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10 Tips for speaking English

Manek, an engineering graduate from Bhopal, said that the following practices helped him when he was learning English:

1. The first thing I would do after getting up every morning was to read the newspaper, front to back. It doesn’t matter which newspaper you subscribe to, as long as it is a major English-language paper, such as The Hindu, The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Indian Express, etc. While different people have different opinions on the quality of each paper, they are all more or less equally useful in getting to learn the language. It is also not necessary to read every page and article; it is time-consuming and, sometimes, boring. However, you should most definitely look for articles that interest you.

2. I bought a pocket dictionary. They are cheap, compact and useful. There were many words I came across on a day-to-day basis that I did not know, and carrying a pocket dictionary everywhere allowed me to look up these words immediately so that the matter would not slip off my mind later.

3. Once learned, I also made a conscious effort to use the words in conversation. This instilled the words in my head and I was able to draw on them whenever required.

4. I convinced some of my friends to come together and form something of a ‘study group’; we were all interested in learning English, and I figured it would make it easier and more fun for us to do it together. We met twice a week in the evening and discussed the words and phrases we had come across, suggested articles, magazines, and books to each other, etc.

5. Another thing my group of friends and I kept in mind was the importance of talking only in English, whenever possible. During our weekly meetings, not a word of Hindi (the only other language any of us spoke) was uttered. This sort of commitment is absolutely necessary if you want to develop fluency.

6. A couple of weeks into my learning experience, a friend talked about the issue of language of thoughts during one of our meetings. This, too, is an interesting aspect of one’s linguistic foundations: what language do you think in? I realised that I thought in Hindi, and thus whenever I spoke in English, I was, in a way, translating in my head. This made the entire process slower and more laborious. So I decided to start making a conscious effort to think in English. When I spoke in Hindi, I was often trying to figure out beforehand what the phrase would be in English before I said it. This takes some getting used to, but soon you will find it becoming a second nature; the phrases will come faster and easier then.

7. I made it a point to pick up at least one English book a month. I cannot stress the importance of this enough; books introduce you to the possibilities of the language, expose you to the various ways in which words can be manipulated and played around with. Your vocabulary of words, phrases, colloquialisms, etc. will increase sharply this way. Also, reading develops thinking, i.e., as you read, you automatically begin to think more in the language that your reading material is written in.

8. Every night I would watch an English news channel (NDTV, Headlines Today, CNN-IBN, etc.) for at least half an hour. The news anchors and reporters generally speak very crisp and proper English. It is also useful to watch English TV shows.

9. My friends and I would rent the DVD of an English movie every week, and watch it with the subtitles on. This way, you can always make out what the actors are saying, and the context of the movie helps you understand what unfamiliar phrases might mean.

10. I developed the habit of paying close attention whenever I was within listening distance of a conversation in English. This may seem like eavesdropping, but when someone is speaking loud enough in public for others to hear him or her, it is unlikely that anything very personal is being discussed. At least, I defended my practice with that rationale, because it helped me pick up common phrases on a daily basis