The question of how to improve communication skills is always the major dilemma of most language learners and unfortunately it really is a case of practice, practice, practice.
The first most important barrier for the language coach to break is the confidence barrier: getting your client to speak with no fear and no embarrassment is really a challenge and an achievement. Once the client is comfortable speaking with you, this feeling then has to be transported to other situations and to other people when you are not present.
So somehow the client has to plunge into the cold reality of practicing verbal communication skills with strangers and/or finding trusted friends or work colleagues he/she can practice with. It really is a case of trying out new phrases, words and expressions continuously, whenever the opportunity arises.
The answer to how to improve communication skills has different aspects to it: the reading and writing side together along with comprehension and the speaking and listening together with comprehension. Nowadays there is so much material in the world to practice listening, reading and writing, but aspect of verbal communication skills is the one that poses more difficulty to practice.
To develop verbal communication skills in a new language, connect with people who speak the target language. Try to find activities which may attract people from that country. For example, salsa and tango dancing may attract some people from Central and South America or Spain, and so, in Germany, I may go to a salsa class and meet people that are native Spanish speakers.
Also, try and find chat rooms online where you may have the opportunity to use Skype or any other electronic method of connecting to speak and chat in a tandem style, whereby you get to speak the new language and practice verbal communication skills in the new language. Furthermore, try to go to countries which speak your target language as much as possible and when you are there, mix with the natives. Get to hear their accent and discover their culture and expressions. Maybe you are lucky enough to connect with people through work and have the opportunity to travel to these countries due to business and commerce. Take as many opportunities as you can to speak, speak, speak.
Furthermore, one extremely quick way to improve verbal communication in a new language is to actually analyse what type of speech/language you need the most. For example, if you are often giving opinions, recommendations or advice, then really focus on expressions that enable you to do this such as:
- “In my opinion….”
- “I believe…….”
- “I really do think that…….”
- “Well, I would recommend……”
- “How about going to …….”
Or maybe you need to focus on how to improve communication sklls through small talk and need to learn the vocabulary for the weather, hobbies, topical issues or the like. Then practice interacting with small talk, making comments and small talk questions.
Perhaps you need it for negotiating; then conditionals will come into play such as, “If you decide to go ahead, we will have to reconsider.”
Don’t forget to learn language for agreeing or disagreeing:
- Yes I totally agree.
- No I really don’t agree with that.
- You are so right.
- No, on the contrary.
- You must be joking.
- That’s right.
So I really recommend that you break down and analyse exactly what type of language you really need to use the most and then really focus in and learn the necessary expressions and vocabulary. Little by little you will be surprised at how you build up your verbal communication skills in your new language.
Finally never give up. I always think that learning how to improve communication skills in a new language goes in steps – you stay at the same level for ages and ages and then suddenly you have the feeling that you have taken a step up. Then again, for ages and ages, you experience that feeling of nothing, no improvement in your verbal communication skills whatsoever and then, suddenly again, you feel great and another step up….and so on and so on. So keep going – keep talking.