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  • Writer's pictureYijun Xiang

Two secrets to improving your spoken English

The ideas in this piece came from, written by 江莎拉. Translated and summarized by Yijun Xiang.

Have you ever wanted to improve your spoken English? For many, speaking fluent English can seem difficult and intimidating. School teachers also teach spoken English the same way as composition. As a result, people can develop incorrect beliefs about improving spoken English, such as:

  • Your spoken English is poor because of a lack of vocabulary. It will improve if you memorize many words.

  • The more you speak and practice your spoken English, the more you improve it. So, if you have more chances to talk in public, you can improve your spoken English.

  • To learn spoken English well, you must recite it. There are many idioms, so if you can memorize them all, you can communicate with others.

It’s easy to believe that these things are true. It seems like spoken English is too hard to improve, and you must do everything. However, these beliefs aren’t true. Here are a few things to remember as you learn English:

  • The words used in spoken English are very common. So, for most English learners, your current vocabulary is enough.

  • More practice can let us overcome psychological barriers. However, this practice often makes us cheekier, instead of improving our spoken English if we can’t find mistakes.

  • A lot of recitation can improve our sense of language to some extent. But if we recite without understanding and don’t know how to use it, this kind of recitation will only burden ourselves.

Most people who learn English are very hardworking people. I know you are. But why is your spoken English still bad? Are you stupider than others? No, it's that you're not working in the right way. Many people think that English is a subject that relies on recitation, but it is not good to learn spoken English by recitation alone. We should use the proper strategies to learn English, just like we would use certain strategies to learn math and physics. Today, I will introduce two secrets to learning spoken English: effective input and effective output.

This is a black-and-white picture of a man standing in front of a bookshelf, reading a book.
Effective input and output will help you to learn English.

Only Make Effective Input

What is effective input? Effective input is when we immediately use what we learn. And what most of us do is ineffective input. How do we usually learn English? We memorized a thick English book, and when we needed it, we looked for the words and sentences that we had memorized in our minds. Then, we associate the word with its meaning and translate it into English. To use the information that we’ve learned, we should reach two states. One is that we can extract information quickly from our minds. The other is that our sensitivity to English should be like our first language. Hearing or seeing the information can produce a conditioned reflex. Both states are dependent on effective input.

Now that we know what it is, let’s focus on how to make effective input.

1. Change from memorizing vocabulary books to listening vocabulary when looking at pictures.

We can remember when we learned our language when we were young. We didn’t have a vocabulary book to memorize. We were aware of the language around us, we listened to it, and we imitated it. That's why we can react to something we see quickly. Spoken English is the same. And the best way to improve it is to listen to words. Here we can use some apps like Duolingo. We can generate virtual memories using some apps by stimulating the visual senses through vivid pictures. At the same time, through the pronunciation and picture, associate listening memory with visual memory to think in English when you see something. Listen to 100 words a day. Find a vocabulary audiobook and listen to it on the way to the canteen. Once you’ve listened to the entire book, you will likely encounter and recognize many of the words in your everyday life.

2. Change from memorizing textbooks to listening to video and subtitles

Listening to the words is not enough; it can help us react quickly without improving our fluency because our output is in sentences and paragraphs. For the next part, throw away your thick English books. Instead, choose a topic-related video, turn on the subtitles, and watch it repeatedly until you can recite it. To emphasize, be sure to select a video with an interesting theme. For example, if you want to accumulate expressions of everyday life, you go to American dramas. If you're going to get news-related terms, listen to the BBC or VOA. If you want to accumulate topics related to nature and animals, then you watch a BBC documentary. In short, your knowledge must be collected by topic; I will talk later about why we should classify by themes to memorize.

This is a picture of five blocks sitting on top of a wooden desk. The blocks spell out the word "study," and there are stacks of books behind them.
Changing the way you study can help you learn English more quickly.

3. Classify input by topics

As stated earlier, forming conditional reflection through listening input does not encourage everyone to give up the reading input method. Even if you get information by reading, there must be a correct way to categorize what you learned. Whether it's words, sentences, or paragraphs, all our information must be classified by topics if you want to improve your spoken English quickly. The advantage is that the input process is like building a library in the brain, sorting it out, and waiting until you want to output it; you can quickly find a place to extract it. So how do you get input by reading by topics?

