US diplomates are given no more than 44 weeks to learn how to speak a foreign language and how to serve as an informal interpreter. How do they do that? Well, unlike the rest of us they have their own special School of Language Studies, access to native speakers, top notch materials and … are getting paid for doing noting but studying while at school.
As good as it sounds, you don’t have to join the U.S. Foreign Service to be able to use some of their secrets which can help you to learn spoken English. Let me walk you through those those techniques:
1. Focus on learning one spoken accent of English
The School of Language Studies offers instruction in more than 80 languages and yet the U.S. diplomates choose one and only one language to study at a time. That way they can truly dedicate to that language and maximize their learning outcomes.
If your goal is to learn English – follow the same strategy. Deliberately decide on the variant of English you want study – American English, British English or other and stick to it. If you live in the UK, choose British. If you work for an U.S. multinational company – go for American. If you don’t have a preference – choose American due to availability of native materials.
Learning to speak a foreign language is already hard enough – don’t complicate it even further with more than one variant of English. You may not realize how many differences in pronunciation there are between British and American accent. And they would be confusing you. Don’t try to cram wordlists. Instead when learning a new word always imagine a real life situation and use example sentences.
2. Immerse in spoken English
The U.S. Foreign Officers immerse in spoken language while at school and you should do it, too! At their language school instruction is mostly done in the foreign language and special attention is given to learning in context. For example in the halls of the School of Language Studies you will see the celebration of Ramadan or Chinese New Year. The vast majority of the teachers are native speakers.
Learning from context helps in two ways. First, you use every single second of your study time. Even side comments if made in a foreign language help you learn. Second, immersion engages more senses and as a result you remember the information better through associations with the situation. Learning from native materials is important as that’s the only way to pick up the right English sounds.
If you don’t know any native speakers, don’t give up. There are other options. One great option is to learn through watching English movies. That way you can learn new vocabulary and phrases in an authentic context. Not only will you be able to hear but also see the facial expressions .. and it will be fun. You can also use Youtube videos, podcasts, stream US or UK TV shows.
3. Learn spoken English not text book English
4. Study pronunciation and speak English clearly
5. Practise speaking and react faster
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