10 Activities to Improve Your English Speaking [Self-Study Guide #4]

Published on
November 14, 2022
Updated on
January 6, 2023
min read
This article may contain affiliate links
Written by
Emile Dodds

Speaking isn’t something you can practise on your own; you need a teacher for that, right? Wrong! There are plenty of ways to practise speaking on your own and our guide will start you off with ten great activities!

10 Activities to Improve Your English Speaking [Self-Study Guide #4]
Table of contents

Note: This is the fourth of a series of guides covering self-study activities. You may also be interested in the other guides on listening, reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation.

Here at Leonardo English, when we asked our listeners how they practise speaking English, we got some surprising answers!

One person uses Tinder, the dating app, to find people to talk to. It’s an interesting approach but if you’re married, like me, it might be difficult to explain to your spouse!

Some learners try to find tourists to talk to. However, one person does the opposite. He goes downtown and pretends to be a tourist, then talks to the locals in English!

As an English teacher for adults, I find that many students come to my classes just to practise speaking. There’s a belief that you can practise all the other skills on your own (listening, reading, writing, grammar), but you need a teacher to practise speaking.

This belief is not true. With a little imagination (and the ideas in our guide), you can do it!.

In this guide, I will give you 10 activities to practise speaking English by yourself. If you are interested in practising with an online tutor, we have a separate guide to help you with that.

How to approach speaking practice

Many of our activities involve recording your voice, so to approach these activities, you need to:

  • Find some way of recording your voice (e.g. an app on your computer or phone) - most smartphones have a (free) built-in voice recorder
  • Become comfortable recording and listening to yourself (many people don’t like to hear their own voice, but you can get used to it)
  • Become comfortable speaking English by yourself, without a person responding or checking you

You may wish to post your recordings on social media, like Instagram, to share them with others learning English.

Alternatively, you could keep them private in your Google Drive or Dropbox.

Or, you may just simply save the recordings on your laptop. Whichever way works best for you, it’s nice to keep a portfolio of your work.

Easy activities

Activity 1 - Tongue twisters

Everyone loves tongue twisters. My favourite is this one: repeat “red lorry, yellow lorry” ten times as fast as possible!

There are many more tongue twisters on this site.

I suggest the following approach. Choose a tongue twister. Practise it until you’re perfect. If you’re not camera-shy, why not record it and send it to a few English-learning friends (or even post it on your social media!): Can they do it as well as you can?

Remember, tongue twisters are not only fun, but they are also a way to improve enunciation and fluency. 

Skills: Speaking, fluency
Tools: Tongue twisters, camera, social media
Time: 5-10 minutes
Skill Level: Easy

Activity 2 - My day

At the end of a busy day, record yourself in English talking about:

  • The best thing that happened today
  • An unusual thing that happened today
  • What you learned today
  • What would make tomorrow a great day

If you make this a habit at the end of every day, it’s an easy but sure way to improve your fluency.

Not only that, but reflecting on the day’s events is a sure way to a healthy mind, according to Zen Buddhism, Stoicism, modern psychology and business coaches!

Skills: Speaking, vocabulary, fluency
Tools: camera, social media
Time: 5-10 minutes
Skill Level: Easy

Medium-level activities

Activity 3 - Reading aloud for pacing and stress

Reading aloud is a great activity to help you with your pronunciation, speed and stress.

You will find that there are many books that are also available as audiobooks. You can even find some for free.

For this activity, I recommend the short story Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. It’s the strange story of a man who wakes up one day as a giant cockroach!

You can hear the entire audio version here, and you can download the book here. The free preview has the first four pages, enough for you to try it out and see if you like it.

I recommend these steps for this activity:

  1. Read the story aloud for about 30 seconds, reaching the end of the current paragraph. Record yourself if you like.
  2. Listen to the audio version of the story. Did you have the same speed, pronunciation and stress? (It needn’t be exactly the same.)
  3. Either try again or, if you’re happy with your progress, continue with the story.

Because this activity is to practise reading aloud, don’t get distracted looking up too many words in the dictionary. Just note down the most important words to look up later.

If a story about a man-cockroach isn’t for you, this website gives recommendations for 125 books that are good for adults to read aloud.

Skills: Speaking, reading, vocabulary, pronunciation, stress
Tools: Text and accompanying audio
Time: 5-10 minutes
Skill Level: Medium

Activity 4 - The Peppa Pig challenge

Let’s continue with another translation challenge.

This one is simple: watch an episode of Peppa Pig in English and translate it into your own language aloud in real-time.

Why Peppa Pig? The characters speak slowly and clearly using simple language. It’s for kids, but it’s fun for adults, too. And even though it’s a show for kids, I bet you will still pick up some new vocabulary.

In addition to all that, it’s easy to find videos and transcripts for Peppa Pig online, in many languages. The English videos are here and the English transcripts are here.

To take the activity a step further, watch an episode of Peppa in your own language and translate it aloud in real time to English.

Skills: Speaking, listening, fluency, pronunciation
Tools: Peppa Pig videos and transcripts from various websites
Time: 10-20 minutes
Skill Level: Medium

Activity 5 - Shadowing

At Leonardo English, we know all about ways to use podcasts to improve your English. One simple way to do this is through something called shadowing.

Shadowing refers to the technique of speaking just after someone else - like a shadow.

For example, you could listen to a podcast or a TED talk, and repeat exactly what the speaker says about half a second after they say it.

