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English / Speaking
How to improve your English speaking skills
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Speaking (c)

Think about how you spend your time, and try to maximise the opportunities you have to speak English:

Social life
If you spend your social life with a friend or a partner who is a native English speaker, you will improve your speaking skills faster.
Try to become involved in your local community. You can go to social events where you can meet other people.
When you are by yourself, you can use the telephone, voice mail or video conferencing to speak to people.

If you are studying in the UK, try to find accommodation which is shared with native English speakers.

Try to find a job in which you will need to speak English.

Choose a school or class in which there are not too many people who speak the same language as you.

Travel within the UK.

Speaking English
(handling everyday situations with confidence)
Author: Dorothy Massey
Publisher: Studymates Limited
Date: May 2003
Situational Dialogues
Author: Michael Ockenden
Publisher: Longman
Date: March 1987

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Make an English-speaking friend is a good way to improve your English while enjoying yourself at the same time. It is not always easy for foreign students to make British friends, however. Many British people do not talk much to people they don't know (strangers). Many people create a group (known as a circle) of close friends and usually meet people who are introduced by one of those friends. This can make it difficult at first for a foreign student to make friends in the UK (it is also difficult for a British person who moves to a new area of the country). This doesn't mean that people are unfriendly, just that they are conservative about making a friend. Be patient, and don't assume that the person doesn't like you. Once you have made a friend, that friendship will often be a very warm one and may last for life.

Even if your friend is not a native English speaker, you will still learn a lot by talking to each other in English. If you are in the UK, try to avoid making friends only with people of your own nationality, or agree to speak in English when you meet.

You will not make any British friends unless you meet British people! If you do not meet many in your daily life, try attending some social events.

Offering a personal language exchange can be a good way of making a friend who is interested in your culture, and learning English too. You offer to meet a British person regularly, and when you meet you speak in English for half of the time and in your own language for the other half of the time. If you are living in the UK and there is a university in your town, contact its language department and find out if you can leave an advertisement there for an exchange with one of its students. You could also advertise for such a partner in a local newspaper or free ads paper, or ask to put an advertisement on a noticeboard in your local library or newsagent's window. If you are living outside the UK, place an advertisement in a newspaper of magazine used by the English-speaking community there.

HOST is a voluntary organisation which arranges short stays with British families for international students at universities or colleges in the UK:

Some universities organise their own International Student Friendship scheme, in which overseas students are given the chance to stay for a weekend with local families.

International Student House (ISH) in London organise social events, a film club and a travel club for international students (you do not have to be a member of one of their language schools). For details, see their website:

Penguin Quick Guides: Making Friends in English
Author: Ingrid Freebairn
Publisher: Longman
Date: June 2001


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You will have more chances to speak to native English speakers if you try to get involved in the British community in some way.

Events connected with your culture

If you are not in the UK, ask your local office of the British Council about social events in your country involving local British people.
In the UK, you may want to ask the cultural section of your London embassy about events or societies for people interested in your country, culture or language.
You may find details of clubs in newsletters aimed at your nationality.
You can also try to use an internet search engine such as Enter both nationalities or countries in the search together with a word such as club or society. Note that you may want to try using Anglo instead of British/English (you can specify Scottish, Welsh or Irish if you wish to limit yourself to these countries). Clubs are often referred to as, for example, Anglo-Japanese, Anglo-Brazilian, Anglo-German societies (the Anglo- part is always placed first).
Sometimes there are clubs or events for people speaking a certain language or coming from a certain region of the world (for example, the Africa Centre in London:

You can find links to useful websites (including the British Council and your embassy) by selecting Country from the menu at the top of the screen and choosing your region and country.

There are also international societies, which do not limit themselves to people from one country of speakers of a certain language. These clubs are often run by university or college students who are interested in foreign cultures (you can often join these even if you are not a member of the university or college).
See Meetings for some international social meetings in London.
See Personal/Religion for details of some Christian groups in the UK which offer friendship to international students.
Some groups may also be listed on the Links page (select your country for a list of links that are relevant to people from your country).

General social events

As well as joining events connected with your culture, try to join other types of club or activity in which you may get a chance to speak with British people. Some examples are:
- local "meetup" groups: see (for example, English as a Second Language meetups or those for people who are interested in your culture/language)
- a local club or youth club
- your local pub: see Britain/Food/Pubs
- a local gym, health club, sports team or walking club: see Life/Sport/Guide
- evening classes (adult education) at a local school: see school below
- a local orchestra (but you may need your own instrument)
- voluntary work: see Work/Job/Volunteer
- a local church
- clubs or activities organised by your university, college or embassy (for example, a film club or travel club)

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Living with a British host family can be a good way of doing this, although the amount of contact you have varies a lot between different families, and sometimes the family may not be native speakers or may have an accent which you find difficult to understand, making conversation with them difficult. If you are sharing accommodation with people with the same native language as you, ask them if they will agree to speak English to you, at least most of the time.

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For advice about finding a job, see Work/Search.

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Schools often concentrate their marketing in a few countries, or only have agreements with agents in a few countries, so this can mean that a high percentage of students in your class come from your country. In July and August there may be many students from France, Italy and Spain at language schools, because in Europe summer is the time of the longest school holidays. If class sizes are large, there may not be many opportunities to speak.One Conversation class

Join an evening class in something that interests you (many courses start in September or October, at the same times as local school terms).
If you take courses in subjects which are of interest to local people, most of your classmates will probably be English speakers.

In London, there are two main publications giving information about local courses:
(1) Hot Courses:
(2) Floodlight:

If you are an advanced student of English and wish to take a course in London which focuses on pronunciation, accent reduction, phonetics, word stress or intonation
Short courses typically involve classes of 2 hours once per week for about 8-10 weeks.
Some short courses are for people from a certain language group, eg Slavic/Latin/South Asian/East Asian.
- Pronunciation Studio:
- Westminster Training:
Some short courses accept students from mixed language groups, but may have more than one level
- City Lit:
- London Metropolitan Business School:
- Mary Ward Centre:
Some voice and dialect coaches offer one-to-one tuition to English learners (they often also help to train actors)
It is also possible to take an intensive summer course in English phonetics:
- UCL:

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If you go travelling, you will have more opportunities to practice your speaking skills. If you travel independently you will need to arrange travel, accommodation and sightseeing, and you will have opportunities to meet new people. If you go on a tour, you will have a chance to speak to the tour guide and other people on the tour. For ideas about places to visit in the UK, see: Travel/Tours.

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