How to improve your English Language Speaking Skills

What really helps you to improve? Writing a summary is very powerful - and improves your English language speaking skills in the process.

Writing a chapter summary to improve your English speaking skills 

Since I've been running book club school I have noticed that the activity of writing a summary is incredibly useful to recycle the language from the reading, and to identify and eradicate common errors.  It also improves your English language speaking skills in the process.

Let's explore what it means to recycle language.  To remember and be able to use new vocabulary we need to actively use it - this helps to move it from your short term to long term memory.  Use it or lose it they say!   And of course, we need to use it correctly - with the right words around it, and in the right style and register.  Writing a summary helps with this recycling, and helps demonstrate that you know how to use the word correctly.  If you want to know how to improve your English language speaking skills - do a weekly writing exercise in English, as preparation for a spoken discussion on the same subject. 

In the book club we read a set of chapters each week. Writing a summary of what you have read means that language is repeated each week - for example past tenses, dependent prepositions, linking words and connectors. This repetition is useful, as it helps us to fix the correct structures in the way we express ourselves as we use our English language speaking skills in the book club. Scientists believe that we are creating neural networks and repetition strengthens these connections, enabling us to speak fluently and accurately.  

As writing a summary is "free writing", it also allows the writer to put down what they think is correct and to have that checked by your teacher. This is very different to doing grammar or vocabulary exercises. These activities can be useful, but free writing means that the very special errors particular to us come out - and can be eradicated and turned into accurate, polished English.  Others will notice that your English language speaking skills have improved!  

Errors are really great and should be celebrated.  But let's make new ones, and let's eradicate the old ones!  There's a lot to learn - the meaning(s) of the word of course, but also the grammar of the word, which other words it is often found together with (collocated), how it is used in context, and the formality and style of the word.

The other thing about writing is that, as with discussing a book, it is a practice of a real world activity - doing exercises isn't something we do in our daily lives! And with email and social media there is more writing in English than there used to be. So, it may be paradoxical, but to know how to improve your English language speaking skills - do a weekly writing exercise in English!

Geoff Hardy-Gould, Founder Book Club School