City Business Women

Improve your speaking skills



Speaking is a COMPLEX SKILL. It includes pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, conversation management and more.

What exactly do you need to improve?

  1. Pronunciation (make your speech clear, speak not too fast and not too slow)
  2. Grammar (making less mistakes)
  3. Vocabulary (using more words)
  4. Conversation management strategies (how to ask for explanations when you don’t understand)
  5. Confidence level (how ‘brave’ you are to start and continue conversations)
  6. Knowledge of appropriate language for specific situations


How to improve your speaking:


Pronunciation includes:

Individual sounds and groups of sounds


Linking words in a sentence

Stressing the key words

Speed of speaking (not too fast, not too slow)

Volume of speaking (how loud)


If you speak too softly, people will not understand you. Try speaking louder and see if that helps.

If you speak too fast, people will not understand you. Try speaking slower and see if that helps.

One of the most important things you can do to improve your pronunciation is REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT – when watching TV, when talking to people, when listening to the radio, when checking words in the dictionary.

To learn how to improve your pronunciation, click on “English Pronunciation in Sentences” and see the menu on the left side for details.


How to improve your speaking:


What is grammar?

Grammar is patterns. Grammar books call them ‘rules’. Many students study rules but cannot use them in speaking. Children don’t study rules but they speak correctly. How do children do it?

Children repeat the patterns. They don’t understand grammar – they simply listen and repeat! They don’t know, they don’t care, they don’t worry – they just repeat what they hear. And in this way they learn to speak correct English.

Grammar mistakes happen when you translate from your first language. Different languages have different grammar. Notice the differences between English and your first language.

So how can you improve your grammar in speaking?

1.  Repeat the right patterns – when you listen to other speakers (on TV, radio, your children who speak better English or your teacher in class). If your teacher corrected you, please repeat – you will make your teacher happy.

2. No teacher can be with you 24 hours a day 7 days a week! You must become your own teacher! Listen to yourself. When you made a mistake, stop and correct it. If you hear “Yesterday, I go shopping.” change it and say it correctly: “Yesterday I went shopping.”

3. Do you know which mistakes you usually make? Maybe you drop the ‘s’ in plural? (My two friend are… I mean my two friends are…)  Do you forget to change verbs in the past? ( I go… I mean I went…) Pay special attention to those mistakes.


If your English is low level (Canadian Language Benchmarks level 1, 2, 3 and 4), native speakers will usually be okay with you making mistakes. However, if your level is 5, 6, 7 or 8 and you make simple grammar mistakes (if you say ‘two friend’ and not ‘two friends’), native speakers will not be so forgiving. If you go to a job interview, it’s especially important not to make simple grammar mistakes or you might not get that job.


One more important thing you need to know about grammar mistakes. English teachers call it ‘fossilization’. If you repeat a mistake many times, it gets ‘fossilized’. It’s like a path your brain is walking. If you walk that path many times, this is the path your brain will want to walk all the time. For example, if you usually say “he go, he go, he go”, it will be very difficult to change to “he goes”. Be aware of fossilization. This is the reason you need to stop and change your sentence if you notice that you made a mistake.

Correct grammar is something you can control. It is within your power. Don’t be lazy – try to speak correctly and it will soon become automatic.

(For more information on how to learn English fast like children, click here.)


How to improve your speaking:


People have two types of vocabulary: Active and Passive.

Active Vocabulary are all the words that you use when speaking.

Passive Vocabulary are all the words you understand when reading.

Passive Vocabulary is always larger than Active Vocabulary, even in native speakers.


Some students read a lot and use their dictionaries to translate words. They also like to write them down in a notebook. These students usually have a large Passive Vocabulary.

Other students don’t like to read. Or they don’t like to use dictionaries. They usually have a small Passive Vocabulary.


Reading helps develop your Passive vocabulary. Speaking develops your Active Vocabulary.

The best way to improve your speaking vocabulary is to use the new words in conversations. Read the news, translate important words and then tell this news to somebody – co-workers, English-speaking friends, classmates or even your family members. This way you ACTIVATE your vocabulary. If you don’t use the new words in a conversation, they will either go into your passive vocabulary or you will simply forget them.


How to improve your speaking:

Conversation Management

To be successful when speaking in conversations, you need to learn and use Conversation Management Strategies. These are part of your listening/speaking skill set and are extremely important.


How to improve your speaking:

Confidence level

How do you feel when speaking English? Do you feel confident (=brave and strong) or do you feel afraid?

Confidence means you believe that you can do it, you believe in your abilities.


Some people feel shy. Shy in Canada is not good. Shy is a problem. Shy means you are afraid.

You can choose not to be shy. Choose to be brave, choose to be outgoing – this will help you improve your English and find a good job.

There is an easy way to change your shyness. Before any conversation, take several minutes to PREPARE for it. Write down your sentences if necessary. And check some words in the dictionary if you don’t know them in English. You feel shy when you don’t know what to say. You feel confident when you know what to say, so prepare for your conversations.


In English, it is good to articulate your words. In some cultures it’s not polite to open your mouth – in Canada, it is perfectly okay to open your mouth wide to speak clearly. Don’t mumble – speak loudly and clearly if you want people to understand you.


Canada is a risk-tolerant country. Some countries are risk-averse. People in Canada respect those who take risk in order to get a good result.

Every time you speak English you take a risk – you risk that people may not understand you. Maybe you come from a risk-averse culture and you are afraid to make mistakes. In Canada, people will not respect you if you are shy and scared. Be brave, look people in the eye, speak clearly and your efforts will bring good results.

Canada is a multicultural country. This means that there are many people here who speak with different accents. Some accents are difficult to understand. But, if you live in a big city like Toronto or Vancouver, your future boss/manager may be a person who speaks with an accent. So try to make friends and talk to immigrants from different countries. Learning to understand other accents will make you more confident in conversations.


How to improve your speaking:

Knowledge of appropriate language for specific situations

What do people usually say at the bank, at the library, when calling a doctor’s office or when a guest comes to your house?

Speaking is easy when you know the appropriate language for each situation. And the good news is, these sentences are typical and the number of them is limited.

For example:

At the library: “Hi, I’m looking for a book about…”

At the bank: “Hi, I would like to pay my credit card / withdraw some cash…”

Calling a doctor’s office: “Hi, I’d like to make an appointment..”

Talking to a guest: “Would you like something to drink? Coffee, tea, juice…”

Asking for help: “Excuse me, could you please help me? I need…”

Inviting someone: “Would you like to join our party?”

At a coffee shop: “Hi, can I get a medium coffee…”

These phrases are part of Canadian culture. They are probably different then those in your first language, that’s why they are so important to learn. For more examples, please see “Speaking Politely in Canada“.