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Improving English Speaking

for Non-Native Speakers


by Aiman Azlan
www.aimanazlan.com

Contents
Introduction

Chapter One: Are You Afraid?

Chapter Two: My English Speaking

Chapter Three: Exposure

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Chapter Four: Practice

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Conclusion

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Aiman Azlan Academy

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IMPROVING ENGLISH SPEAKING FOR NON-NATIVE SPEAKERS

Introduction
My name is Aiman Azlan and I am from Malaysia; born and raised. My
first language is Malay and I speak more Malay than I do English.
However, that is not an excuse for not being able to learn and improve
in English.

English, like any other languages, consists of four separate skills that
are linked to each other in some way. These four skills are reading,
writing, listening, and speaking.

Any English proficiency tests such as MUET, IELTS, or TOEFL will test
the students on each of these four skills. This particular booklet will
focus mainly on English speaking. To become completely proficient in a
language, one has to be adequately proficient in all four skills.

Having said that, dont be disheartened if you cant speak English. Not
being able to speak English doesnt necessarily make you bad in
English. You may not be able to speak, but perhaps you can read,
listen, or write English. That makes you somewhat proficient. This is not
an all-or-nothing matter.

A skill falls on a spectrum of mastery between no mastery at all and


complete mastery. Most of the non-native speakers I meet, many of
whom think that they are bad at English, fall somewhere on this
spectrum but I wouldnt say that they belong in the far left end of the no
mastery at all zone.
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Most, if not all, of the Malaysian students who have went through
primary school education have at least a basic understanding of
English and its usage, and that will be our starting point.

Do keep in mind that this brief booklet was designed with my own
personal experience in mind. I am, you could say, a typical Malaysian
student who went through a typical Malaysian education system so it
safe for me to assume that many of us share the same foundation.

I do realise that this simple booklet is unable to cater to every


individuals unique capabilities and circumstances. Therefore, if the
guide that I will provide in the coming pages does not work for you, do
not feel demotivated.

Perhaps what you need is a different approach, one that I am unable to


deliver. That would be my shortcoming, not yours. Find the approach
that suits you best. If my approach works for you, then carry on. But if it
does not, then I am sure there are other approaches out there for you.

Dont give up that easily.

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IMPROVING ENGLISH SPEAKING FOR NON-NATIVE SPEAKERS

Chapter One: Are You Afraid?


Fear of making mistakes, fear of being laughed at, fear of rejection, fear
of judgment, fear of not being good enough, or any other fears are all
real and should be acknowledged, but many of them, if not all of them,
are unreasonable.

One of the many possible reasons why those fears are unreasonable is
because they stem from having an unrealistic expectation of
themselves, of others, and/or of life in general.

These are among the many unrealistic expectations people can have:

1. They expect from themselves to be perfect.

This is an unrealistic expectation of themselves. No expert started off


perfect. David Beckham probably missed a few kicks when he first
started, Albert Einstein probably didnt know how to calculate 2+2 at
some point, William Shakespeare probably struggled with saying his
first English word, and you most definitely fell down the first time you
tried to walk. It is perfectly normal to expect imperfections.

The first time you do something will be decorated with many mistakes
and shortcomings. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. Making
mistakes is a normal part of the learning process. We should not fear
mistakes, in fact we should welcome them. I am not saying let us all
make mistakes intentionally. What I meant was when mistakes happen

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(and they most probably will), we need to accept them and learn from
them. It is through learning from mistakes that we grow into a better
person.

2. They expect others to always be nice and kind.

It is a positive thing to think good of people and that should remain the
default position. However, we cannot run away from the simple fact that
there are naughty people out there.

There will be people who will intentionally or unintentionally demotivate


you when you want to do something good. There will be naysayers and
disbelievers in the greatness that you can achieve.

Though we do not judge their hearts because we dont know for sure
whats in them, we should avoid paying attention to these people. If the
things that they say and do dont add value to your life, then it is not
worth it to invest your time and energy in them.

You may not have the power to shut them up or to control what they say,
but you do have the power to control how you react. People cannot
harm you with their words unless you allow them to.

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3. They expect life to be relatively smooth and easy.

It is a given that life is full of difficulties and challenges. Each of us has


our own fair share of them. To expect life to always be convenient to you
is to expect fairy tales to come true.

Once we realise that life is difficult, then at that point life becomes
easier. It becomes easier because we no longer carry unrealistic
expectations on our shoulders.

Unrealistic expectations will almost definitely result in unnecessary


stress and disappointment. I called it unnecessary because it can be
avoided. Plus, life without difficulties and challenges will turn out to be a
very boring life.

So, what now?

Manage your expectation well and you will save yourself a lot of
unnecessary heartaches. This is not to say that with the right
expectation, suddenly everything will be candies and rainbows.

