidence when speaking in English, remember to smile at the person you are speaking to! 🙂 It will make them want to smile back, and to listen to what you are saying. Letting people know that you are friendly makes them want to speak with you even more, and to listen to what you are saying and asking. 🙂

    Thanks for a great blog post!

  • Mayank

    thanks bro ..such a nice motivating blog i ever seen for English 🙂 but can you tell me , some time i felt that i’m very good while speaking but then after some time like in any event i feel uncomfortable in English

    • No problem, glad you enjoyed the blog post. Everybody has issues of self-confidence when speaking English as a second language (even as a first language). This is normal to feel nervous or uncomfortable, with more English practice this will slowly go away 🙂

  • Mayank

    thanks bro ..such a nice motivating blog i ever seen for English 🙂 but can you tell me , some time i felt that i’m very good while speaking but then after some time like in any event i feel uncomfortable in English

    • No problem, glad you enjoyed the blog post. Everybody has issues of self-confidence when speaking English as a second language (even as a first language). This is normal to feel nervous or uncomfortable, with more English practice this will slowly go away 🙂

  • Ishwar

    Thanks for your suggestion.

  • Ishwar

    Thanks for your suggestion.

  • Practicing is the most most important thing here. The more you practice the more confident you become.

  • Haidee Dungca

    Thank you sir! This is so great! This blog helps me a lot! I’m Haidee from Philippines. I hope to see more of your blogs.

    • Thank you for the comment. Yes, check back every week as we post new and informative blog posts weekly.

      Thank you

  • Karthik

    Hey thanks bro, really thanks… seriously just now only i saw this blog spot, it boost up my confidence very much.. thank you very much.. hey i can understand what they are
    saying or speaking but i cant response them fluently in english, when i
    was spoke with them english means my mother tongue will be joined to that, i
    dont know how to change that??? pls give me some suggestion???

  • khan

    Thanks . Dear I have a problem, my problem is that during speaking English I stuck and become speechless … How can I avoid this

    • It’s as simple as practicing. Just like anything in life, if you do it enough times you’ll become better at it (of course it will be very hard at the beginning).

  • Zoya Zaidi

    Like it 🙂

  • gunner2014

    Thanks for your good post. I will like to know why I always forget what to say when I’m in a conversation? When ever I talk to my self I’m always fluent but when I talk with people, I tend to always forget what to say.

    • Do you feel nervous when you speak around others?

  • You got great tips here! English was part of my growing up years so it was not much of an ordeal when I entered school. However, when I graduated and met other people fluent in English, I really learned a lot and was able to hone my speaking skills even more. Constantly taking to other English speaking people will really improve your own speaking skills.

  • Abhay

    Thanks for a wonderful post. The best way to improve two way communication is “Talk to Customer Care” people, Create your own problems or lets say imagine your electrical appliance or cell phone has stopped working. Call @ customer care ( the 1800*****) number and try to explain your problem in English. Best of luck to all ELLs

    • Fantastic tip Abhay, this would definitely be another option to practice your English – just don’t call so much that they block your phone number 🙂

  • Prasad Wadkar

    hi sir may name is prasad from india i can speak english decently but there is just one problem in my english is that whenever i start to talk to somebody i get stuck because i dont know at that time that which sentence structure is correst at that time and i really get confuge. can you please suggest me any suggestion to get rid from that and your blog is so banifitial
    thanks for that

  • rulebreaker

    These are the really fantastic tips for us i will pursue it everyday and i can achieve the goal. thanx

  • Ajanth

    this is useful website

  • Tseji Lhamo

    Thanks. Those are very good tips.

  • SIMVA LY

    Hi , you have shared very helpful tip in term of speaking English. I will try them all to improve my speaking as well. Actually, i am going to write a report about how to improve speaking English to intermediate level of students. I have been looking for the relevant books to write my report.

    Could you recommend me some beneficial book about this?

    Thank you very much for your help.

    Best regard

    SIMVA LY

  • Shlomit Peace

    This is very helpful. And I’m glad that every comments has your response to make us feel your genuine support to your readers that we can confidently do it. Just believe in ourselves. For me when you starting to speak with others don’t think too much on what would be their reactions on how you speak, it’s really destructive for you. Speak or might you regret that you couldn’t even say a word. But you know you can! Tsk.. Actually that is my big problem or should i say my fear. My mind speaks but my mouth hardly say those words.

    • Hi Shlomit,

      Your fear is not unique nor is it impossible to overcome. Lot’s of our students suffer from the exact same problem as you (so don’t feel alone).

