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How to talk to yourself and improve your English

Updated: Mar 10, 2022

Do you worry about making mistakes and sounding stupid when you speak English? If so, you’re not alone! Many people have negative feelings towards speaking English and may feel frightened or ashamed of the way they speak.

Learning how to speak English without fear requires you to practise speaking on a regular basis. But how can you do this if you don’t live in an English-speaking country, or if you are too scared to speak with other people? Read this to learn how talking to yourself can not only help you improve your English, but can bring other benefits to your life as well!

Some people talk to themselves naturally. For example, I talk to myself all day, which my boyfriend finds very funny. Voicing my thoughts helps me keep them organised and also gives me the chance to express how I’m feeling, even if only to myself. In fact, the best thing about wearing a face-mask during the Covid pandemic was the freedom it gave me to talk to myself as I was going shopping! For other people, however, it feels unnatural. Maybe people worry that others will judge them as being strange or crazy if they talk aloud. We are often told that talking to yourself ‘is the first sign of madness’. If you need some convincing of the benefits of talking to yourself, check this out:

Talking to yourself can:

  • help your brain to work more efficiently. Remember how I said that I liked talking to myself as I go shopping? Well, apparently, people who repeat the name of the item they are looking for find it quicker than people who are silent!

  • help you organise your thoughts logically. Voicing your thoughts can help you organise and prioritise them.

  • help you achieve what you want to do. Speaking our goals aloud "focuses your attention and controls emotions and distractions”.

In other words, talking things through out loud can be very helpful to us anyway, so why not do this in English? After all, the chances are that you will be doing this at home where no-one can hear you anyway (unless you want to try finding food items in a supermarket!).

Here’s three suggestions of how you might incorporate talking to yourself in English:

  • Write your to-do lists in English. Then, when you need to check your list, do so aloud and in English. You can even voice the thoughts you are having: So, what’s next on the list. Oh, right, I have to send that email. I don’t really want to do that, though, is there anything else I can do before lunch? Hmmm… I could pay that bill, I suppose…… By speaking to yourself in this way, you are getting practice at some very informal speaking.

  • Talk to your pet in English. I still talk to my dog in Chinese (she’s a rescue dog from China). Talking to your pet might sound like this: Hey, lovely dog! You are so beautiful, but you really, really smell bad! I should give you a bath, but I’m too lazy. Again, lots of practice at informal English, and your pet won’t care if you make a mistake!

  • Narrate what you are doing. For example, if you are cooking dinner you can talk about your actions: Okay, where are the onions? Ah, here they are! How many do I need? Two, right. I have to chop these up then fry them in the oil. This is a particularly nice exercise for kinaesthetic learners (people who like to move as they learn) as you are combining movement with speaking.

If you decide to try practising speaking like this, focus on your speaking and not your grammar or any mistakes! Look what happens to speaking when we focus on a mistake:

Okay, where is onions? Ah!! I make mistake! I start again! Where are onions? Wait, is there article? Oh, my English is so bad!

By focusing on the mistake, this learner has stopped their flow of speech, and is quite likely not even chopping their onions! Allow the words to flow naturally for this exercise, you can focus on accuracy another time.

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