The right expectation helps us to focus on what matters more and on


what matters most, and to ignore what is essentially a waste of time and
energy.

Be confident in yourself by believing in yourself. At the very least, you


should believe that you can try your best in English speaking. After all,

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what more can people ask from you than your very best? Before you
can expect people to have a reasonable expectation of you, you first
have to have a reasonable expectation of yourself.

Confidence lies in the mindset that you have chosen, particularly in


what you think of yourself. The mind is so powerful such that it can
create a reality based on what you think and how you think.

How is that so? Well, to simplify, your mind will lead you to find every
conceivable evidence to prove that what you think is true.

So, whether you think you can or you cannot, you are absolutely right.

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Chapter Two: My English Speaking


A lot of people know me through the videos I uploaded on Youtube
(www.youtube.com/aimanazlan90). Since 2011, I uploaded videos of
me speaking on various topics and yes, I speak in English. I received
emails and comments from people wondering how I polished my
English speaking to become how it is today.

First of all, my incredible fluency in my Youtube videos is, in part,


due to my incredible video editing skill. What you watch on
Youtube is the final product coming from many outtakes. I purposely
hide my mistakes with video editing, not because I am embarrassed by
them (sometimes I even show them on Youtube), but because I want the
messages in my videos to be delivered well. The point is, I make many
mistakes in the process.

Second of all, even in my best English speaking moments, I am not


as fluent as a native English speaker i.e. someone who speaks
English since the first time they learned how to speak. A native English
speaker will speak faster and with greater flexibility (i.e. they dont
stumble as much).

So as good as I am at English speaking, I am not as good as a native


English speaker. Some people think that I speak too fast for them to
comprehend, but if you compare my pace to a native English speaker,
then you realise that I am actually more towards the slower end of the
speed spectrum.

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Lastly, dont be too mesmerised with what you see, thinking that it
magically happened. What you see is a product of years of practise
and patience. There are many ways you can practise and I will share a
few in the coming chapter. For now, I would like to emphasise on
patience.

Dont expect improvements to come tomorrow when you only started


today. Self-improvement is a process that takes time, so dont expect
things to fall into place all at once. Take it one step at a time. There are
no shortcuts to success. You have to be willing to do the work in order
to get the result.

Now that I got those two things out of the way, allow me to share with
you my experience with learning English speaking. It would be easy
for me to give you a list of step-by-step things to do in order to get to
the level that you wanted, but to do that would be to simplify the reality.
Reality is complicated and nuanced, hence we should treat it as such.
What I think would work better is to give you a conceptual
understanding with which you can apply in your own unique situations.

English speaking is a skill and a skill can be acquired. Different


individuals can acquired a skill differently and can master the skill at
different levels of mastery, but the skill can be acquired nonetheless.

Any skill acquisition, to my estimation, follows the same learning


pathway. To acquire any skill, one needs two basic things:

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1. Exposure
2. Practice

In essence, that is how I acquire my English speaking skill. Let explore


more about those two basic things in the coming chapters.

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Chapter Three: Exposure


Like a child learning how to talk, the first thing he does is observe taking it all in. That is the concept behind exposure. With English
speaking, one needs to observe how English is being spoken. Here,
one exercises his senses of sight and hearing to observe the words
people say and how they say those words. This is where one learns
pronunciation and vocabulary.

I personally think reading is a better resource for learning vocabulary.


But spoken English is where one learns how to use the words in ones
vocabulary. In other words, one understands context. Speaking of
context, it is worth mentioning that when one is exposed to a language,
it is a direct and indirect exposure to the culture of the language as
well.

Language and culture are intertwined. One cannot separate the two.
When one is exposed to the English language, one will learn to some
extent the culture behind the language; either British, American, or a
mix of both. With any culture, there is bound to be negative and positive
practices. It is upon the person who learns to differentiate between the
two and chooses wisely, especially in our borderless world of today.

I have been exposed to English at an early age, through movies and


songs. Since I grew up in Malaysia, though not impossible, it is
unfortunately difficult to meet an English speaker. Having the
opportunity to study overseas does widen the opportunity of direct

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exposure to native English speakers, but movies and songs are still
decent methods of exposure to the English language.

From here, like a child, one learns to imitate. Imitate how a word is
pronounced and how a word is properly used in a conversation.
Imitation means, what many despises, practice.

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Chapter Four: Practice


We like shortcuts and ease. We want the fastest and most convenient
way to get to where we want to go. Although there are situations where
there is a shortcut and there is an easy way, life doesnt always provide
us with that luxury.

Life, by default, is difficult. When one realises that, life becomes easier
to deal with. Most of the great things that we want to achieve requires
great effort on our part.

