The Magical Key to Improving your English Speaking

We all have busy lives.  Work, family, friends, exercise, more work- it seems there is no time for learning a language!

Today is your lucky day!  I am going to share with you a secret that only a few people in the world have discovered.  Are you ready for this amazing news that will change your life and have you speaking English?

The key to improving your English (or any other language) is to PRACTICE.

Are you upset?  Were you expecting some earth shattering secret?  Why is it that we, as humans, are always looking for shortcuts?

If it were easy, everyone would be walking around bi-lingual.

To improve your speaking, you need to speak

If you want to get better at surfing, you must get out in the water with your surf board and learn by experience.  Languages are the same.  You must learn by trial and error.

Think of babies, they don’t just start out speaking perfectly.  It takes them years of trial and error before they can communicate effectively.

Books and blog posts are not going to help you improve your speaking.  Well besides this one– hopefully this blog post encourages you to take action and open your mouth.

Passive Vocabulary vs Active Vocabulary

The large majority of students who come to me, tell me that they can understand more than they can verbalize in English.  They may have a strong PASSIVE VOCABULARY – the stuff that you know and understand.  ACTIVE VOCABULARY is what you need to communicate.  You need to be able to form sentences and speak them out-loud.

To improve your Active Vocabulary (this is the #1 goal, people) you need to strengthen that connection between your brain and your mouth.

Ways to practice your spoken English

Talk to your pet

The whole idea is to get comfortable with speaking.  AND you are doing a good deed by teaching your animal another language.

Talk to Artificial Intelligence

Not your neighborhood robot, but your smartphone or creepy Alexa type device sitting on your desk.  I had a lot of fun with this with my Japanese friends speaking to Siri!

Speak to yourself in the mirror

Straight up Evil Queen from Snow White style.  This exercise is helpful because you see your mouth moving and realize, “Hey!  I can do this.”

Have a conversion with a friend

Use this experience as a way for you to practice your speaking- not for you and your friend to learn from each other (unless your friend is a professional teacher).  It is selfish, but you gotta get your practice in.  Not recommended for serious topics 😀

Speak with a Professional English Teacher on Skype

You can be sitting anywhere in the world and connect with an English native speaking teacher who will correct your mistakes and help you to improve.  Someone like me!

Whether it is an animal, a mobile phone or your bestie– just talk to someone!  Improve that connection from your brain to your mouth.  Strengthen it and build your confidence at the same time.

I’m here to help!  Contact me and we’ll get you started with speaking practice as soon as possible.

I HATE the Time Limits on TOEFL / IELTS Exams!

Most students find the time limits on the English exams like TOEFL and IELTS to be one of their major stress points.

Unfortunately these time limits are here to stay, so you need to prepare yourself the best you can to be ready to face them when it comes time to take the exam.

The first step is to know what to expect.  I have worked with students who took one of these exams and had never practiced using a time limit.  EEK!


The IELTS exam has four parts – Listening (30 minutes), Reading (60 minutes), Writing (60 minutes) and Speaking (11–14 minutes). The entire test takes 2 hours and 45 minutes.

During my IELTS prep sessions with students, we focus on the speaking and/or writing portion of the exam (that is decided by you!)

Part 2 of the IELTS speaking exam is the only portion of the speaking section that has a time limit.  Many students like to focus on practicing this section of the exam, because the time limit stresses them out.

  • Part 1 (4-5 minutes)- the examiner will ask you general questions about yourself and a variety of other topics- usually dealing with daily life.
  • Part 2 (3 minutes) – the examiner will give you a card which asks you to talk about a particular topic. You will have 1 minute to prepare and then up to 2 minutes to give your response.
  • Part 3 (4-5 minutes)- you will be asked additional questions about the topic in Part 2. These is a more free flowing portion of the exam and a chance for you to discuss more abstract ideas.


As with the IELTS, the TOEFL exam has four parts – Listening (60-90 minutes), Reading (60-80 minutes), Writing (50 minutes) and Speaking (20 minutes).  The whole process usually takes about 4.5 hours to complete.

The TOEFL Ibt is taken completely using a computer, so the time limits are always shown to you on the screen.

  • Task 1 & 2 – Independent Speaking Questions – Preparation time = 15 seconds, Response time = 45 seconds
  • Task 3 & 4 – Integrated Reading, Listening and Speaking Questions – Reading time = 45 seconds, Preparation time = 30 seconds, Response time = 60 seconds
  • Task 5 & 6 – Integrated Listening and Speaking Questions – Preparation time = 20 seconds, Response time = 60 seconds

How can I prepare for these horrible time limits?

There is only one answer.  PRACTICE

  • Do English exam preparation with a teacher online
  • Practice using the time limit speaking to a friend.  Even if your friend can not understand English (!!) they can start and stop the timer so you can get a feeling for the time limit.
  • Answer the questions OUT LOUD to yourself (in the mirror if you are feeling brave) using your mobile phone timer.

While you are giving your answer…

  • Use your preparation time wisely
  • Take notes that focus on key points of your answer
  •  Be sure to speak in a calm and smooth manner
  • Stay focused

Feeling prepared before you take the exam can really help with your anxiety about the time limits and the general stress of taking a test.

To feel prepared, you must feel confident with your English level.  It all comes down to how well you have prepared yourself in a well rounded manner.

Contact me and I’ll help you plan out your English exam preparation!