How to Improve Oral Communication Skills in English

Improve your English communication skills

Improving your spoken English can be much more difficult than improving your listening comprehension because you need to produce English speech that is not only grammatically correct, but is also understandable and appropriate for the situation. Native English speakers often speak much differently than they write, and spoken English has its own rules and peculiarities that differ by dialect.

Improve your pronunciation so that you are understood. Choose one standard accent (American, British or Australian) and attempt to imitate the pronunciation. Each dialect has slightly different pronunciation of vowels, diphthongs and some consonants. For example, the "r" is pronounced at the end of words in American English but is dropped in British English. Once you choose a dialect, immerse yourself in it. Watch movies and listen to music in that dialect and try to imitate the sounds. You can also hire a professional accent and pronunciation coach or take pronunciation classes at a local language school.

Build your vocabulary. How do you need to use English? Memorize words that are important for you. If you are a businessperson and need English for business, learn words and phrases that are most applicable to conducting business meetings. If you are learning small talk for basic conversations, learn words about the weather and how to describe yourself. Focus on learning words that you will use. If you studying a language course book and there is an entire chapter on farming words which you know you are not likely to use, skip that section and move on to learning vocabulary relevant to your needs.

Learn and practice transitional phrases. Phrases that connect thoughts and ideas can improve the flow of your speech. You can use words that add, generalize, exemplify, restate, contrast and or summarize. For example, think about the following statement:

"I usually work on Fridays; however, I am normally free on Saturdays."

Here the speaker uses a transition word, "however," to contrast his schedule on Fridays and Saturdays. Transition words make your speech less choppy and more natural. At the bottom of the page, you can access a link to an excellent list of transitional words and phrases.

Practice with native speakers. Nothing can substitute for practicing your communication skills with native English speakers. If you do not have anyone to practice with in person, you can find language partners on My Language Exchange ( or hire a teacher through a service like Live Person ( If you have friends who are native speakers or are fluent in English, ask them to practice with you and correct your speaking. Without feedback, you will have difficulty knowing what you are doing wrong and how to fix it.

Heather Carreiro is a certified English teacher who has been writing since 2008. The editor of Matador Abroad, her work has appeared online at BootsnAll, Matador Network, GoNOMAD, Journey Beyond Travel and Expat Women. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in linguistics and Middle Eastern studies from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is pursuing a Master of Arts in English at Bridgewater State University.