Improve your Business English speaking with these four strategies.
“Y qué hacés acá? Te gusta Argentina?”
The cameras were pointing at me when the well-dressed Spanish TV host asked me about my experience in Buenos Aires. I was already sweating in the February heat of the Argentinian summer.
I had no idea how to reply.
My Personal Language Learning Experience
In my 20s, I spent a semester abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
I had been taking Spanish classes for 2 years before leaving Europe to live on the other side of the world, so I thought I was quite well prepared and just needed a bit more practice.
But I was wrong. During my first weeks in Argentina, I realized that my Spanish was very, very poor.
So, I quickly signed up for a conversation course at a local language school. The course sounded like a perfect fit for me. I did not want to study a lot of grammar; I just wanted to speak fluently.
When I arrived for my trial class, the language school gave me the news that there would be no teacher that day. Instead, a real TV team from Spain would be doing interviews about learning Spanish in Argentina during class.
That was the conversation lesson that day.
Let me tell you, I felt embarrassed and overwhelmed the entire time.
Most English Learners Struggle with Speaking Business English
Many of you feel no different whenever you speak English.
In fact, a survey on my blog revealed that for most of my readers, the most difficult part of learning English is speaking.
It’s not surprising.
When you speak English, you need different skills than writing, reading, or listening. Speaking is a productive language skill, so – along with writing – it is something you have to do actively.
Unlike writing, it requires you to pronounce words and phrases correctly and to produce sentences immediately with little time to think. It’s also more difficult to correct yourself when you have already said something.
Practice Speaking Business English and Stop Being Afraid
I understand if you are overwhelmed. That’s why a lot of people are scared of speaking.
So how can you practice speaking and stop being afraid?
You know, most of the time, people are happy to hear from us. They’re not concerned about how well you’re pronouncing words and don’t care if all the grammar in your speech is correct.
My experience in Argentina taught me a few lessons. Now, years later, I can give some advice on how to speak a new language. I am happy to say that I have learned to speak Spanish fluently and mastered more languages.
So, I want to give you a few tips to keep in mind when you practice speaking English. I hope they will help you become more confident when you speak English.
Business English Speaking Tip #1: Listen first.
First, it’s important to know that speaking requires you to produce.
But before you create sentences, you need input. Your language has to come from somewhere.
We mostly get that input from listening to others and by reading. That’s how we grow our vocabulary and get used to the language.
So, really, in order to speak better English, you have to listen more. You have to listen to real people speaking real English.
In our day and age, that’s easy, because we have access to a lot of cheap ways to practice listening, for example through podcasts, audiobooks, by talking to people, or by listening to videos – on any topic that interests you.
The benefit of listening to other people speak is to learn the correct pronunciation. This is something you don’t get from reading. So, try to listen more. It does not have to be listening to native speakers, it’s just helpful to listen to people use the language in an authentic way.
This method is also a lot of fun because you can learn something new. You absorb the language and then afterward you can actually speak it yourself.
One advanced tip is to listen to something, for example, a podcast episode, and then react to it. After listening to a speech or podcast episode, record yourself reacting to what has been said or what you learned or any thoughts you had while listening. This is a great way to practice speaking without having to talk to anybody directly.
Business English Speaking Tip #2: Get professional feedback.
English learners often feel like they’re left alone. You know you have to improve, but you don’t know what you have to do to improve.
I have come to find that what we need is professional feedback when we practice speaking. When we speak English, we always make some type of mistake: a grammar mistake, or pronunciation mistake, or a misused word.
It’s not enough to practice by yourself.
So, we need to get professional feedback – a lot of feedback.
My ideal learning process is to listen and read a lot. Then, we absorb the grammar and vocabulary that we need in order to speak and write. And then, we have to produce the language by writing and speaking a lot, as well.
Finally, you need to get feedback on your writing and on your speaking. In learning, it’s like a “feedback loop.”
After you receive professional feedback you do the entire process again, so you read and listen more, then you learn more grammar and vocabulary, then you speak a bit better this time, and then we meet again to improve something else.
This is how you become fluent in English.
Today, many apps promise to teach you to speak English fluently. But, most of the time, what is missing is the ability to get feedback from an actual person.
So, where can you get professional feedback?
A fantastic learning tool that I always recommend is based on the feedback loop I just described. A real person gives you feedback on your language, so you can improve your English. This wonderful language learning tool is called Speechling.
Of course, a good teacher can also give you feedback.
Business English Speaking Tip #3: It’s more important to be understood than to be correct.
A while ago, I listened to an amazing Tedx speech by an experienced communication trainer. She teaches non-native English speakers to speak better and she has a funny approach.
In her popular speech, she says that it’s more important to focus on the other person and not on how well you are performing.
You might be nervous about speaking. It makes you feel sick in the stomach.
But you have to remember that it’s always about the message and the receiver and not about yourself or your performance.
Just focus on helping the other person by giving the other person information.
Practice speaking with strangers and just use English as well as you can.
You will become a fluent English speaker if you try not to be so afraid to make mistakes in English or to embarrass yourself.
Business English Speaking Tip #4: Don’t wait until you are “ready.”
In a lot of aspects of life, we think that we need confidence in order to do something well.
We think we need the right outfit to start going to Yoga classes. Or we need the newest food processor to start eating a healthier diet. If we want to lose weight, we think we need to reach a certain point where we can easily say “no” to unhealthy food and the workouts come naturally.
Often, we wait until the circumstances are perfect, and then we will start. We think we need to be confident and strong enough before we start.
When we learn a language, we think we will speak better after we learned a certain aspect of grammar or know more advanced vocabulary.
But that’s not how it works.
The actual lifestyle change is what we need in order to get the confidence and strength that you are looking for.
Strength comes from doing something you are afraid of, not the other way round.
You have to do something instead of preparing for it. That’s the only way you will get confidence.
It’s about the struggle.
So, when you speak English, practice even if it’s imperfect. You get better because you are practicing. The difficulties will give you more confidence.
That’s how I learned to speak Spanish in Argentina.
Conclusion: Improve Your Business English Speaking
So, what can you do to improve your speaking skills in English?
- Try to get a lot of “language input” from listening to people speak English, for example through podcasts, audiobooks, or videos.
- Don’t forget to ask for feedback from an experienced English speaker when you practice speaking. This way, you can correct your mistakes and get better eventually.
- Focus on the other person and not on yourself.
- You only get confidence from practice, so you don’t have to wait until you know enough to start improving your English speaking skills.
Learning to speak English fluently is a marathon. It takes time, but I hope you can use some of the strategies I presented in this article.