Speaking with confidence

Speaking English with Confidence: Part 2


One problem that many of my students have when trying to give presentations is pauses.

Perhaps before when you’ve tried to speak English, you’ve hesitated because you didn’t know exactly how to express yourself. You have an idea of how to explain something in Chinese, but you have no idea how to translate it.

This can be disheartening because though you’ve studied English for a long time, you feel you are too slow and awkward with the language. You definitely don’t feel as though you’re fluent.

In this post, I am going to give you some tips on how you can reduce pauses and hesitation when you speak English. Remember, just reading these tips is not enough, you must put them into practice!

One thing that can help you eliminate pauses and speak English more fluently is to think directly in English.

Thinking in Chinese and translating it into English before you speak takes too much time! This is what stops many of my students from speaking fast and fluidly.

Translating Chinese, as you already know, will also result in botched sentences with missing articles and problematic pronouns. You know how different Chinese vocabulary can be from English. This leaves students with the impression that English is just too hard or advanced to learn to speak properly.

It’s not. You must also think in English!

Here are some steps you can take to THINK in English properly.

Level 1 – Think in individual English words.

For example, think about every item or article you come across in your day with English words.
When you wake in the morning, think of terms like:

• Bed, clothes, books, breakfast.
• 床、衣服、书、早餐。

When you go to work, think of words like:
• Car, job, boss, desk, computer, call.
• 汽车、工作、老板、办公桌、电脑、电话。

Practice thinking in these individual English terms throughout your day, with everything you see, hear, or do. Try this exercise right now: Look around you and try to think of all the English words you can use to describe what you see.

Level 2 – Start thinking in complete sentences.

While you go about your day, make English sentences to yourself about the things you are doing.
When you’re at lunch think of sentences like:
• I’m eating noodles.
• I like this dish.
• This food is especially spicy!

• 我在吃面条。
• 我喜欢这道菜。
• 这种食物特别辣!

The sentences don’t have to be very complicated! They just need to help you develop the habit of thinking in English.

Level 3 – Getting Functional

At this level, you should imagine that you are in an English speaking country and you have to use the language for everything that you do. Every time you use Chinese, think about how you say the same in English. How would you order a meal or buy a train ticket?
• I would like extra rice, please.
• Yes, I would like a round trip ticket, please.

• 请给我更多的大米
• 是的,请给我一张往返票。

This will help you prepare for using the language in real-life situations. If you do this kind of practice regularly, you’ll be ready for whatever situation you come across.

Level 4 – Narrative English

This is where you can use English to tell a story about something that happened to a foreign friend. When you’re waiting for a bus or riding the subway, think of a good story and how you would tell it in English.

Because you are only practicing in your mind, you don’t have to worry about the pressure that comes with attempting to speak properly.

So these are your action steps for today:

Pick a level from the items I listed above and practice one of the exercises today. If you can commit to one of these practices through the week, you’ll be surprised at how effective it is in decreasing your pauses when attempting to speak fluently!

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