Why is speaking English so difficult?

Dear Friend,

If you have read the previous emails of our online English course you know that it's mainly about how you can learn English faster and more effectively. Now, I know that it's quite easy for you to read and understand my emails. What you have more difficulty with is write a forum post or speak English yourself. Why exactly is that? It's because reading and listening are so called 'passive skills' while writing and speaking are active skills. This principle holds true in your native language, too: When you watch TV or listen to a radio programme in your native language you probably understand 100% of what is being said.

Maybe you have some difficulty following all the facts but you do know almost all of the words and phrases that are being used. But if I asked you to make a 10-minute presentation on a subject of your choice I'm sure that this would be quite a challenge to you even if you could use your mother tongue. So what exactly is the reason for that? Again, the answer is simple and logical: The average person receives or absorbs much more information than they produce themselves. In other words, the majority of us spend much more time on listening and reading than on writing and speaking.

Friend, you wouldn't believe how many people want to improve their English speaking skills. If you want a number, I would say there are least 1 billion people who look for ways of improving their English, especially their pronunciation, intonation and accent. And the chances are that you are one of them. So what does it take to become an effective speaker of English? Well, first of all you should be able to distinguish between different sounds because your speaking skills largely depend on how well you can 'hear' English.

For example, if you have difficulty telling American and British accents apart, it will be even more difficult for you to actually imitate those accents. On our website you will find voice recordings from a variety of native speakers. Listen to them and try to find out the nationality of the speaker. Pay close attention to separate sounds. Sharpen your hearing skills. Before you can learn to speak good English, you need to develop a keen interest in different accents and pronunciations.

To practise your listening comprehension skills even further, you can listen to the audio recordings on our site: Listening Comprehension Exercises. There are a number of ways you can use them:

1) You can first read the text.
2) You can then listen to the recording and read the text (the transcript) at the same time.
3) You can now listen to the recording without the text.

Once you are comfortable understanding the gist or all of the recording, you should try to answer the multiple-choice questions at the bottom of the page. Here is an example: Employee asks co-worker for help.

On our site you will find hundreds of listening comprehension exercises and what's even more -- you can even record your own voice! In my next email I'm going to explain how you can use our forum to practise and improve your speaking skills because that's what you want to do after all: Learn to speak English!

Best regards,
Torsten Daerr
PS: If you have any questions about this email, please use this link: Feedback on Listening Comprehension.
Author: Torsten Daerr