Firstly, I learnt to think in English. When I was driving, I often thought of many things. You know, driving is boring, especially when there are lots of traffics. So, I thought of my study, my work, my boyfriend, my family, my friends, etc. I thought of everything; therefore I was rarely annoyed by the traffic jam. When I get used to English thinking, I can speak and write more easily.
Now, I just write what I’m thinking. I don’t translate. I don’t care of grammar or vocabulary. That’s dangerous because I still make careless mistakes. But it helps me to speak more fluently.
Secondly, I learn how to pronounce correctly. I attended the Pronunciation course at Apollo and it was very helpful. The teacher was very passionate. She inspired me to speak correctly and speak more. But I think you can also learn by yourself as long as you are determined to speak as natives. The textbook that was used in Apollo is “Pronunciation in Use” by Mark Hancook. It’s really useful and engaging.
The first thing we should learn is the phonetic chart. I recognize that English phonetic syllabus is just exactly the same as Vietnamese. When you are aware of that, it will be a lot easier for you to pronounce correctly.
I advise you to pay attention to the ending sound because it’s the heart of English speaking. By the way, it took me 3 months to get used to the right pronunciation.
The next step is improving my intonation. You would have recognized that native speaker’s voice are up and down, up and down as they are singing. I deeply fall in love with English because of that. But I couldn’t do that until recently. I don’t want to sound like a Vietnamese speaking English, I want to speak as natives. So, it took me 2 years to improve my intonation. At this moment, I’m still not very satisfied with my speaking skill. But overall, I’m doing good and maybe better than many.
How did I improve my intonation? That was mainly because I had chance to listen to native speakers every day when I was in Melbourne (Australia accent was strange to me btw). For the first 2 months, I couldn’t get what they said but I still listened to them. Honestly, it was hard not to listen to them when they were surrounding me (in the supermarket, at school, on train,…). You may find that my above experience is not useful because you live in Vietnam and are not surrounded by the native speakers. How about making them surrounding you? Listen to music, movies, podcast,… anything that is in English. Listen to them without transcript script so that you can pay more attention to their rhyme, tones, and accent rather than the content. So, I spent 6 months to listen to native speakers. When I came home, I was still not good at Speaking!!!!!!!!! Why? Because I didn’t speak much. I was afraid of making silly mistakes!!!
The chance came when I agreed to host a Swiss girl. She came here to attend the International Week as an international student. She lived with me at the same room. At the first night, we talked in 4 hours!!!! Thanks God, she has excellent speaking skill. So, I both learnt from her and talked to her. We talked almost every night in 2 weeks she staying here. She encouraged me to speak as much as I can and she claimed that my speaking skill is very good. Her compliment boosted my confidence thus I no longer cared of my silly mistakes. When she came home, I can finally talk without translating in my mind and my intonation is good.
Last but not least, remember that self-confidence is the key attribute to speaking skill. So, don’t be afraid of making mistakes or lacking of vocabulary. The more you practice, the better you are.
By Tu Quynh