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Speak English Accurately

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Learn to Speak English Accurately

Even after many years of study, students make frequent mistakes in English. In addition, many students still need a long time to think of what they want to say. For some reason, in spite of all the studying, students are still not quite fluent. When I teach, I use one technique that helps students not only speak more accurately, but also more fluently. That technique is dictations.

I used dictations myself when I was learning French. I had some teachers who read dictations very slowly for us. We were happy to be able to write all the words, but I found that I didn't learn very much that way. However, one of my teachers was very tough. Instead of reading to us, she gave us a cassette, which always played at the same fast speed! It was terrible! I felt like I could hear nothing, that I knew no French at all. It made me feel so stupid! But I had to listen to that cassette and write down ALL of the words. I had to listen carefully to EVERY sound. It seemed like most of the time I failed, but guess what? When I went to France after graduating from university, all of those words and sentences came back to me so easily when I needed them in real conversations!

Now, when I teach, I use cassette tapes with my students. They are not happy at first, just like I was not happy learning French. But they always get used to it with a little practice. I record some voices from the radio, or I use a cassette from a textbook, as long as the speakers are speaking at natural speed. With today's technology, I also can use MP3 audio or DVDs for listening practice.

You can do the same thing at home even without a teacher. I call these "Self Dictations". Find any recording at all. The content is not important at first. The main goal is to get your ears, and your brain, used to processing natural speed English. Here are some tips you should follow as you try Self Dictations.

- Write down EVERY sound you hear, even if you can't catch the words

- If you're not sure of the sound, then GUESS. Guessing forces your brain to focus, so this is important!)

- If it's difficult, do a very SHORT selection at first. Even one sentence is enough to start.

- At first, don't be afraid to listen 20 or 30 or even 40 times, if you have trouble.

- If possible, find a friend or classmate to give you feedback AFTER you have written down every sound.

- After getting feedback, listen to the whole selection again without stopping. See how much more you can understand now!

- Do new dications, but sometimes go back to the first dictations. You will see how easy they have become and you will soon start using the same sentence patterns in your own speaking.

This is a very simple technique, isn't it? How can it help our speaking so much? To understand, we have to compare how we study a foreign language with how we learn our first language. Children grow up naturally curious about the language they hear around them. They are always focussed on the sounds they hear. Children don't worry about meaning or grammar, or about being 100% perfect. They just listen to the sounds and repeat them as best they can. (This would be an "Oral Dictation" rather than written!)

When we learn a foreign language, do we usually do the same thing? Most students do not. Usually we are more focussed on the thoughts inside our heads than in the real sounds of the language. We are thinking about grammar rules or trying to remember words that we studied from a book. Dictations stop all of that, and focus our attention on REAL language, just like when we were children. With dictaions, we end up "over learning", which means we learn the sentences so well that they become a natural part of us. In other words, we become FLUENT!

I have had many students of all levels use dictations to successfully improve their speaking fluency. After the initial shock and disappointment passes away, my students start to feel comfortable and often call dictations their favorite learning technique. They enjoy doing dictations because they KNOW they are learning and making steady progress. After they improve and reach a higher level, dictations become even more interesting because students can listen to songs or DVDs with ease.

You can learn English from dictations by going to Teacher Joe's Dictation page for basic sentences. When you can do those well, you can learn even more English sentences from Joe's favorite English jokes. Good luck!

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