Tips to Improve Your Communication Skills (for ESL Students)

Having lived in Spain, I understand the importance of communicating efficiently. Learning to hone a second language was rewarding, but it was also challenging at times. Even though I studied a fair amount of Spanish vocabulary, I still spent endless hours trying to strike up conversations with my roommates and friends; at the same time, I became frustrated that I could not get my point across quickly enough. The thing about language is you are able to comprehend it first before being able to speak it. This is known as recognition because you already have the bank of vocabulary and grammatical skills to help you when you speak. As a result, you can actively recall that extensive vocabulary to assist you in carrying out a conversation with someone.

Spending the time to improve your communication skills can open you up to an array of rewarding possibilities. Here are some tips to help you do just that:

Listen to others

The tip of listening to others might be a given, but it’s the most overlooked. It’s vital to pay attention to what other people are saying, even if you’re not a part of the conversation. Training your ear to understand what someone is saying is key to your ability to speak in English. Listening can help improve your communication skills, as it allows you to easily pick up on accents, tone, and body language.

If you’re not usually around people who speak English, turn on your television or watch online videos without subtitles. Listening to radio shows and music with lyrics help as well. The goal here is to listen to as much English in your daily life.

Ask questions

Asking questions was crucial to improving my Spanish communication skills. Since my friends are native Spanish speakers, they often used slang words. Half the time, I didn’t understand what was being said, but I made sure to ask questions. It was the best way for me to improve and keep the conversation going. The positive side to showing my interest was my roommates never became frustrated; they actually loved helping me learn the language and this motivated me even more.

If while in a conversation you do not know the meaning of specific words, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. If anything, doing this will show the person you are conversing with that you are paying close attention to what they are saying and are keen on understanding them better.

Learn whole phrases

When learning a new word in English, it is common to memorize it along with its definition; however, it’s more beneficial to use it in a sentence. By using the word in different sentences, you can better  understand the many ways it shows up in conversations. This ensures you will use the word properly and remember it easier in the future.

Practice with a native speaker (if possible)

If you’re able to, practice speaking and writing with a native English speaker. One of my good friends, who worked at the academy where I taught, was my personal teacher. She dedicated time to converse with me solely in Spanish and was patient when I needed time to think about what I wanted to say. We both understood how complex language can be, so her calm demeanor and positive attitude motivated me to keep learning the language. Practicing with her almost daily after my classes allowed me to pick up common phrases and slang words, which helped improve my communication skills.

If you’re not able to find a native English speaker to practice your communication skills with, finding a good English tutor is a great option. We, at The Literary Tutor, offer a variety of services, one of which is teaching ESL to students of all ages. If you’d like to learn more, just click here.

Remember it’s okay to make mistakes

If you had to follow only one tip from this post, please follow this one. We’re only humans, and as such, we’re allowed to make mistakes. Like the saying “Fall seven times, stand up eight” illustrates, never give up and keep practicing even if you make errors. Making and learning from mistakes is a part of life and is key to our growth, so pick yourself back up and try again. You’d think after the amount of times I made the same error with the past tense of ‘to be’ in Spanish, I would have quit. I couldn’t. Why? I was determined and motivated to keep learning the language, so that I could become conversational, if not fluent. My goal was to learn Spanish and little by little, I did just that.


I hope these tips will help improve your communication skills as much as it did for me. Remember, if you are just learning the English language, be patient. Although learning English can be difficult, it will pay off with hard work and determination. Take your time and remember to keep your ears open and pronounce your words properly. Practice makes perfect, and doing so effectively with others will help you build stronger relationships in the long run.

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The Literary Tutor

We are English tutors helping students ignite their imagination through reading and discover their unique voice through writing.

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