How to encourage students to speak more English in class

It’s almost a regular thing in all the ESL classes in Vietnam when students tend to use their mother tongue instead of English within the classroom. But isn’t the whole point of having ESL classes is to encourage students to speak more English?

So what can we do to help them speak more English without making them feel like being forced? Below are some tips VTJ has collected from our teachers to make this process less exhausting for both students and trainers:

Give a clear expectations to students about speaking English right from the start

How to encourage students to speak more English in class

First impressions are important. Make sure that your students know that you take any efforts to speak English seriously right on the first day with them. You can give some instructions on class rules, what reward they can get for speaking English or what punishments they might get for speaking Vietnamese.
One tip to encourage students to speak more English naturally is to make them enjoy it. You can turn it into a race where they can compete in teams. Some teachers creates the motivation to speak English for young learners by playing some kinds of games

For example: They put a character on the board who is trying to reach a target (for example: the rocket trying to get to the moon, or Tom trying to get Jerry). Every time they hear someone communicate in English, the character will get closer to their target. When it reaches its destination, the whole class will get a big reward. This helps create a sense of unity within the class, as well as motivates students to speak English effortlessly.

Do small talks

No matter what age or level your students are at, there will always be a way to communicate with them beside the lesson itself. At lower levels, you can be the one who asks questions to them first. These questions don’t have to be too specific. A good teacher will have a good understanding about their students’ preferences and interests. Asking a good question will make learners feel more comfortable talking to you and as a matter of fact, they will be more likely to enjoy having a conversation with you. This is when you can evaluate their ability more easily, recognize which fields they need to work on, and build a better lesson plan.

Remember, most people love to talk about themselves or their interests. Adults like to talk about their kids, family members or their bosses. Children tend to talk more about games and activities they like to do, or literally anything they find interesting. To encourage students to speak more English in class is to create a friendly, comfortable but controlled environment for them.

Always add unexpected factors

When teaching, it’s important to add some surprising or funny elements to the way you deliver your lesson. There are some parts of the lesson that are repetitive (like the warm-up routine or greetings). So instead of asking the same questions every time, try changing the topics to spice it up! Students will normally answer mechanically with the same old questions, so if they encounter the unexpected, they will have to really think about the answer. This creates an opportunity for them to pay more careful attention to the question. In the long run, students have the tendency to actively participate in natural conversations since they have got good reflexes through practicing.

Make use of competition

This is especially true to young learners. You can encourage students to speak more English if that can give them a chance to compete with each other. One thing that can encourage students to speak more English is making them forget that they “have to learn” to do it. Teachers still can set the rules where they have to speak English at a certain level to compete and beat their opponent. The desire to win will make them do whatever it takes to achieve the goal. As a result, they can take the initiative to speak English, which is beneficial for their speaking skill development in the long run.

Encourage students to speak more English by making good pairs

Teachers can put students that have a similar level of English together in a group or in pairs to create a beneficial environment for practicing. The stronger students tend to talk over the weaker ones or get frustrated easily (which happens a lot in younger classes), so make sure you provide an equal opportunity to each of them when practicing.

This method requires a good amount of understanding of your students’ ability and preferences. Teachers should pay good attention to arranging teams and pairs because learners not only learn from you, but also from their peers and their own mistakes.

We hope that with these useful tips compiled by VTJ, teachers will have some ideas on how to encourage students to speak more English within as well as outside the classroom. See you in the next articles!


To have good luck is a skill Not knowing how to seize opportunities is also a form of incompetence.

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To have good luck is a skill Not knowing how to seize opportunities is also a form of incompetence.