10 Small Signs Your Speaking Skills are Improving in a New Language

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Many language learners dream of holding fluent conversations in their target languages.  

In fact, when Babbel asked their users why they were learning a new language, over half of respondents stated their motivation was to better communicate while travelling. 

Unfortunately, having those conversations can sometimes feel impossible. Especially at the intermediate level, it can be hard to tell how much your speaking skills are improving, or if you’re even making any progress at all. 

Luckily, passing tests and shocking native speakers for a YouTube video aren’t the only ways to see how far you’ve come in a new language. 

No matter what level you’re at, these ten small signs reveal that your speaking is improving. 



1. You Ask Questions Using Your Target Language

One of the most overlooked signs of progress is that you’re able to ask questions about unknown vocabulary and new grammar points using your target language. 

At first, this sign might seem more obvious than overlooked. Of course the ability to use your target language to have fully monolingual conversations and lessons is a huge step towards fluency!

But questions offer additional ongoing and often overlooked signs of progress. 

When I started my 30-day German speaking challenge with Lingoda last year, I was already at the point where my German lessons were entirely in German, leading me to feeling like that breakthrough was behind me. 

However, as the month went on, I noticed that how I asked and answered questions changed a lot. 

As you expand your vocabulary and get more comfortable at putting your thoughts into words, you’ll be able to ask more complex questions and give more intricate answers. Each of these increasingly-detailed questions and explanations indicates progress made in your target language. 

Think about the questions you’ve asked in your target language recently. How has your ability to ask specific, nuanced questions grown? 



2. Your Sense of Humour is Growing

As you become more and more comfortable speaking a language, you’ll also become more comfortable getting creative with a language. Since so much of comedy is based on using language in creative ways, a growing sense of humour marks progress when it comes to your comfortability and creativity in your target language. 

When I was little, my favourite joke— aka the only joke I ever told– was “What do you get when you cross a bird, a car, and a pet?” “A flying carpet!”

Though it’s a simple joke, it wouldn’t be funny to someone who didn’t know much English as it relies ENTIRELY on the sounds and meanings of words to create humour.  My love for this joke was a sign my language skills were growing in my native language, just as other jokes have shown the progress I’ve made in other languages! 

Comedic timing has a huge impact on how funny you are– and a great indicator of your language ability! 

Being able to follow what’s happening, think of a quippy response, and deliver that in a timely manner is a huge sign that you’re keeping up with everything happening and thinking creatively in the language quickly. 

Becoming funnier is a sign you’re improving your speaking skills, but it also makes conversations and lessons so much more fun. Who knows, you might even find that you’re funnier in your target language!



3. You Don’t Feel as Tired After Speaking 

No matter how confident you are in your abilities, speaking your target language feels tiring at first.

The more topics you feel comfortable speaking about and the more comfortable you are speaking in language, the less exhausting it will feel. 

Noticing that speaking is less and less taxing is a great way to see your progress at the intermediate level. Though you may have started understanding and responding to your speaking partners months ago, it may have still taken a toll on your energy. 

When your language lessons start to fly by and speaking your target language feels no different from speaking your native language, you’ll know your skills are improving. 



4. Reading Aloud is Easier Than Before 

For some people, myself definitely included, reading aloud feels awkward and unnatural in every language.

However, reading aloud offers a great benchmark for your speaking progress. 

As it becomes more natural for your mouth to form the words you’re reading, you’ll have an easier time reading passages out loud. Plus, as your intonation improves and you become able to predict the end of sentences, your reading will sound more and more natural. 

While this one is a little tricky as it’s not just built on speaking skills, but also reading skills, an easier time reading aloud is one seemingly small sign that your speaking is improving. 



5. You Feel Like You Can Speak Without Thinking 

I may talk a lot about not comparing yourself to others, but that doesn’t mean I always follow my own advice! 

Because I make videos about my language learning progress, it can be very tempting to judge my speaking progress on how I stack up to other YouTubers who do the same. 

Not only is that an unhealthy way to look at things, but it’s also essential to remember that not every element of improving your speaking skills in a new language is visible to everyone else.

In fact, one of my favourite moments in language learning is when it starts to feel like I can speak without thinking about what I’m saying.

As someone who was raised monolingual, I am always in awe over the fact that words and grammar in a language other than English are able to come out of my mouth before I feel like I’ve completed my thought.

Not needing to think about what you’re saying, or even just needing less time to think before you speak is also a great sign you’re making progress. Though others may not see this progress since you likely sound the same, it’s a sign you’ve really ingrained the language’s vocabulary and sentence structure.



6. You Use Varied Sentence Structures

When you start learning a language, you typically learn the same basic ways of saying things. 

Varying the tenses, word order, and general structures you use in your sentences is a sign you’re becoming more comfortable forming sentences instead of just repeating phrases you’ve memorised.

Plus, varying the lengths and types of sentences you use is massive step towards making your speech more natural and more interesting. 



7. You Use Synonyms 

Once you learn and practice using one way of saying “good” or “nice” or any other phrase, it’s hard to break the habit. 

Using synonyms is a good sign that your vocabulary is growing, that you understand the similarities and subtle differences between synonyms, and that you’re getting comfortable quickly and seamlessly choosing the words that best express your thoughts. 



8. You Can Multitask 

Multitasking is another sign of improvement you won’t see in a video, but a huge sign that speaking is coming easier to you. 

Simple tasks like writing yourself a note while answering your tutor’s question or measuring ingredients for dinner while talking to a friend show you can recall words and conjugations without spending too much time or effort looking for them. 

Gaining the ability to multitask is actually one of my favourite breakthroughs to have with a new language. It’s certainly not the most glamorous change—or one others can compliment me on—but it does make taking notes during language lessons a lot easier!  



9. It’s Easier to Switch Into 

Much like reading aloud, switching between languages is sort of its own skill. At the same time, having an easier time shifting from your native language or a different language into your target language is definitely a sign of progress. 

Just like with multitasking, switching fluidly is a sign that it doesn’t take as much effort to recall words and structures when you want to express something. 



10. You Can Self-Correct Your Mistakes 

When we think about making progress in a target language, it’s easy to jump to thinking about accuracy and a lack of errors. 

But progress isn’t simply about making fewer errors. 

Because the first steps of reducing the mistakes you make are knowing that you’re making them and knowing how to fix them, self-correction is a huge sign that you’re making progress, even if the mistake is still there. 

In fact, even just catching your mistakes and not being able to correct them is a step! 

Progress is progress, and while you might not know how to conjugate that verb yet, knowing it’s not the way you’ve been doing it is a sign your understanding of the language is growing, and a great first step towards using the correct form in the future. 




Progress doesn’t mean perfection.

Whether you’re a little closer to your goal or able to do more than you were before, you’re making progress and should celebrate it! 

When it feels impossible to see any change in your speaking, look for the smaller signs your speaking skills are improving.

From feeling less worn out after speaking, to being more creative with the words and grammatical constructions you’re using, you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come by looking a little closer at your new abilities. 

What signs have you seen recently that your speaking is progressing? 

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