      What I would recommend is the following which may or may not be of interest to you (choose what works best for you).

      – Practice in front of a mirror talking to yourself about a topic that you normally talk about at work or outside of work.

      – For every difficult conversation you had, keep a note of it in a journal. At the end of the day, practice that conversation as if you were yourself and the person(s) who were talking with you.

      – Find a study buddy who you can talk with, who may be having the same difficulties as you. Choose a partner/friend who is going to be supportive and encouraging as you don’t want to feel intimidated while you practice.

      – Watch some English training videos to help you. We have a few English videos (more to come) http://www.youtube.com/user/talktoCanada or you can visit engvid.com which has hundreds of videos.

      – Lastly, view all of our blog posts as there is a lot of valuable information on here.

      Good luck,

      Marc

    • Saif Harar

      I too suffer from that problem

  • Sherli

    i like this most of my reading others. simply super. thanks for that. i will enjoyable and understanable to anyone.

  • Kanupriya Gupta

    hey…i really liked this site of yours …!!!! 🙂 can u please suggest me ways like when i face the crowd i start feeling nervous n my heart starts beating fast..i know u might find this funny……….how to overcome this problem….. please tell me…..!!!! 🙂

  • malith

    thank you very much for your lesson.i want improve my english vocabulary.because i haven’t more vocabulary.please tell me how increase it?

    • You can increase your English vocabulary over time while practicing English every opportunity you get…no short cuts here 🙂

  • Sallu Rama

    hi

  • Sallu Rama

    i want to speak fluent english can any one help me?

  • Syed Muhammad Raza Jafri

    Good information.. have More stuff about How to make spoken English Can be easy to share.

  • john

    Thank you!!! Very much for the tips:) it motivates and help me alot.
    But i have a questions.Since it was my first time to read this blogspot
    And dont have much time to practice the tips that you post. can you
    Give me some tips or advice that will help me to cope up with my speaking test for
    Tommorow.because our teacher will ask us one by one to explain a surprise topic that she will give.thank you once again hope that you will answer it and sorry for my bad grammar.but if you cannot understand my english you are free to ask me so i can correct it:)

  • john

    Thank you!!! Very much for the tips:) it motivates and help me alot.
    But i have a questions.Since it was my first time to read this blogspot
    And dont have much time to practice the tips that you post. can you
    Give me some advice or strategies that will help me to cope up with my speaking test for
    Tommorow.because our teacher will ask us one by one to explain a surprise topic that she will give.thank you once again hope that you will answer it and sorry for my bad grammar.but if you cannot understand my english you are free to ask me so i can correct it:)

  • john

    Thank you!!! Very much for the tips:) it motivates and help me alot.
    But i have a questions.Since it was my first time to read this blogspot
    And dont have much time to practice the tips that you post. can you
    Give me some tips or strategies that will help me to cope up with my speaking test for
    Tommorow.because our teacher will ask us one by one to explain a surprise topic that she will give.thank you once again hope that you will answer it and sorry for my bad grammar.but if you cannot understand my english you are free to ask me so i can correct it:)

    • john

      If you cannot answer it today you may still post it anytime. Thank you?

    • You’re taking an English class because you need to learn so don’t worry if you don’t do great on this test or assignment…over time you’ll get better. I can’t offer many tips to greatly improve your English for this test…study everyday and don’t wait until test time to study. 🙂

      You could also ask your teacher before the test, what topics will you be choosing. If she can’t tell you the exact topics she’ll be choosing, ask her to give you possible examples and study all of those.

      Marc

  • Shampa Thakur

    Reading is good “Passive” way of improving vocabulary, but when you are resorting to making lists, that is “Active” method. Problem with active method of learning words is that it is cumbersome and boring, and you doing retain and unless you use it in writing sentences to apply the word, very little chance is that you increase your lexical size.
    Improve Your Vocabulary – VocabMonk is an active learning tool which is personalized and makes sure you grasp the learnt words by applying it. It is lot of fun too as you can play vocab challenges with your friends.
    Give it a shot!

  • Jija Menon

    I am happy to know that someone like you exists in the market as you seem to be having a great passion in what you do. I am from India and I speak four languages. I have been educated in English Medium school. My problem is that in my earlier days I feel I had greater confidence about speaking in English and the vocabularies were right at the tip of my mind when I needed them. But over a period of time after working with mixed group of people, seems that vocabs have gotten dumped somewhere beneath and retrieval and fluency has gotten impacted. What do you recommend as a remedy to this?

