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Speaking can be divided into many subskills, any one of which can present a challenge to a learner: pronunciation, accuracy, vocabulary. Each of these is dealt with individually in a separate section.Every level bears particular challenges for speaking. What is your level and what is important for you to bear in mind?
Beginners A and A1
Before you can run, you need to walk and before you can walk, you learn to crawl. So the first thing is think about targets that are appropriate for your level.
If you are just beginning English, you are doing very well if you sometimes say a word or a short phrase with plenty of context, help and models.
Initially,your main target is more to understand than to speak. We expect that a baby begins to kick its legs and/or crawl in its first year of life. We don't get frustrated with babies for not being able to run marathons. We need to have patience with ourselves and realistic expectations.
Understanding is key in the first level and any speaking at all is fantastic, albeit just a word or two!
When you move up to the next level, elementary level, you need to be thinking about short simple phrases about basic things, with some guided activities and some a little less guided. The important thing here is to get good at expressing your ideas in a really simple way.
It is quite typical for people to get blocked because they can't say exactly what they would really like to say and as they would say it in their first language.
You need to get good at using what you know, ie; just a little to transmit a lot!
When you move up a level to pre-intermediate, the story is quite similar although now you can probably try to be a bit more ambitious about what you say, your target now is to try not to translate too much.
You will find here that although you know a bit more, and need a little less support, if you have a habit of translating, it will slow you down and probably lead you to make many errors.
By the time you reach intermediate level, your targets switch again. Now you need to ensure that you use as much and as many of the expressions as you know to communicate in what will be ever more demanding tasks.
It is now that we can talk about fluency as a real target (a combination of range, relevance, speed and precision).
If you attain an intermediate level of speaking the language, you should be able to make your way anywhere in the English-speaking world. You have adequately reached survival level. many adults are happy once they have attained that level.
Upper Intermediate B2
Learners who decide to continue beyond this point need to ask themselves an important question. Am I happy with what I know or would I really like to progress? And depending on your answer, the best thing may be to stop.
If you decide to continue, you need to prepare for plenty of hard work but also for more satisfaction than you have ever felt when you attain your targets!
As we reach upper intermediate the communicative capacity required becomes much more complex, negotiation, persuasion, complaints, summary...
Here the targets are all about extending the range of words that we use.
Many learners at this level find it difficult to make the jump. It is possible to get by in an upper intermediate level, using very limited structures and words.
However, to attain the level it is necessary to make a very concerted effort to amplify lexical and structural range. This means hard work at all language skills, plenty of practice and a very conscious decision not to 'make do'.
And what happens at the C1 level, the Shangri-la of levels for second language learners?
In terms of speaking, the targets are quite similar to the previous level. If we would like to improve and attain the level, it will not happen by itself. Simply attending class will help us maintain or refresh our level. We need to make an absolutely concerted effort to learn and to use a wide range of structures and vocabulary. For example, we can say: "I like that" (demonstrates A2)or "it appeals to me" (demonstrates C1). Progress comes gradually and it comes with very hard work. Students really need to be motivated to put in the effort in terms of time and in terms of implementation. Here we might return to where we began, the subskills.
The better a learner is at pronunciation, lexical range, grammatical acccuracy, the higher his or her level will be.
Realistic expectations will help us to gain the confidence we need to practise as much as we can.
You can Practise and Progress with a Friend!
Some learners think mistakenly that they need a native speaker to practise speaking. This is like saying you can only play football with Messi. All levels can benefit from establishing a regular routine of an informal coffee and a chat in English, with a friend and/or with some classmates. This does not need to be with a native speaker. Learners that do this practise more and get better at speaking. This activity is quite different to class because it is totally up to you to take the initiative. If you are stuck for things to chat about esl conversation is a good place to find loads of questions on many different topics.