We need to try. It doesnt make much sense to achieve something


without trying, like wanting to go to a place without taking a single step.
If one wants to be better at English speaking, then one needs to first try
to speak in English.

As with anything being tried the first time, there are bound to be
mistakes. Dont be afraid of mistakes. Instead, be afraid of not trying.
Be afraid of not giving it your very best. Be afraid of not taking
advantage of the opportunities given to you in this very moment.

Mistakes should not be feared. Mistakes should be embraced. That is


not to say that we all make deliberate mistakes and that we all become
clumsy people. The meaning behind embracing mistakes is that we
accept mistakes when they happen, even after we have done our very
best to avoid them.

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Practice and exposure go hand-in-hand. You cant do exposure without


practice and you cant do practice without exposure. There are many
ways to practice and I will suggest a few that work for me.

1. Sing

Dont worry. I am not suggesting that you get on stage and sing
(although that would be okay if you are up for it). What I am suggesting
is singing English songs by yourself.

When you sing English songs, you are essentially practicing how to
speak in English. You are pronouncing English words and you are using
those words in sentences to convey a message. That is essentially
English speaking.

2. Imitate

While watching English movies, you can imitate how the actors in those
movies talk. Here, you will be exposed to nuances in pronunciation and
word usage, since in movies there are a myriad of cultural flavours and
context variations.

By repeating how the words are pronounced, you are essentially


practicing how to speak and knowing how those words are used in the
movies can give you clues as to how to use them in real life.

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3. Conversation

I know that many might cringe at this part, but I have to be brutally
honest: the best way to practice English speaking is to actually, well,
speak English with someone. This is proven to be true based on my
personal experience.

Although I have benefited a lot from English songs and movies over the
years that I have been practicing English speaking, nothing come close
to the extend that I have benefited from actual English conversations.

I had a pretty good grasp of English speaking before going to Canada,


but living in Canada and having to speak in English day in and day out
have honed my English speaking like never before.

Yes, as it is expected, I made mistakes along the way. Perhaps more


mistakes than I have made before. But at the same time, I have gained
more than I have gained before.

To have a conversation, all you need is another person. That is it. You
dont even have to go out of Malaysia to find a person to speak in
English with. Just find someone with either the same level of English
speaking or a higher level of English speaking as you are (though the
later is very much preferred), and start speaking.

I realize that it is difficult to speak English with Malay friends, since it is


so tempting to just speak in Malay. But if you can find someone as

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adamant as you are in wanting to improve English speaking, then it is


not impossible to have that good quality English conversations as
practice.

But if that is too much to ask, then find a non-Malay, non-Malaysian


friend and force yourself to speak English (which you have to, since the
person cant speak Malay).

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Conclusion
If I can conclude everything with one simple sentence, it will be this:
there is no shortcut.

I know how tempting it is to want an easier and a more convenient path


to improve English speaking. If there is a pill that can make you a good
English speaker, it wouldnt be farfetched to think that the pill would be
a bestseller.

We love shortcuts. But life is not always that generous to us.

Many great things can only be achieved after we overcome great


challenges. It is not the goal that teaches us the most, but it is the
journey to reach that goal. That is something that we should remember,
be it for English speaking or for any other skill that we want to be good
at.

English speaking is indeed a skill like any other skill, following the same
pattern to mastery: exposure and practice. Of course, each individual
will master this skill at varying levels, but almost everyone can at least
master it to a level that is adequate for daily usage - which I am
assuming is what all of us want, at least.

In essence, the message that I would like for everyone to take home is
this: try your best and dont give up.

Aiman Azlan

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Aiman Azlan Academy

Aiman Azlan Academy is a self-motivation platform for individuals who


seeks to improve themselves through acquiring and fine-tuning
essential intrapersonal and interpersonal skills. Among its focus are
self-confidence (intrapersonal skill) and English speaking (interpersonal
skill).

Aiman Azlan Academy is committed to helping people build the right


mindset in order to generate their own self-confidence without relying
too much on other people. This is done through encouraging people to
try to speak in English through the SPEAK UP! English Speaking
Seminar.

In the seminar, Aiman Azlan Academy shares with people, specifically


non-native speakers, the essential tools needed to start their individual
journeys towards becoming a better and a more confident English
speaker.

The Academy is currently touring throughout Malaysia to deliver the


seminar to those who share the same passion.

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If you would like to know where and when the next seminar will be,
please visit www.aimanazlan.com or contact the Academy by email at
academy@aimanazlan.com.

You can also attend the seminar by inviting the Academy to your
institution. Simply contact 013 416 4652 (Muhammad).

Start your journey today.

Be better.
www.aimanazlan.com

Aiman Azlan

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