Millions of non-native English speakers are learning English today. A vast majority of them are able to gain a certain level of proficiency in reading and writing but still do not feel comfortable with speaking the language. Almost all of them realize the importance of English for their career so it is not for a lack of effort. The main reason is that they do not get enough practice of talking in English and hence, are unable to get fluent in speaking the language.

Having observed hundreds of non-native speakers mastering spoken English, I know the one thing which worked for all of them. It is the creation of conversation groups among the learners themselves. Spending thirty minutes to an hour talking in English with each other is a sure way of improving speaking skills.

Some amount of guidance is important for these conversation groups. There needs to be one assigned leader who decides the topic of conversation. This leader may change by rotation if the group so decides. The leader will have to spend some time before the group meet to not only decide the topic of conversation but also some hypothetical situations which can be discussed.  For example, a conversation topic could be 'Introducing yourself' and the group can talk about different situations like introductions in formal and informal situations.

Another shortcoming in these conversation groups is that the members tend to lose interest in some time. It is imperative that the members make a time commitment of at least three months of regular meetings. Speaking a new language is a skill and like all skills, it takes time and effort to master.

It is also important for all group members to focus on collective rather than individual gains. It is important that you correct any member who needs improvement. Motivating and supporting each other is as important as being regular in the group meetings.

To make the conversation group meetings more interesting, there can be English movie screenings. It is particularly helpful to have movies with sub-titles initially, and  as the group gets more and more comfortable with the English language, you can move onto movies without sub-titles. It is fun to discuss interpretations of the movies and dissect the characters.

If the group is comfortable, they can also assign homework to themselves. This ensures that the group members are well-prepared for the next group meeting. The homework could be a written assignment or better still, an audio recording in a particular language.

Mastering English is a challenge but with patience and perseverance, it can be accomplished. A conversation group ensures commitment from the members and the necessary motivation to master spoken English.