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Real-Life English: Practical Speaking Strategies for Everyday Conversations

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Practical Speaking Strategies for Everyday Conversations

This is an exciting blog post because it is all about practical English! While I do recommend starting with formal English this is an amazing blog post for people who want to take their English game to the next level.

 

Understanding Everyday English

One of the biggest areas where I see my students make mistakes is understanding everyday, colloquial English. This is unfortunate because much of English today is colloquial. Also, English is not neatly divided into formal and informal settings so you will often hear informal language at work, government offices etc; even though these are formal settings.

One thing I always recommend to my students is to expose themselves to everyday English conversations. We even have a program at KrisAmerikos called EverydayEnglish

Some of the best ways to do this are going to cafes where people speak English. If you are feeling social and confident, spark up a conversation with someone. If not, just eavesdrop on other peoples' conversations. Remember to always be proactive and have active listening skills. For example, If you hear someone say 'I'm finna go to town on this cheese sauce'  take the time to look that saying up when you get home. 

 

Context in Conversations

Context can very much influence English meaning, especially in colloquial or casual English. For example, in casual colloquial English the expression sick does not necessarily mean physically. People may often use swear words in casual ways with friends. One of the keys to understanding context is exposure, exposure, exposure. I recommend first understanding formal English so you are not struggling to understand words etc. Next, try to understand the context.

For example, if someone was learning horseback riding I would suggest they first learn the basics in a ring, then once they are confident expand beyond that rigid form to other contexts. This could include a trail in the woods, cross-country jumping, riding in water or a beach setting, etc. They should notice how this riding adapts to different situations.

It will also be hugely beneficial to them to observe other peoples riding in these situations. Similarly, once someone has learned the basics of English the more exposure to different contexts the better.

In my lessons with KrisAmerikos, I try to draw on language from a wide variety of cultural landscapes. Some other places I encourage going to experience context are: travel abroad programs, volunteering with different ethnic groups, exposing yourself to different socio-economic classes, etc. Also, ensure that you are experiencing English in formal and informal settings.

 

The Role of Slang and Idioms

Slang and idioms can absolutely change the meaning of a conversation in English. Understanding them is essential for practical English.

Slang is words that are commonly not commonly used in formal settings such as legal proceedings, government work, etc. Slang is also commonly avoided in serious contexts such as hospitals, telling your wife you want a divorce, reprimanding a child or employee, etc.

Slang may also be called street language. It is essential to learn slang because it is increasingly used in both formal and non-formal settings.

Idioms are phrases or expressions that are intended to highlight an idea or thought versus directly explaining a particular thing. For example, "Can you take the trash out;" is a direct thing. Someone is addressing you and asking you to do a direct thing (in this case take the trash out). An idiom highlights a concept without mentioning it directly. For example:

  • "Don’t take the baby out with the bath water." This idiom means do not give up on something prematurely, or without just cause. For example, if you asked your boss "Should we cancel the meeting?"  and he responds "Don't take the baby out with the bath water;" that is not referring to a literal baby or bathwater. It is simply saying, don't throw something important out just because there's been a hiccup or something like that.   

Practical Strategies for Improving English Speaking Skills

It is important when understanding English to actually expose yourself to English in different contexts. For example, go to a corner cafe and eavesdrop on the people there. Join an extra meeting at work. Join an online program like KrisAmerikos! This is the only way you will hear the full variety of English idioms and slang.

Also, it is important to note that slang and idioms evolve over time. Therefore, you will constantly hear new slang and idioms. They tend to evolve at a faster pace than regular English. Overall, the best English-speaking strategies for improving English skills are exposure oriented. The more we are around different English speakers, from different cultural contexts,  the more we will hear and pick up different slang and idioms; as well as different other types of English.

 

Active Listening

Active listening is the process of listening to language, in this case English, and actually absorbing it and engaging with it, versus letting it drift over us. This differs from passive English which is similar to listening to a television program and letting it drift over you. The best way to engage in active listening is to force yourself to ask questions.

For example, in my KrisAmerikos English lessons if there is a topic I always put students into breakouts to answer questions. You can do the same thing at home. For example, if you are watching a documentary about a war ask yourself questions such as; why did this war start? What was the true cause? If I was in charge of the world how would I prevent problems such as this?

