Identifying & Correcting Errors in Your Own Speaking

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  • 0:01 Improving Your Own Speaking
  • 0:48 Identifying Problems
  • 3:42 Correcting Problems
  • 5:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.

It's not always easy to hear mistakes in your own speaking. In this lesson, you'll get some tips and advice for improving your own spoken English even if you don't have anyone else to practice with.

Improving Your Own Speaking

Whether you're practicing for a standardized test or just trying to improve your spoken English, it's not always easy to know what you need to work on. Many students understand that their English isn't as fluent or clear as a native speaker's, but they still struggle to pinpoint exactly what to work on or how to improve.

The best solution is to practice with another person - a tutor, teacher, or just a friend. Someone else can often hear your mistakes much more clearly than you can. But what if you can't practice with a friend? It's not an ideal situation, but here are some strategies for helping yourself improve.

All you need for these is a way to record yourself speaking so you can play it back.

Identifying Problems

To identify problems in your own speech, first you need several sample recordings of yourself talking. If you're taking a standardized test like the TOEFL, use sample questions to practice. Otherwise, try imagining situations where you need to use spoken English. For example, pretend that you're having a conversation or giving a class presentation.

Once you have your recordings, it's time to listen to them and analyze what's going on. Grab some paper to take notes on and replay one of your recordings, listening for the following common problem areas:

  • Frequent pausing, repeating words multiple times, or verbal filler. Verbal filler means words like um…uh…um…uh… that you use to fill a pause or gap in your speech.
  • Short or choppy sentences. Not every sentence has to be long, but not all of them should be very short.
  • Long and rambling sentences. Can you identify the subject and main verb of every sentence in your recording? If not, your sentences may be confusing or too complicated.
  • Lack of transitions. Listen for transitions like 'and so,' 'therefore,' 'because,' 'that's why,' and other similar words and phrases. You should have one of these at least every two or three sentences.
  • Basic grammar errors. These are often obvious to you as soon as you hear them played back. Note each one and what type it is; try to identify patterns of errors that you need to work on. For example, do you always stumble with irregular verbs? Pluralizing nouns? Using correct pronouns?
  • Clarity and diction. Are you speaking clearly? Are you speaking too fast to understand? What sounds do you struggle with?

It often helps to listen to each recording more than once.

If you aren't hearing anything in the recordings, try writing down your speech. Sometimes, it's easier to catch mistakes in writing than in words. Speak for 30 seconds or so, and then transcribe exactly what you said.

If you're practicing for a standardized test, you can even use the transcript to compare your own speech to a sample of a high-scoring test response. Compare…

  • The average number of words per sentence in each response.
  • The number of long and short sentences in each response.
  • The number of transitions per sentence in each response.

This will help you get a mathematical idea of some areas for improvement.

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