#259: Become a Confident English Speaker with a Speaking Journal

Dec 14, 2022 | English Confidence and Fluency

If I improve my grammar, I’ll be more confident in English. Maybe I should get a new grammar book.

I think I’ll listen to more English podcasts. That will help me with vocabulary so I can speak confidently.

This time I’m serious. I’m going to study English 1 hour a day so I can become confident.

Do any of those sound familiar to you? Have you ever thought or said one of those statements?

What if you say the wrong word? What if you forget everything and get stuck? What if no one understands you? Or worse? They laugh.

I get it. 

 

After years of learning and reaching an intermediate level or higher, transitioning from book-learning or passive learning (for example, completing grammar activities, listening to podcasts and TV shows, or reading books in English) to actively speaking English aloud with others is scary – especially if, like me, you’re naturally shy and introverted, preferring time to think and getting everything right before you speak. 

Developing confidence requires courage. Because it means you have to speak.

But you don’t need to buy another book. 

And yes, expanding your vocabulary is always an important part of advancing your English skills. However, you don’t need to add more vocabulary to feel confident communicating in English right now.

You don’t need an hour a day.

And lastly, it doesn’t have to be scary.

 

In this Confident English lesson today, you’re going to learn how to use a speaking journal with 6 simple steps to build a consistent English habit and become a confident English speaker.

Plus, I’ve got a special bonus for you to help you get started today.

Bonus!

Download my 30 Days of Speaking Prompts.

To help you start your speaking journal practice right away, get my free PDF with 30 Days of Speaking Prompts.

With each prompt, I’ve included tips on which grammar tenses to use so you have clarity on what to practice.

Get it now and follow the 6 steps in this lesson on how to Become a Confident English Speaker with a Speaking Journal.

How to Use a Speaking Journal to Become a Confident English Speaker — 6 Steps

 

First, What Is A Speaking Journal?

Similar to a written journal, a speaking journal is a series of entries in the form of audio recordings. 

Each entry, or audio file, is a recording of your speech as you explain, summarize, describe, tell a story, practice pronunciation, strengthen word choices, or even prep for job interviews. 

 

Why Should You Create A Speaking Journal? 

Just like with a written journal, a speaking journal provides a record you can review, evaluate, and revise. 

After you record yourself, you can listen, which helps you to recognize your strengths in speaking and identify areas for improvement. You can analyze your speech, intentionally apply strategies that improve your English speaking skills, and reflect on your progress.

For example, a speaking journal can be used to practice English skills such as intonation or the present perfect form.

The beauty of a speaking journal is in its flexibility. Any topic could be used as an English-speaking prompt and YOU decide the skill focus of each entry

If you’ve never thought about recording your voice in English, I have an in-depth training on how simple and effective this technique is for powerful progress in your speaking confidence and fluency. 

It’s my How to Say What You Want in English training where you’ll learn, step-by-step, how to use this technique to practice speaking English – anywhere, anytime – to get the courage and confidence you want to have conversations in English and feel great about them. 

How Do I Know If A Speaking Journal Is Right For Me? 

If you’re still on the fence and feeling unsure, let’s do a quick exercise. 

Raise your hand if your answer is “yes” to each question:

  • Do you often feel stuck or struggle to remember words or phrases in the middle of a conversation? 
  • Are your grammar skills perfect on paper, but lacking when speaking in English? 
  • Do you feel self-conscious or nervous when speaking in English? 
  • Do you fear public speaking?
  • Are you seeking a tangible way to track your progress?
  • Does your current schedule, or lifestyle, only allow for a short block of time to study and practice? 
  • Are you seeking an autonomous and flexible method of practicing English?
  • Do you feel as if you’ve plateaued and are looking to shake up your English-learning routine?  

Is your arm starting to feel tired from holding it up? Then, you should definitely consider a speaking journal. 

Step 1: Set Yourself Up for Success

We’re more likely to form new habits when they’re easy and achievable.

To that end, there are three tasks to complete in this first step:

 

First, choose a speaking journal app that works for you.

Test a few audio recording or note apps, including ones already available on your phone. 

If you want some ideas of apps my students like to use, here are two I can recommend:

  • Loom – a free video/audio recording app
  • Journify – an audio journaling app

Choose an app that is easy to use and has useful functions.

Second, determine when you will practice and put in on your calendar. 

Take stock of your priorities and busy times in your schedule. Then identify a time that you could dedicate to your speaking journal.

Complete the following sentence:

I will dedicate [X amount of time/days] every week to my speaking journal. 

 

Lastly, dedicate a notebook to keeping track of any notes you make when creating a speaking journal. 

If you struggle with building new habits and you want more in-depth tips, be sure to check out my lesson on effective habit-building.

Step 2: Test The Waters & Iron Out Flaws

Test the waters with a mock speaking journal entry. 

Choose a topic to talk about – for example, summarizing a podcast you listened to – and afterward, make notes on the following potential problem areas:

  • Problem #1: Potentially negative feelings before, while, or after recording;
  • Problem #2: An uncomfortable recording environment;
  • Problem #3: Appropriateness of your chosen time slot to record without interruptions or time stress;
  • Problem #4: Any tech issues that prolong the process and make it more difficult to complete 

Remember that the first entry is simply a test to help you refine your process. 