 

Mimicking Native Speakers

One of the key benefits of working with a native speaker is correct pronunciation. You will also be exposed to things such as conversation flow, common vocabulary, etc.; that are normal for a native speaker.

One key way to do this is to begin language studies with a native speaker. Ask your teacher where they are from and how they learnt the language. Why not get the best?

 

Engaging in Everyday Conversations

The more real-life conversations you engage in the better your English will be. Practical ways to do these include eavesdropping on people at cafes, KrisAmerikos classes, and other language programs.

One of my favorite ways to do this is by traveling abroad and participating in English-speaking programs. You can also participate in a degree program, such as a course online.

Using Language Learning Apps and Websites

Modern technology, such as language learning apps and websites, can play an important role in learning English. Make sure you are not listening to something robotic though, so you can mimic natural conservation flow.

Joining an online chat room, a game where there is dialogue or a volunteer program can help. Volunteering is a great way to build experience, boost your resume, and your English-speaking resume at that; and also practice the language.

Here is a volunteer program I recently learned about and signed up for, Open Volunteer Opportunities - Acquaint. It is a great program where you will be matched one on one with another English speaker from another culture. Conversations last a half hour. This is a great way to practice your English on a weekly basis.

 

Overcoming Challenges in English Conversation

Do not feel overwhelmed if you have challenges when learning English. It is a new language and you are bound to hit some difficulty. Remember that every native speaker, or speaker with a second or third language; hit the same roadblocks. Luckily, the road is well-trodden and there is a lot of help. You will be successful!

One thing that can really help is joining an online English program such as Kris Amerikos where your teacher will help you to chart progress and celebrate milestones.

It can also help to have a good attitude. Remember that you are just learning and are bound to make mistakes.

We tend to do things that make us feel good so reward yourself early on for steady progress.

 

 Fear of Making Mistakes

One way to overcome the fear of making mistakes is to identify common mistakes that have been made and areas where you may be struggling. Create an action plan to solve these;  and chart your progress.

For example, many Indian and Chinese speakers struggle with D and T pronunciation sounds. If you know this about yourself, you can create a plan. A lot of success is being two steps ahead. For example, when moving to Brazil I knew I tend to make friends too easily. So, I was able to create a plan to address this.

Understanding Accents and Pronunciations

One of the challenges of learning English is understanding different accents. In my opinion, this is a challenge that is often overlooked. In my opinion, one of the best ways to overcome this is to travel to and stay in places like hostels. Check out hostelworld.com for suggestions. When you stay in hostels you will hear people from all over the world with different accents. English tends to be the go to language at hostels.

 In conclusion, do not feel that learning practical English is a waste of time; also do not be amiss and leave out idioms and slang. Remember, you are ultimately preparing yourself to learn English for the real world.

Please share your comments, queries, and ideas with us. How do you learn idioms and slang? Which ones would you like to learn?

 

 

 

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  • Master pronunciation by¬†regular speaking practice with partners.
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  • Speak and BE UNDERSTOOD by people around the world.
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HANDS-ON MASTERMIND PROGRAM

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✅ Two Mastermind Calls Per Week: We run two learning calls per week that are approximately 1 hour each.

✅ Spotlight Seat Calls: The spotlight seats are where you can bring any problem, question, presentation, email, or other problem to the table and we'll help you solve it.

✅ Theory Calls: The theory calls are where we go in depth about everything related to how to think to improve your English and we break it down into the details of how things work, why they work, and how you can use it yourself by giving you a deeper understanding.

✅  Level Up Slack: This is the soul of Level Up. We have a private workspace where you can get help with anything in between the calls and also connect with everyone else.

✅ Level Up Community: A private wall for posts and a private group chat for Level Up members only.

✅ Everything inside English-Everyday: daily live speaking lessons, 24/7 live room, group chat.

Learn more about Level Up

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  • Each lesson is 60 minutes long.
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  • Personal feedback and error correction
  • Work on presentation, emails, work projects, or personal goals.
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  • Every lesson is focused on your specific needs.
  • Choose the best date and time for you.
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