There’s always one part of testing English that you hate. Some hate writing, others listening (aye, that would be me), but somehow it’s speaking that seems to cause lots of worries. To tell you the truth, I haven’t had problems with speaking ever since I came up with some simple steps. I can’t claim you’ll excel at speaking tests after following my ideas, but I do encourage you to give them a go – maybe they’ll work out for you just as they did for me!
1 Be a star!
Do you often do such boring tasks like housework? Doing the dishes may be an opportunity to play some kind of make-believe, and I don’t want you to become Anne of the Green Gables (unless you feel like it), but to imagine you’re a celebrity. Famous, gorgeous, popular and very much in demand for any interviewer possible. Now, controversial as it may be, celebrities are being asked about opinions on just too many things, starting with the weather, through world conflicts, ending with relationship advice – and here you are, being asked about as many various things as only you can think of. Be the Vacuuming Beyoncé, or Ronaldo, driving alone in his car – and talk to imaginary interviewer
(…) of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.
2 Make your vocabulary shiny
You might already know that I’m a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, and so I revel in the rich and sophisticated vocabulary you will find in his writings. When I was studying English Philology, I decided to learn some of the expressions by heart, so that I could get bonus points for impressive vocabulary. To be honest, it was hilarious, when a simple task of describing a car ride became in my version nothing less than a start of the Apocalypse, full of, naturally, blasphemous and amorphous shapes harbingering the Elder Gods. You get the gist, right? Obviously, I don’t recommend using such a specific area of lexis during your exams, but pick something you are absolutely sure you’ll be able to put in every single topic.
Like Great Cthulhu, obviously.
3 Role-play a little bit
I am deeply convinced that if anything, Role-Playing Games are the best source of fun-related speaking exercises. If you want to go full RPG, you might want to read my articles related to this matter, but to be honest – all you need to do is pick up a role of a more or less real person (you might be Harry Potter, or James Bond, or Elizabeth Bennet etc.) and act out for a while – the idea is quite similar to the one where you pretend to be a celebrity, but here you may ask a friend to impersonate another person just to have funny little chats “in roles” – all you need to do is to find someone to be a Watson to your Sherlock.
4 Think of a magic word
Have you ever tried to say bubbles angrily? You probably can’t, it’s just such a funny lovely word that makes you smile. Similarly with kitten, puppy – any other ideas? For me it’s catkin, don’t know why it’s just a word that makes me smile. Why do you need this? Because you should remember this word right before your exam (write it on your wrist if you might forget it). Whenever you start stressing out, imagine yourself in front of the examiners introducing yourself as “Hi, my name is Monika and my favourite word is catkin”.
Only, maybe don’t do this in real life exam…
It was proved that if you smile, your brain relaxes (you’ve probably heard of the famous pencil-in-mouth experiment where people faking smiles were indeed more relaxed… only this experiment was replicated 2 years ago and the results weren’t so optimistic). Apparently, fake smiles don’t work, you really need to feel it – so even if you feel terribly nervous, fake it till you make it! As an examiner, I’ll tell you, smiling people seem more confident, more pleasant and generally are easier to test.
Now, a bonus piece of advice comes from my Phonetics lecturer:
Have a shot (just one, mind!)
Of course, only if you are of age. And if you’ve had a decent breakfast. And if you have some chewing gum so that you won’t be too obvious. Seriously, while alcohol isn’t good for your voice in the long run (unless you want to have that hoarse sexy voice of Janice Joplin), it does switch off your feeling of stress and loosens up your muscles as well as vocal cords which makes speaking physically easier (it’s like in a real life, easier to chat in a foreign language after you’ve had a pint). It’s a somewhat risky method, mind, so I won’t encourage you to try it out before a real test – maybe record yourself speaking, then have a shot and continue to check how your fluency increases and your coherence… well, you might imagine.
Enjoy your experiments!