Speaking a foreign language can be a challenge, but when you overcome that it can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
How can you improve this difficult skill?
In order to improve your speaking skills in Vietnamese, you need to practice speaking. These tips and techniques will help get you started!
Tip 1: Speak more often
Speaking more often is one of the best tips for improving your speaking skills in a foreign language. The more you speak, the more confident you’ll be and the better your fluency will become.
Of course listening, reading and writing will all help you to improve your Vietnamese. But if it’s specifically speaking that you want to improve, then you need to practice speaking.
How often should you speak Vietnamese?
In my 10 years of teaching and learning languages, I’ve found speaking 1-3 times a week is good for maintaining your level.
If you want to improve your fluency, you ideally should be trying to speak Vietnamese 4+ times a week. Conversations should be long enough that you have to push yourself (ordering lunch doesn’t count), but those conversations don’t all have to be hour-long discussions.
This is one reason why it’s easier to make progress when you’re living in the country. It’s easier to have frequent conversations.
If you’re not in Vietnam, it’ll take more planning. Fear not – we’re here to help. We’ll be covering tips for speaking in the rest of this article.
Tip 2: Find a Conversation Partner
Speaking can also help you to build a deeper connection to the culture and make friends. Conversation partners are a great way to do this.
I’ve covered this topic before in an article on language exchanges as finding a conversation partner can be difficult when you are learning a new language.
First, you could try to find a meetup that is specifically focused on language learning. If you’re in a city, there’s a small chance of meeting a Vietnamese speaker. I once spoke Vietnamese at a language exchange in Bulgaria! To be honest though, I’ve had more success with language exchanges when I’m in a country where the language is spoken.
Your second option is to find a language exchange partner online. This is pretty easy if you can speak English as there is no shortage of people who want to practice with you. Again, my other post on language exchanges covers this in more detail.
Finally, once you’ve found your language partner make sure to practice your new language regularly.
Tip 3: Take Conversation Lessons
Conversation lessons will help you improve your speaking skills, and give you the opportunity to practice your new language with a native or fluent speaker.
This is a big part of my approach when I’m a beginner and low level. Though to be honest, I really like conversation lessons at any level as they’re so convenient to schedule and I can get a lot of quality practice time. It’s similar in convenience to an online exchange, but you pay for a lesson instead of using your time to help someone.
A great option for busy people.
Tip 4: Take Language Lessons
If you want to improve your overall skills in a foreign language, not just your speaking ability, then taking language lessons may be a good idea. This can help you to improve your vocabulary, spend time on learning the grammar and pronunciation of the language, and to improve your spoken fluency through practice.
One of the main differences between traditional lessons and conversation lessons is the amount of time you spend speaking. Many good teachers will use a communicative approach in normal lessons so you will get some speaking practice. But you will also spend time reading or listening, learning new words, revising grammar and so on.
In contrast, a conversation lesson is more like speaking to a friend – except they’re paid to be patient and help you say what you want to say, make sure the conversation doesn’t dry up and provide feedback.
I like both types on lessons, but I take more conversation lessons because I want to improve my speaking and conversational ability most of all.
Tip 5: Think in Vietnamese
Speaking a foreign language often enough can be difficult. One way to make practising easier is to talk to yourself. If you don’t want to talk aloud, thinking in Vietnamese is a good substitution. Being able to think quickly in Vietnamese will help your spoken fluency.
You can decide to think in Vietnamese while you do a particular activity – like walking the dog or buying groceries. Every time you do that activity you commit to thinking in Vietnamese. I often think in Vietnamese when I’m buying groceries. It’s a habit I started years ago and still keep up with. Easy practice!
My other tip is to think in Vietnamese when you’re people watching. For example, when you’re waiting for a friend in a cafe. Use that time to describe what you see around you. Beginners can make simple sentences naming objects and colours. Higher level learners can guess how strangers are feeling and what might have happened to cause that.
Tip 6: Record yourself speaking
One way to improve your speaking skills is to record yourself speaking. This can help you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, and to improve your accuracy.
You don’t need to record a video – audio is enough. However, instagram users may want to share a reel and get encouragement from other learners.
To level up, you should listen to your recording and search for strengths and weaknesses. You can add strengths to your can-do list, and then create a plan to address your weaknesses.
An added bonus of recording yourself is being able to measure your progress. When you listen again to something you recorded six months or a year ago, you may be pleasantly surprised.
Tip 7: Mimic Audio Files
If you want to improve your speaking skills in a foreign language, one effective way is to mimic audio files. By listening to recordings of native speakers, you can learn how to produce the sounds well. This can help you sound more natural when speaking and can also help you to improve your pronunciation of tones.
This technique is great if you want to improve your pronunciation, but if you mimic dialogues you can practice common questions and topics that can be useful for your own conversations.
Tip 8: Learn to sing
This is not an approach I have much experience of, but people learn differently. Benny of Fluent in 3 months is a big fan of singing and it might appeal to you too.
I did learn the words of Diễm Hương’s Who Cares several years ago, and I can still remember the chorus when I listen to the song.
Learning to sing could be a good strategy if you struggle with smooth pronunciation. My Spanish could probably benefit from this, my Vietnamese and Russian less so as my pronunciation is more natural than my Spanish pronunciation.
If you like Vietnamese music, singing is something to consider to work on your pronunciation and fluency.
Tip 9: Go somewhere the language is spoken
If you want to improve your speaking skills in a foreign language, one effective way is to travel to a country where the language is spoken. By spending time in the language environment, This will help you practice and gain fluency in the language.
Of course, that’s not always practical but you can also seek places locally. I nearly always get to speak Vietnamese when I visit an authentic Vietnamese restaurant.
Tip 10: Use apps and software
If you want to improve your speaking skills in a foreign language, one effective way is to use apps and software. These tools can help you to practice speaking the language, and can also help you to improve your pronunciation.
This isn’t something I’ve explored much (other than using apps for language exchange), but if I do, I’ll update this article.
Tip 11: Listen more
It can be hard to get as much live speaking practice as you’d like. One extra thing you can do for your speaking skills is to listen more. In time, this can help you to sound more natural when speaking. Listening can give you a better understanding of the language and keep vocabulary fresh.
I find that when I’m not using a language much, it’s important to keep up with it to maintain my level. Otherwise, you’ll start to get rusty and forget words. If you practice speaking but don’t spend much time listening to native or fluent speakers, your speaking can sound more foreign or unnatural because you’re missing out on natural expressions.
Tip 12: Improve your vocabulary
Sometimes the real problem is not your speaking ability after all, but a lack of vocabulary. That’s a topic for another day! Sign up to our newsletter to get notifications of new posts, so you’ll be the first to read that article when it’s published.
Finally – Practice, Practice, Practice!
Speaking a foreign language can be difficult, but with a little practice, you can improve your skills quickly. One of the best ways to improve your speaking skills is to practice regularly. Whether you’re trying to improve your pronunciation or fluency, making time for regular practice will help you build your skills faster.
Over to you: How often do you practice Vietnamese? Which tip above are you going to add to your routine?