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How can I improve my speaking?

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My English teacher and a couple of other people confronted me that I have a speaking problem, which isn't terrible, but not very good for someone who wants to make a very good English grade. It is a combination of these things:

- I lack good organization to help my ideas flow when I'm speaking

- I stutter (kind of) my sentence beginnings

- I speak in fragments sometimes; I'll stop myself and will start over like a sputtery engine.

One of the theories we came up with is that I experience an unnecessary nervousness and also that I think faster than I speak...

I really want to improve my speaking skills before my Oral Commentary next year, so I am taking precautions now so that I'm not worrying my pants off next year. I suppose that conscientious practice makes perfect, but I was wondering if anybody had a similar problem and had any suggestions on how to improve and feel confident for the Commentary?

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Well first off, they're great awesome people who care about you, if they actually talked to you about your ability to speak in class. That's awesome. As to actually fixing it, nothing helps you improve like experience, and in English, the absolute best experience you can have is arguing with people, because then the oral commentary just seems like you're arguing with someone who's some awed be your skill that all they can do is sit there and nod, and even better, it's you're English teacher!

Anyways, the way I practiced was that I stuck up my hand and jumped in a lot in class (our teacher pretty much left half the time to class discussion, which was often really good, because it was well moderated and there were a bunch of really keen students there), I also went to philosopher's cafe, made friends that I could have philosophy talks or arguments with, and just argued in general, online, with friends, parents, etc. Learning to stand up for what you think and being willing to be aggressive with it is what makes a really really good oral commentary.

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Personally what I found best (I used to get extremely nervous public speaking too pre-IB!) was to basically think of it less as giving a presentation as sharing with somebody else what I find interesting. Unlike SharkSpider I'm not very aggressive (it doesn't come very naturally to me usually, anyway!) and not interested in speaking up in lessons as I was kinda bored and more interested in dozing off (although that's a really good idea as to how to practice for "publically" speaking in front of your audience.. literally the audience you're going to have!) so I kinda went for making it interesting. If you find it interesting, everything works! At least it does for me. I just treated it like a conversation I might have about anything else which fascinates me. I found that if I did it spontaneously (i.e. wrote out good notes so I didn't have to fear getting lost or stuck, as I could always look down and be right on track again but didn't actually practice the presentation) I did myself a lot of good. Most of my worry was getting the words out right and the more I practised the more it seemed like something I had to learn, but never could! You also lose a lot of your audience contact and intonation (unless you go out of your way to put it in) if you practice the speech itself. Sooo I made sure I knew my ideas thoroughly, stood up and just spoke it :D

I went from nervous and having a really bad time expressing myself to actually feeling really fluent (obviously slightly nervous as you -are- being assessed, you can never rid yourself of it entirely, but relatively it was like a calm summer's day XD Didn't affect my presentation at all). You just have to feel confident in your knowledge of and interested in the ideas you're trying to put across. I don't think there's a method which works to solve these problems for everyone, but that worked for me :)

Also make the most of any practice presentations you do. After one of them has gone well, you'll feel like you've finally broken the back of your problem and after that have MUCH less to worry about.

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The first thing that comes too my mind when I read about your problem is if you're speaking too fast to begin with? Our middle school teacher always told us how important it way to slow down when you're presenting something. Mostly because if you're nervous and speak to fast (or just speak to fast) it's harder to hear what you're saying, you're more likely to say something that makes no sense and not even notice it yourself, you stutter more easily and you'll make a less professional impression.

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The advice that others have given you so far is great. Although I think that one more thing that could help you improve your speaking is speaking in front of the mirror. It is important to see yourself when presenting, that way you will see yourself, the way you say things. You will not have that confused look on your face when you think you said something wrong and such. It works for me at least. It is different for each person.

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I had never been very good with public speaking, until I joined debate. I understand debate may be a wee bit aggressive, but it teaches you valuable speaking skills, speaking for quite a large chunk of time, and is a great way to perfect your BS-ing skills. Also, I always talk with my hands, so I find when my hand motions are slower, my speaking becomes more fluid.

Best of luck :D

Edited by boom
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The advice my teacher gave to us was to get used to hearing our own voice so that we don't need to concentrate on how we're speaking and can focus on WHAT we're actually saying. So he suggested for us to 'talk to ourselves' more, as in study out loud, or read our texts out loud, so that we can get used to the flow of talking.

He also said that its better to take the commentary slowly and have small pauses here and there to process our thoughts, rather than speaking too fast and stuttering or saying too many 'distracting ums and uhs'.

Personally, I think you also need to practise writing faster and analysing works faster, because when I was doing my IOC, I actually found I didn't have enough time to plan all my thoughts out on paper during the 20min, which made me more nervous while talking.

Hope this helps. :)

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We did a LOT of practice IOCs beforehand, just to get used to the idea of speaking after such a short preparation period. But before that, one of the things that really helped when I was presenting is to have a friend signal to me if I was going too fast, etc. That was (and is) my biggest problem, and I find that if you've got someone to tell you to slow down, you will.

I've heard our teachers say that if you feel like you're speaking too slowly, you're probably going at just the right speed.

But most of the time, you just need to practice, whether in front of your class or in front of your friends. Identify your weaknesses (which you have), and then practice in a more relaxed environment; talk to yourself, whatever.

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when speaking (assuming a presentation) look at a person you are comfortable with (center of the room) or at a wall. Talk slow, so people know what you are saying. And don't freak out too much! Relax!

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When I was younger, I had a similar problem, and I finally figured out that it was because I was thinking too far ahead, which you say is your problem too. When you speak, you do need to be prepared, and your mind does need to be a few steps ahead of what you're saying, but the only way to make sure that you're not so far ahead that you forget what you've said/what you still need to say is to get lots of practice at speaking, and lots of feedback. For me, the most convenient way was to join the debating club, and that really helped me a lot, but theatre sports, any sort of improvisation or speaking exercises, will help. Even consciously making an effort to notice how your audience is reacting, and reacting to their reactions will make it harder for your mind to run ahead. Also, don't be afraid to pause, and remember that everything you say seems a lot slower to you than it does to your audience. Good luck!

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