Listening to a recording of yourself can be a bit uncomfortable for lots of people. Is that what my voice sounds like? If we’re speaking in another language, this discomfort can be much worse. I can’t believe I made that mistake. Ugh, my accent is horrible. By familiarising ourselves with our own spoken English, we can move on from this discomfort - it eventually becomes normal, and we can start working on ways of improving our spoken English.

Man with Headphones

The Basics:

  1. Find a recording of yourself speaking English. Maybe a section from a recorded lesson with your teacher, or a recording you’ve made of yourself. About 30-60 seconds is ideal.

  2. Listen through and remember what you were talking about - focus on the ideas.

  3. Now listen again and, pausing every 5-10 seconds, write down everything you hear. I mean everything. If you say ‘um’, write ‘um’. If you pause, write ‘…’. If you say ‘I go - went - went shopping’, write it. If you make a mistake, write the mistake.

  4. Read through and reflect on the language you used.

Somehow, seeing your speech written on the page is very different to simply listening to it and you can often identify ways to improve your speaking much more easily when it’s written.


  1. Look for repeated mistakes. Try not to get distracted by mistakes you make once - those are not serious. Instead, look for mistakes you make regularly. Do you often forget the ‘third person ’s’’ (e.g. he have)? Do you talk about the past but use present tenses? Do you confuse ‘his’ and ‘her’ a lot? What can you do to improve this?

  2. Think about your hesitations. Is there a pattern to your hesitations? Is it because you simply don’t know enough words or phrases to speak quickly or do you have trouble forming grammatical structures quickly enough (e.g. I + should + have + gone…) What can you do to improve this?

  3. Think about your pronunciation. Everyone has an accent, so I’m not worried about that. You can, however, think about whether you’re speaking clearly. A common feature of English is that we tend to make ‘important’ words clearer than non-important words, for example. Are you making it easy for your listener to understand you?


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