How to be a confident speaker

A student in a classroom raising her hand

If you've ever kept quiet because you didn't feel confident speaking English, this article is for you.

Confidence helps you to speak English well and to enjoy speaking. If your confidence is low, here are five things you can do to boost it.

1. Speak up

Unconfident speakers often finish speaking as soon as they can or avoid speaking. But that can reduce your confidence even more. It's hard to build confidence if you rarely or never speak.

So, break this cycle! Try to be bold and speak up. Answering questions in class, talking to your classmates or other English speakers and joining a language exchange are all good opportunities for you to speak.

Confident speakers trust in their own abilities because they have spoken many times before. Build up your own speaking experience in this way by taking more opportunities.

2. Prepare well

A big cause of low confidence is feeling unprepared. If you aren't ready to speak, it's normal to feel unconfident.

So, before speaking, get yourself ready. Before a presentation, prepare what you want to say and practise until you can say it smoothly. Before class, find out what the next speaking activity will be and prepare some words and ideas to use. Before social interactions, prepare a few things to talk about, like the weather or recent news.

3. Change the way you think about failure

Failure is part of learning. It happens to everybody. But what's important is what happens next. Imagine:

  • You pronounce a word incorrectly.
  • You try to express your ideas but can't say them clearly.
  • You forget your words during a presentation.
  • Your speaking test mark is lower than you expected.

How do you react? 

For unconfident speakers, these just confirm that you aren't good at speaking and make you want to avoid it. As a famous cartoon character said: 'You tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is: never try.' (Homer Simpson, in The Simpsons)

But don't take Homer's advice! Confident speakers don't quit. Although they feel disappointed, they know these mistakes are valuable because mistakes show where they can improve. Confident speakers know that learning a language is a long-term activity, so they don't give too much importance to one single short-term failure.

4. Practise positive self-talk

We are our own worst critics. We notice all our own little mistakes – even if other people don't. We say to ourselves things like 'I'm bad at speaking English'.

But this is just an automatic thought. You needn't accept it. Interrupt this negative self-talk by questioning it.

  • Is it really true? Or have you forgotten what your strengths and achievements are?
  • Is it based on solid evidence? Or just your emotions and worries?
  • Is there any evidence saying the opposite, e.g. your past achievements or positive comments from teachers?

Negative self-talk is damaging to confidence. Positive self-talk is more encouraging. You can say things like 'I'm not good at speaking English … yet' or 'I'm working hard and getting better'.

5. Don't compare yourself with others

If you feel inspired by people around you, that's good. But if you think 'they're all better than me', it will harm your confidence.

Don't try to be the best. Just try to be better than you were yesterday. Set your own standards for your English learning – this will make you feel more confident and in control.

Discussion

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Average: 4.4 (41 votes)

Submitted by Oti on Tue, 27/02/2024 - 23:10

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I think improve your speaking skill is like improving your sport activity, you have to try and try, practice and practice. More you practice better your speaking will be better.

Submitted by Aminaa on Sun, 24/12/2023 - 12:58

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I need to improve my english level

Submitted by Basheer Yousfi on Thu, 23/11/2023 - 13:53

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The friends are the power which can push you on.
They understand you and your weakness and strength points.
They can help you to speak without awkwardness.

Submitted by matin_a on Tue, 21/11/2023 - 19:42

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effective communication with others boosts my confidence and listening to my intonation and pronunciation and compare it with professionals, harms it.

Submitted by JOSSGARCIA on Tue, 07/11/2023 - 22:40

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im agree its completely normal if you fail or confuse the words and grammar structure, sometimes the people can understand you do your best every day.

Submitted by Emilivi on Tue, 07/11/2023 - 22:01

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I really want to improve my English and that is what I need to do but I don't know how to learn English effectively. I'm a very shy person and I am not good at any English skills. I'm always afraid of making mistakes when using English, I'm afraid that others people will laugh at me because of my mistakes. My biggest fear is speaking English in front of the crowd and when I see my friends can speak English fluently, I feel more disappointed about myself. I wonder why I am so bad, why I am not confident as others...

Dear Emilivi, your written English is far better as you probably think. You proved this by delivering this post. Maybe your confidence in speaking is low? As a first step you could watch English videos e.g. on Youtube, switch on the English subtitles if available. Then try to speak synchronously to the actors. As you feel more confident, because your pronunciation sounds better in your ears, you can try to go abroad and try to get needed information e.g. in a tourist office. Getting confidence in English speaking is a long way for non-native speakers, but it's worth to strive for it step-by-step.
I'm on this way too. All the best to you.

Submitted by Molya on Sun, 05/11/2023 - 07:12

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Yes, I absolutely agree with you. I'm not confident speaker. I have same problems, sometimes I I compare myself with others, I want to say something in english but I thoughts is full such kind of things. And I finish my speech quick as soon as possible

Submitted by duyhung2201 on Thu, 02/11/2023 - 20:10

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Being unconfident is the biggest obstacle to improving speaking skills. I realize that when dare to show up, to express my view, to ask questions in classes, it's time I conquer my shyness and shame.
I'd rather be stupid for a moment than for my whole life!