Then, reflect and iron out the flaws:

  • Solution #1: Remember that hearing your voice in another language will not be the same as hearing your voice in your native language. Even native speakers feel self-conscious about how they sound in a recording. This is normal and the more you hear yourself, the more comfortable you will become.
  • Solution #2: One advantage to speaking journals is that they can be recorded ANYWHERE. Whether you’re waiting for a bus, sitting on your patio, chilling in your office, or people-watching at a café.
    If your current environment isn’t motivating you, look for a place that helps you feel free, comfortable, and safe. The more comfortable you are, the easier it will be to maintain a habit.
  • Solution #3: If you’re struggling to focus because you’re pressed for time, then that time slot may not be ideal. Reflect on your schedule and identify a time where you could dedicate at least 10-15 minutes to your speaking journal, without fearing interruptions or needing to postpone.
  • Solution #4: Consider if the app was easy to use and whether the quality of the recording is enough to support your practice. If you’re struggling to use an app or the recording needs to be played a few times to hear, then it’s time to consider another method of recording your speech. 

Step 3: Organize, Align, and Record

Once the testing stage is over, the next step is to identify topics or speaking prompts to practice.

Start by identifying the goal you’d like to work towards for the first week or month. 

This means identifying the mini-goals that will help you progress toward your bigger goal.

 

For instance, if my ultimate goal is to be more concise and clear, my sub-goals for the speaking journal entries could focus on word choice, organization and cohesiveness, and pauses.

Or perhaps you want to improve your skills with the present perfect when talking about your work experience.

 

Then, research a list of discussion topics or conversational questions. 

  • Ex. For example, if my goal is to practice using the past tense, I might highlight questions that specifically ask about past events, like my favorite vacation. 

 

Pro Tip: Avoid Overwhelm

  • Set and focus on one goal for a period of time will ensure you allow enough time to practice and develop the skill.
  • No matter your current level in English, if recording yourself makes you feel anxious, then start with an easy prompt or topic. As you get comfortable, you can gradually move to more complex prompts. 
  • If you’re not sure what to say and your mind is blank, try drawing a mind map or even creating a short list of bullet points before you start to speak. This is a great way to equip yourself with a visual aid that you can reference at any point during your recording. 
  • Finally, set a time limit and record. Keep in mind that it’s okay to make mistakes, start over when necessary, and glance down at any notes from time to time. 

Step 4: Listen & Reflect

Next, allow some time to pass before you listen to your audio.

You may choose to do this step immediately after recording your response, but giving yourself some cushion time between Steps 3 and 4, will ensure a more objective reflection.

When you listen to your audio again, focus on your goal, and only write down what you hear in relation to that goal.

Note down what you did well. 

And identify opportunities you have to improve next time. Write down ideas you have to improve your response.

Then, when you’re ready to record your next speaking journal entry with a new question/prompt, apply your solutions and repeat the process. 

Pro Tip: Repetition Is Key

  • Repetition leads to strengthening your skills and building automaticity.

Step 5: Check In With Yourself

After you’ve completed your first speaking journal practice, take some time to reflect on the practice as a whole and check in with yourself.

  • Def: To check in with oneself means to analyze one’s thoughts and emotions with the goal of self-improvement.

Ask yourself the following questions and analyze your answers to identify why you’re feeling a certain way, ways to overcome big obstacles and changes that could make the practice more enjoyable or flexible. 

Check-In Questions

  • How much did I enjoy the practice?
  • How confident did I feel after my practice?
  • What went well?
  • What could I keep improving?
  • What’s my takeaway?

Step 6: Challenge Yourself

Lastly, continue to challenge yourself. When you feel yourself plateauing or getting a little too comfortable, it’s likely time to shake things up. 

  • Def: To plateau means to stop increasing or progressing after a period of rapid growth

Here are a few ways to add challenge:

  • Play with time
    • Set a time limit that will force you outside your comfort zone. 
  • Choose more complex, advanced prompts, such as:
    • Critique a film
    • Share your opinion on a controversial topic
    • Describe your life from a third-person perspective
    • Compare and contrast opposing ideas
    • Tell a story
    • Summarize a TedTalk
  • Don’t rely on, or glace at, any notes while recording your response.
  • Record an impromptu response with little to no preparation.

However you choose to spice up your speaking journal practice, be sure to pause and reflect on each step in the process.

The more consistent and enjoyable a habit becomes, the more likely you are to permanently integrate it into your daily life.

Pro Tip: Keep Expanding and Building

At some point, you will feel comfortable and confident in creating and maintaining a speaking journal. In fact, you’ll feel confident when speaking in English.

Use that confidence to create video responses for coworkers, video messages for loved ones, or even exchange speaking journal entries with another English learner. 

 

Now I’d love to hear from you.

Tell me, which of the tips or steps from today’s lesson did you find useful? What step will you take first?

Don’t forget to download the PDF with 30 Speaking Prompts and take the first few steps to create your speaking journal.

Then, come back and share your experience in the comments below. What did you enjoy? How did you feel?

~ Annemarie

 

 

P.S. Are you looking for a community to provide support, help you stay motivated, and guarantee that you grow? Check out our Confident Women Community.

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