    • That’s really fantastic that you know four languages. While I don’t know four languages, I can attest to the fact it sometimes gets confusing when speaking multiple languages on a daily basis. When I went to Quebec, where they speak French, I couldn’t even remember the most basic of French to get by. This had to do with the fact that I hadn’t been around French in a while and maybe from spending a lot of time learning Arabic (I don’t know for sure). Either way, I had difficulty coming up with the vocabulary to speak French and felt the same way that you feel now. After a few days of hearing French everywhere, I was able to slowly remember the little bit of French that I do know in order to communicate effectively.

      I find if it’s a confidence issue, like anything in life you just need to do more of that activity. When I first started TalktoCanada I was terrified to teach English and to meet with prospective clients but over time I was able to build my confidence by doing more of these activities. Now, I can travel anywhere in the world and meet with clients and not feel afraid or have a lack of confidence.

      So what I’m saying is that maybe you need to practice more to build up your confidence again.

      This is my suggestion, I don’t know if it will work or not for you…however it turns out for you please let me know.

      Marc

      • Jija Menon

        Thanks so much for your reply. I kind of agree with you that it is a matter of confidence and your recommendation is good… I will definitely try to continue with my effort to speak in English and will like to keep in touch with you to ensure that I become as passionate about English as you.

  • Anita

    Hey, I am Anita and English is probably my 2nd/3rd language. I have ESL, I am an ESL student. I don’t feel comfortable speaking with anyone. I am always quite in every of my classes and I have no one to talk to. I don’t feel confident. when I try to talk I always get stuck and it makes it worst. I don’t really know that much English and I want to know moreeee ENGLISH! these are great tips but I will not able to do them so..Please help me. I want to bring myself into the real world and not into the dark one. <3

    • Hi Anita,

      I wouldn’t be helping you if I told you other tips. You need to practice speaking with people so you feel comfortable. Nobody said you had to talk to every student in your class, if you’re shy start by making 1 friend in the class – maybe the guy or girl sitting beside in class you slowly over time (start by asking for a pen/pencil and then over time you can ask them more and more about themselves in English of course).

      It’s normal to not feel confident when English isn’t your first language (it’s even hard for some people to speak English where English is their first language). If you keep avoiding doing all/some of the activities and tips above you’ll never improve your English and bring yourself into the real world. If you never talk to anybody, how will ever be able to carry on a conversation in English? If you keep avoiding talking to people you won’t be able to achieve English fluency. I’m not telling you to go and talk with every single English person you meet, just start with 1 other student in the class and slowly build up confidence that way.

      It will get better but you need to make small steps towards building your confidence and the only way you’ll build your confidence talking to English speakers is by talking to other English speakers.

      Good luck,

      Marc

  • Mohan Chalagh

    plzz give me a better idea for how too am speak english like other poples

  • Dhanesh Rathore

    inlingua New Delhi helped me to speak English fluently by encouraging me to speak in English more often. But still I can’t get the higher degree words in common use. How can I get fluent with it? Please help

    • Take 1 big word that you want to use in daily conversation. Write that word down in a notebook of any kind along with the definition. Practice using this word in a typical sentence you’d say during the course of a day. Now, next time you have the opportunity to use this word in a conversation that day, use it. Practice 5-7 words a week and you’ll do great. I find it hard also to use words in general conversational speaking when I don’t use them very often so try the above tip and tell me how it goes.

      Good luck, Marc

  • akhila

    i want to know how to talk english casually…wid our frnds..

  • Jafeena Thaha

    Nice tips!!!!!!

    I have two suggestions for making your English better.

    1. Whenever you are thinking, just think in English.
    2. Try writing a diary in English

    At first, you will not be able to find appropriate words but will definitely improve after some time.

    • This is a great ideain improving your English – use it in your everyday life outside of class and you’ll do great 🙂

      Thanks for visiting, Marc

  • Jim Ara

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    Thanks for sharing this nice information with us. You have many interesting and valuable
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  • Aaryan Ratra

    bro yesterday i was travellin in a metro way to my house ther a foriegner asked me something in english at that time i became very frightened but i relied him welly and patiently but now after reading your article i will try more to talk in english yhank you ….(Y)

    • That’s fantastic, English learning begins at times when you get out of your comfort zone and talk to other people. Good luck!!!

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  • ruby daubert

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  • Roobi

    Nice blog after much google search .I am not native speaker of English,i tried but couldn’t abjure my fear while speaking English that i make misrakes .
    With help of your tips ll try to enhance my ability to speak English with ease.

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  • Emilia Fuente

    Thank you for this article. I wanted to study english online to boost my confidence.