This helps you with pace, word stress, sentence stress and chunking. It is good to do this with a slow or medium paced speaker.

To make it easier, listen once without shadowing, then try shadowing the second time you listen.

I recommend our English Learning for Curious Minds podcast as it is presented slowly and clearly, and full transcripts are available.

Skills: Speaking, pronunciation
Tools: Podcast or TED talk
Time: 5-10 minutes
Skill Level: Medium

Activity 6 - You’re the teacher!

In my classes, I sometimes invite students to come up to the whiteboard and teach a grammar point. It’s fun and adds an unusual twist to the lesson.

But it’s also a great learning method. By teaching others a grammar point, you push yourself to have a deeper understanding of it.

You can turn this into a self-study activity. Simply choose a grammar point that you feel you have mastered (more or less) and produce a short video on it. You could choose a vocabulary point, such as idioms, if you prefer.

Then, if you’re feeling brave, post the video on YouTube or Instagram for the world to see. You might help another learner. 

If you don’t want to share it, that’s fine too. Simply trying to record yourself explaining something is a great way to practise, and you never have to share it with anyone else if you don’t want to.

Skills: Speaking, grammar, fluency
Tools: Speaking topic, camera
Time: 5-10 minutes
Skill Level: Medium

Activity 7 - Your business profile

Let’s look at an activity that’s good for English learners interested in business English.

Most people who are interested in business have a LinkedIn account. If you don’t have one, it’s a good idea to start one!

The first thing people do on LinkedIn is to complete their profile. But did you know that you can post a video profile of up to thirty seconds?

It’s a great way to advertise yourself… and it also makes a great business speaking activity!

You could either record a 30-second profile video or record a 1-2 minute introductory video. Or both!

The profile video plays when visitors click on your profile photo. If you want to post a longer video, users will see it when they scroll down the page.

Here is an example of an account that has both. If you do not yet have a LinkedIn account, you can see examples on YouTube of a profile video and a longer introductory video.

And if you don’t have a LinkedIn account, you can still make a profile video to post on YouTube, Instagram or just to keep aside for a rainy day!

Filling in the rest of your LinkedIn profile or creating written posts can be a great way to improve your writing, too.

Skills: Speaking, Business English
Tools: LinkedIn, camera
Time: 5-10 minutes
Skill Level: Medium

Hard or challenging activities

Activity 8 - The translation challenge

People sometimes say that translation is bad. They mean creating a direct translation from one language to another, which usually results in a wrong translation!

However, done correctly, translation can be a powerful tool to improve your English.

So let’s look at a simple but effective translation activity:

  1. Find a global news story in your own language.
  2. Translate it into English and make a recording of it.
  3. Find the same story on the news in English.
  4. Compare your translation with the English version. How did you do?

The reason for choosing a global news story is so that you can be sure to find it in both your language and in English. You might want to find the news item in both languages before you do your translation.

For the English news source, I recommend BBC or CNN. Both of these sites feature short video clips on current news items.

What should you compare? You should look for similarities in vocabulary. You should also ask yourself if your version sounds as natural as the news version. Or did you use direct translations? Finally, you should check the speed of your version. Is it as fast as the BBC?

Skills: Speaking, listening, vocabulary, fluency
Tools: Various websites, camera
Time: 20+ minutes
Skill Level: Hard

Activity 9 - On with the show!

Here is another activity that you can do with a podcast or TED talk.

First, find a podcast or TED talk that comes with a transcript, such as English Learning for Curious Minds. It should be at least five minutes in length.

Next, listen to the first two or three minutes, following along with the transcript.

Now, stop the podcast, and continue yourself, reading from the transcript. Record yourself if you like. Aim to record about two minutes.

Should you try to imitate the style and tone of the speaker? Yes! This is a great way to improve. Imitate the speaker’s stress patterns and speed, too.

If you have recorded yourself, play it back and compare it with the original. How did you do?

Remember, the aim is to speak at a natural speed and with natural enunciation.

Skills: Speaking, fluency, pronunciation, enunciation
Tools: Podcast or TED talk with transcript, camera
Time: 5-10 minutes
Skill Level: Hard

Activity 10 - The 4-3-2 activity

In this activity, you prepare a short speech on a topic of your choice. You can get some topic ideas here.

Next, you practise delivering the speech, giving yourself four minutes, using a timer.

Then, repeat the speech, giving yourself three minutes.

Finally, try again, giving yourself two minutes. This time, record yourself.

The reason for repeating the speech is to allow you to focus on improving your vocabulary, as you already know what you are going to say each time. The reason for reducing the time is to see an improvement in fluency. This means you hesitate less and speak at a more natural speed.

You could also turn the activity upside-down and start with a two-minute speech, turn it into a three-minute speech and then finally a four-minute speech. This will give you practice elaborating on your ideas. If you have trouble speaking for four minutes at a time, this is a good method for you.

Continued practice with either technique will certainly boost your fluency.

Also, note that the IELTS exam includes a speaking test where you talk for 1-2 minutes on a prepared topic. This activity is great for IELTS preparation.

Skills: Speaking, fluency
Tools: Speaking topic, camera
Time: 10-20 minutes
Skill Level: Hard

Learn by doing

The best way to improve your speaking is by speaking! Practise regularly and use a good range of different activities.

While it is good to have a speaking partner or teacher, you can certainly practise by yourself with a little imagination and the activities listed here.

Build speaking practice into your learning routine and do it as often as possible.

For the very best results, record yourself and, if you like, share them on social media!

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