Lesson 4

How to Practise Speaking

On Thursday, I go to school again. We have a new student in our class. Her name is Monica and she is from Italy.

At the beginning of the lesson, my teacher asks her how her life is. My teacher knows Monica from one year ago when she went to her class. That was a class for beginners and it was only for two weeks during summer holiday.

When Monica speaks, her English is beautiful. Her pronunciation is very good and she is very fluent.

My teacher is very happy and she asks Monica, “Where did you learn English so well? You speak very fluently. What school did you go to?”

Monica replies, “I didn’t go to any school. I learnt English at home. I used the advice and techniques which you taught us last summer. I did a lot of reading, shadowing and thinking aloud. I tried to think more in English than in Italian.

This is how I improved my English. The two weeks I spent last summer at your class helped me a lot. You showed me the way. I knew exactly how to work on my English every day. That’s why I wanted to go to your class again because one year ago, I was a beginner and now I can speak English. I want to learn from you again.”

My teacher is very happy when she hears these words. She thanks Monica for sharing her experience.

It is all very interesting for me. I already know about the importance of reading. I also know the shadowing technique. However, Monica also speaks about thinking aloud. I don’t know what it is. So I ask our teacher, “What is ‘thinking aloud’?”

Our teacher says, “It is a very simple and powerful technique. You have to have a strong motivation to learn English if you want to benefit from this technique.

It is also good to know that for some people this technique is a little bit crazy. However, when you start to think aloud, your English can improve very fast.”

I say, “I have a strong motivation. I don’t care if the technique is crazy. If it helps, I want to learn it. Can you teach us this technique?”

“OK, it is actually very simple. You usually think in your native language all day every day. It is normal. Now, you can start to think in English instead of your native language. And when you start thinking in English, then you can think aloud. It means that you actually say aloud what you think. It is all.”

I say, “It looks very simple. You said that it is a powerful technique. Why is it powerful?”

Our teacher says, “Maybe you can ask Monica. She has used this technique for a year. Maybe she can tell us what she has found out about this technique.”

Then our teacher asks Monica if she is willing to speak about her experience with thinking aloud. It is no problem for Monica.

She says, “When I started with this technique, it wasn’t easy. I started with very simple sentences. For example, ‘I can speak English. It is good that I can speak English. I want to be better. I need to practise every day. I don’t know many words. But I can use these words well. I can express my ideas with these words. I can do this. This is great.’

The sentences were really simple. I realized that sentences that I thought in Italian were long and complicated. I wasn’t able to say in English exactly what I was saying in Italian. I had to find a simpler form. To think in simple English was the hardest part. But after some time, it was OK for me. It was normal for me to think in English.

Then something interesting happened. I met a man from Australia. He was on holiday in Italy. I was still a beginner but we started to speak English. I could see that I was able to speak with him without big problems. My sentences were still simple and short, but because I said them many times before when I was thinking aloud, I was able to speak. I didn’t have to translate in my head from Italian to English as I did before using this technique.

After the meeting with the man from Australia, I started to use thinking aloud even more. This technique helped me a lot. It improved my ability to express my ideas very much. I still use it every day. It is really a powerful technique.”

Our teacher thanks Monica for speaking about her experience with thinking aloud. I decide to use this technique because I also want to be better at speaking.

When you want to speak English fluently, think aloud.