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Using a smartphone to make a speaking journal

Updated: May 4, 2021

Of all the language skills, it is possibly hardest to be objective about our speaking in a foreign language. We tend to focus on the mistakes and things we couldn’t do as well as we wanted rather than on the positive things we said. And unlike writing, people don’t tend to keep records of their speaking so it’s very hard to know how much progress has been made. However, with the help of a smartphone (or any other recording device), it’s easy to keep track of our speaking, and also to train ourselves to notice not only where we need to improve but also where we have progressed.

That said, most people don’t like making recordings of themselves, especially in a foreign language. We tend not to like the sound of our voice, or our accent……

When I began making videos, I felt very uncomfortable. I didn’t like being in front of the camera, I didn’t like my voice and I didn’t like how I looked. But making the videos was important to me, more important than my uncomfortable feelings, so I persevered. And now, although I may not like everything I see and hear, I feel confident when I make the videos.

Of course, you don’t need to share your speaking journal with anyone, it really can be just for you. The first thing is to keep the speaking tasks easy to start with. Don’t start of by attempting to give a 20 minute talk on economics, unless you are an economist, perhaps! Keep the early tasks easy to achieve. Also, to begin with, talk about things you know about and have something to say about. Later, when you are more confident, you can start to challenge yourself with longer or more complex tasks, or with more difficult vocabulary. To begin, though, make it easy and fun.

Decide how many times a week you will record yourself. Three is a good number to aim for. Also, decide when you will do this and write it in your diary if you have one. This will make you more likely to make the recording. Then, choose a topic or subject to talk about. You can also aim for a specific length of time if that’s appropriate for you. Finally, choose a specific goal for the recording. What do you want to achieve? Examples here might include: I aim to talk about my job for two minutes.

I aim to use three of the new words I learnt today.

I aim to use a conditional sentence.

I aim to sound more fluent than last time.

Notice that these goals are all very specific and focus on one thing only. Also, they are all positive goals. The last goal could have been I aim to hesitate less than last time, but it’s healthier to be moving towards something positive rather than away from something negative.

Once you have made all these decisions, make your recording!

Afterwards, listen to the recording and answer four questions:

To what extent did I achieve my aim?

What is one thing I would like to improve next time?

What went well this time? What else went well?

Again, these questions are to encourage you to listen to the positives in your speaking rather than the things you don’t like. You might like to write the answers to these questions down. It could be challenging to think of two positive things as many of us are trained to notice our mistakes. If you really struggle here, you can commend yourself for taking the action to make the recording!

Over time, you will build up a library of recording and will be able to track your progress and changes in your language easily. Watch a video about this.

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