Improve your English by being brave

Learner tip – Jumping in

With my English students, I used to do a task where we would go out onto the streets of Portsmouth and I’d make them speak to strangers. It was a simple task. They had 8 English expressions that they didn’t know and they had to find 8 different strangers and ask each stranger to explain the meaning of an expression.

The experience was always exactly the same with every group I did this task with. A couple of my students would be confident and ready to go. However, most of my students were really nervous. They were hard-working in the classroom (always writing down grammar rules and vocabulary in their notebooks) but the thought of actually speaking to a real English person made them feel shy and shaky!

I told them ‘Don’t worry. Most English people are very friendly. Avoid anyone with a can of beer in their hand! What’s the worst that can happen?!’

After a bit of persuading, they went off and tried the task. As I said earlier, the experience was always the same. Every student came back absolutely buzzing! They were so happy that they’d had real English conversations with real English people. And they were so proud of themselves for overcoming their fear. Another great result was that they never forgot those 8 English expressions because they had learnt them in a memorable situation.

Very occasionally, the strangers ignored my students or said something rude but it didn’t matter because the positivity of the experience outweighed any negative comments. In fact, any rude comments were just extra English vocabulary and my students all laughed about them! They gained confidence about communicating and had a lot of fun!

So, what is my message? You might be working really hard and writing down lots of English grammar rules and new vocabulary, but the important thing is to use the language. As I said in a previous post, it doesn’t matter if you make mistakes – speak anyway! You will feel so proud of yourself and you will improve your English.

So the next time you have an opportunity to speak English, just jump in! Remember: What’s the worst that can happen?!

Here are a few ideas you can use if you want to make yourself speak English on the streets! Ask someone for directions
Ask someone for the time
Tell someone you like their jacket and ask where they bought it
Ask someone for information on the local area

Have you ever forced yourself to speak English (or another language) even though you felt nervous? How did you feel after? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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Nicki is a Cambridge qualified, experienced English teacher for foreign learners. She loves helping English learners to learn real English and communicate with confidence!

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