“How many languages do you speak?”

This is what we ask when we want to know about someone’s language skills. We ask about their ability to speak. We’re not interested if someone can read or write in another language – the importance is on speaking.

Why is this? Well, of the four domains of language, speaking is perhaps the most difficult. It’s a complicated skill, which combines an active knowledge of vocabulary and grammar, not to mention correct pronunciation.

Not only is speaking a second language complicated, but it can also be nerve-racking! This is because we all have something called an ‘affective filter’. This is a psychological filter that can cause us to experience stress and anxiety.

It’s perfectly natural and it’s actually something you can control. By finding opportunities to practise speaking English, you can lower your affective filter and gain confidence. Here are some ideas that you can try out from the safety of your own home!


Voice typing with Google Docs

OK, so Google may know a creepy amount of information about all of us, but its web-based word processor Google Docs has some pretty awesome features. One of those is ‘Voice typing’. With this tool there’s no need to type, you just speak to your computer and watch the words appear on the screen. Here’s a short tutorial to show you how it’s done on YouTube.

Of course, it’s not the same as having a conversation with someone, but it’s a cool way to test your speaking skills and identify any pronunciation errors.


Speech shadowing with TED Talks

TED is a platform of informative talks on a range of topics. It’s a wonderful resource for language learners as it allows you to listen to expert speakers, with the support of subtitles and an interactive transcript.

Speech shadowing with TED Talks | 5 ways to practise your speaking at home | Oxford House Barcelona

Besides watching the videos and reading the text, we suggest you try replicating parts of the talk. You can do this simply by listening, pausing and repeating what the speaker says. Alternatively, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can have a go at shadowing.

The difference is that, with shadowing, you don’t pause the video. You have to listen and repeat what has been said in real time. It’s not easy, but if you can be a really effective way to improve your pronunciation and intonation.


Language exchange partner on Italki

Having built up some confidence talking to…umm, yourself, now you’re ready to interact with another human! If you’re not lucky enough to live next door to Benedict Cumberbatch, don’t worry. There are other ways of finding a language exchange partner.



Italki is a language learning website with a directory of teachers and learners. You can either pay for online lessons with a qualified teacher, or you can chat with a language exchange partner for free.

Just create an account, search for a suitable partner and start Skyping!


Voice messaging with WhatsApp

If the idea of having a live video conversation with a stranger is still a little too daunting for you, why not start with voice messages?

Create a WhatsApp group with your friends and, instead of writing to each other, record voice messages in English. Sure, nobody really likes the sound of their own voice, but it’s great chance to reflect on the way you speak.

Voice messaging with WhatsApp | 5 ways to practise your speaking at home | Oxford House Barcelona

The more often you do it, the more natural it will become and you’ll be ready for that language exchange after all!


Speak & Improve from Cambridge English

In a previous post, we talked about Write & Improve, an excellent tool developed by Cambridge English. Well, now they’re in the process of developing a similar tool for speaking.

It’s called Speak & Improve and, although it’s still in its infancy, you should definitely check it out. Just talk to ‘Sandi’ the speech robot and he (or she) will give you a grade.

Speak & Improve from Cambridge English | 5 ways to practise your speaking at home | Oxford House Barcelona

Source: https://speakandimprove.com/


Also, by getting involved in the project and using Speak & Improve, you’ll actually be helping them improve the technology. So go for it!

Don’t forget, every two weeks at Oxford House we organise Chatty Thursday! For just €3 you can join a super chatty conversation class and take part in a communicative group activity with an experienced teacher.

The next event will be on March 21st – see you there!

Glossary for Language Learners


Find the following words in the article and then write down any new ones you didn’t know.

Nerve-racking (adj): causing stress or anxiety.

Real time (n): the actual time during which a process or event occurs.

Skyping (v): have a spoken conversation over the Internet using Skype.

Daunting (adj): intimidating.

In its infancy (exp): in a very early stage.


adj = adjective

n = noun

v = verb

exp = expression

Study English at Oxford House Barcelona

Interested in improving your English? Check all the different English courses we can offer you at Oxford House Barcelona, or contact us for more information.

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