A. Select a topic of interest and select the overlapping section of the two books.

B. Use half an hour to scan, read and recite words quickly.

C. Categorize notes by topics and build your library of topic words. Review the topic words of your notes every day while waiting for a bus.

This is a picture of two books next to two pieces of chalk on a wooden desk. In the background, the letters "A," "B," and "C" are written in yellow chalk on a blackboard.
Classifying input by topic is an excellent way to study.

Only Do Effective Output.

What is effective output? Effective output has two characteristics. One is purpose. For example, I learned an expression about taking a bus today, so I will do output about it today.

And the other is a sense of self-correction, so-called deliberate practice. Look at the Olympic champions. Each of their movements has been corrected thousands of times before being perfect. Our spoken English is the same; if we want our spoken language to level up quickly, then we must deliberately correct our mistakes and optimize our expressions. Otherwise, we keep repeating the wrong content. We repeat it many times, thinking that it’s correct, but it’s still wrong.

Now that we know what it is, let’s talk about how to make effective output. We’ll talk about the two important steps: how to effectively output words and sentences, and how to effectively output paragraphs.

1. Effective output of words and sentences

We need effective output because our purpose in learning English is to communicate with others. The output here is combined with the effective input mentioned earlier, one by one, to achieve the learning closed loop. Here are the steps to use:

A. Select the same topic from two books and review the words and sentences quickly.

B. Think about the occasions you will use these words and sentences when reviewing.

C. Rewrite sentences with learned words, phrases, and sentences. Say it first, then write it down.

2. Effective output of paragraphs

Once you’ve mastered words and sentences, you can move on to paragraph practice. This step is the hardest to stick to, but it will be rewarding and effective. If you set a suitable number of tasks for yourself and stick to it for a week or two, you will see an improvement in your spoken English. To practice the effective output of paragraphs:

a. Think of a topic.

b. Combine the words and sentences learned under this topic and start to output paragraphs within 2 minutes. Time can be increased or decreased in combination with the circumstances. You can form the answer from what, why, and how so that logic becomes more apparent.

c. Record while you speak.

d. Listen to the tape and write down your words as they are. Note that we must overcome psychological barriers. No matter how bad it is, write down what you said, exactly as you said it.

e. Correct the mistakes in your original statement.

This is a picture of a person writing in a notebook.
Writing is an excellent form of output.

Finally, persistence is also essential.

I specifically mention persistence here, and it is the most crucial step. If we don't stick to it for a long time, the learning methods will not work. I used to be a lazy person, but I wanted to learn English. To help me stick with my goal, I looked for language partners and even signed a gambling agreement. I tried everything but to no avail. After searching for a long time, I finally found the most relaxed, the least painful way: using a micro-habit strategy. What is a micro-habit strategy? The micro-habit strategy forces you to perform 1-4 small, incredible actions a day. These actions are too small to fail; as a result, you won’t abandon them because they’re too time-consuming or difficult. That is, don't let learning English become your burden, and don’t grow tired of learning it. Set yourself a small goal, such as listening to 5 words a day and doing a sound output. Think of English learning as a simple thing like drinking water; when you get more accustomed to this stress-free study habit, you will become more addicted and do more.

With enough persistence and the right time-management strategy, you can integrate English learning into your life. To carry out the micro-habit strategy, follow these steps:

a. Develop a schedule for language learning.

b. Set yourself a task amount. The first week is the adaptation period to observe whether the weekly learning tasks are too hard

c. According to the situation of the first week, reduce the number of tasks appropriately until you feel that there is no pressure, and it is easy.

d. Do a summary every day

So, the fast way to learn spoken English is to make effective input and output because we can achieve a closed loop, which is learning by doing. Just do it! You might be surprised at how much you learn.

Are you interested in these two methods to learn English? If you want to learn more about that, ReDefiners World Languages can help you. We offer online courses in English, Spanish, Arabic, and Mandarin, all from the comfort of your home. Start your language learning journey today! For more information about the classes, please visit or email us at

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