This is a question I get asked quite often when people contact me – “Robby, I want to improve my spoken English. What books would you suggest?”
The moment I read the question, I just can’t help but to think:
“Why on Earth are you looking for a BOOK if it’s your SPOKEN English you want to improve?”
To me it’s quite obvious that no amount of books will help you on your journey to become a fluent English speaker.
If you want, we can do an experiment.
Just give me your address and I’ll send a trailer-load of books to you and I bet you’re not going to gain an ounce of spoken English fluency after reading them all ❗
You don’t believe me?
Well, I’m a living proof of that – there was a time when I was literally devouring English fiction books and as a result I achieved a complete reading fluency.
And guess what?
I was still struggling with basic communication for the simple reason that reading books didn’t train my MOUTH ❗
Basically the issue is the following:
You may have the BEST English learning books and textbooks in the world, but they’re not going to make any difference to your ability to speak unless you PRACTICE YOUR SPOKEN ENGLISH…
…which brings us to the REAL question:
What Should I DO With the English Books?
Now we’re talking!
This is the REAL question my friends – what to DO with the English textbooks, grammar books and whatever kind of books you may have!
Yes, what you DO with the book matters a whole lot more than what kind of book you have!
You may have any of the following books:
- Cambridge Advanced Grammar in Use;
- Cambridge Collocations in Use;
- Cambridge Professional English in Use;
- English Conversation books;
- English Phrasebooks;
- or any other English grammar or textbook, or indeed – English novels!
… but you have to USE them right in order to benefit from the content provided by the author of the book in question.
What Can You Possibly Do With an English Textbook?
A lot of these books contain traditional exercises that require you to do all or one of the following:
- Link words on the left with sentences from the right;
- Fill in gaps in sentences by using the correct words/forms of verbs;
- Complete a written passage by using given words.
- Listen to the CD provided and mark the correct answers.
It’s all nice and well, and if you follow all these recommendations your written English and your listening comprehension is going to develop leaps and bounds, yes!
But the question still remains: “Are you going to develop your SPOKEN English as a result?”
Remember this – if spoken English improvement was the reason why you wanted to use the book in the first place, it’s very, very important not to lose the focus!
It’s all too easy to forget that spoken English development is what you want because the moment you open the book you are bombarded with all kinds of PAPER-BASED activities.
So, pretty much the only activity that’s going to contribute to your ability to speak in English is:
That’s EXACTLY what you should be doing with an English book!
You should be reading questions and answering them by SPEAKING OUT LOUD because that’s the only way you can train your mouth to speak!
And let’s not forget that can in order to develop your ability to express yourself properly, answering the question only once doesn’t cut it. You have to do it many times over – at least 5 times or so – so that you can provide an automatic response without much thinking!
Here’s a few tips and tricks on how to do proper spoken English practice by using an English textbook.
Usually when there’s a question to answer, you can form your response using the question itself. So, for example, when answering the following question: “Can you name one person who you look up to?” you can form your response by mimicking the question: “If I had to name one person who I look up to, it would be my father.”
VERY IMPORTANT! When answering the question, try NOT to look at the textbook! It’s very important to sever the connection between the written word and your speech – read this article to understand why – and it’s only possible if you avert your eyes from the textbook and speak out loud while looking away from it!
When answering questions, make sure to use as many of the highlighted phrases and new vocabulary words that are normally indicated in that particular lesson as you can because it’s only by using them that you’ll actually learn them!
Normally there’s a written passage provided with highlighted words and phrases which represent new vocabulary you have to learn. What you have to do is – read the entire passage out loud many times over (aim for 20 repetitions – I know it sounds a lot, but you’ll thank me for it later on!) and try to memorize the highlighted phrases in particular! Every next time you read it out loud, try to look away from the book for as long as you can and speak from memory!
Don’t limit your spoken English practice with only those questions provided in the book – I’m sure you can come up with a lot of other things to discuss in relation to the written passage. Write the questions down first – if it makes the whole exercise easier – and then answer them!
What to Do When There Aren’t Any Questions Provided?
If there aren’t any questions provided in the textbook – you can simply try to RETELL the written passage. This is a very effective method of practicing your spoken English, and it goes without saying you should focus on any new vocabulary and phraseology you come across in the written piece.
This technique can also be used when you read English fiction, newspapers or news articles online – so basically whatever English written content you can get your hands on, make sure to take advantage of it and use it for your spoken English improvement!
P.S. Would you like to find out why I’m highlighting some of the text in red? Read this article and you’ll learn why it’s so important to learn idiomatic expressions and how it will help you to improve your spoken English!
P.S.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!