I remembered when I was a kid, I was so scared, hell-ish one to converse in English because I didn't want to make mistakes. Well I was obviously wrong since a language will only develop when you use it or otherwise it'll be rusty.
I started speaking in English when I was in Standard 3, as what I remembered. Participated for story telling competition. And I met this Chinese girl, she asked me "What costumes are you wearing?" and all I can answer was "Costume tu apa?". Back then, we kids were so naive, we just don't understand the definition of embarrassing, and we have just too much of that word when we grow up, don't we? And since then, I keep doing things just to be as good and not feeling inferior.
So here, few tips that really works:
- SPEAK IT OUT LOUD! This is the only way to give a profound improvements on your speaking
- Keep a dictionary with audio aids to help you pronounce the words correctly, unless you're good at phonetics
- Listen, watch and read English materials
- Think in English
It might make you wonder how I can speak fluent English when in my family there's nobody who could speak the language. Well, I simply talk to the mirror or sometimes myself and the wall. I kid you not. It seems so silly but yet, one of the way that do me a lot of favor. Just do not afraid to make mistakes. In fact when you make mistakes on certain words, distorted meaning for instance, you will remember it so hard you won't make the same mistakes.
Pronouncing the words correctly is very essential. For a starter, you don't have to put on any accents, just use English, the standard sound (I mean as in what I hear in Cambridge Advanced Leaner's Dictionary). But I guess this is not really a big problem for us Melayu since our tongue can be twisted so easy to produce the English-ish sound (but I'm not sure about people from Kelantan). My Kelantan friends told me it's hard sometimes for them to get rid of that Kelantan sound because they are used to it. But still, I see many Kelantan people who can speak fluent English,yes minus the Kelate sound lah (guano gini kalo hok ni pung bunyi kelate).
On the same note, despite of the aforementioned point, we need to speak with accent especially for students who studies abroad. Some common comments from the native speaker is that, they hardly understand us. Of course, since they pronounce words a bit differently. So, it's up to you to speak in what ever accents that you are comfortable with. But bear in mind, get the standard before you explore more on accents.
On the other hand, you need to start think in English if you really want to speak fluent English. When I said think, you don't need second to translate Malay to English. The sentence just popped out of your mouth. Maybe this is something that you might want to look for, dreaming in English. When you start having one, you know you are one level better.
Well this is not like I'm telling you Bahasa is of less importance because this is purely for the sake of knowledge. Yeap regarding listening, there's only one useful and common tips, listen to English stuff, songs, movies, news (BBC a good one). Just something to share :)