Overcoming the “I Understand, But Can’t Speak” Barrier in English | Speak New York

“I understand English very well, but I am unable to speak English” is a common problem for many non-native English speakers. It can be frustrating to feel like you have a good grasp of the language, but struggle to communicate effectively in real-world situations. In this blog, we will explore some of the reasons why people may have difficulty speaking English despite having a good understanding of the language, as well as strategies and tips for improving your speaking skills.

Why understanding English doesn’t always translate to speaking ability?

One of the main reasons why people may struggle to speak English despite having a good understanding of the language is a lack of confidence. Speaking a second language can be daunting, and many people may feel self-conscious or worried about making mistakes when speaking in front of others. This can lead to a reluctance to practice speaking, which can in turn prevent individuals from improving their speaking skills.

Another reason why understanding English may not translate to speaking ability is due to differences in language acquisition. While understanding a language involves passive skills such as reading and listening, speaking requires active engagement and practice. Simply consuming English language media or reading books may not be enough to develop strong speaking skills, as these activities do not require active participation or practice.

Finally, there may be cultural or social factors that contribute to a lack of speaking ability. For example, in some cultures, it may not be common to speak English in social situations, which can limit opportunities for practice and hinder language acquisition.

Strategies for improving your English speaking skills

1. Practice, practice, practice

The most effective way to improve your English speaking skills is to practice as much as possible. This can involve finding conversation partners to practice with, participating in language exch ange programs, or taking English conversation classes. The more you practice speaking, the more comfortable and confident you will become, and the better your speaking skills will be.


2. Focus on pronunciation

Pronunciation is an important aspect of speaking English that is often overlooked. By focusing on improving your pronunciation, you can make it easier for others to understand you, and improve your overall confidence when speaking. Some strategies for improving pronunciation include watching videos or listening to recordings of native speakers, practicing mouth and tongue exercises, and using apps or online tools to practice pronunciation.

3. Learn useful phrases and expressions

Learning useful phrases and expressions can help you communicate more effectively in real-world situations. This can involve studying common phrases and expressions used in everyday conversation, as well as learning industry-specific vocabulary and phrases that are relevant to your field.

4. Record yourself speaking

Recording yourself speaking can be a useful way to identify areas where you may need to improve. By listening to yourself speak, you can pick up on any areas where you may be struggling with pronunciation, grammar, or other aspects of speaking. This can help you target specific areas for improvement and track your progress over time.

5. Be patient with yourself

Improving your English speaking skills is a process, and it’s important to be patient with yourself as you work towards your goals. It’s okay to make mistakes or struggle at first – the key is to keep practicing and pushing yourself to improve.


“I understand English very well, but I am unable to speak English” is a common problem that many non-native English speakers face. However, with practice, focus on pronunciation, learning useful phrases and expressions, recording yourself speaking, and patience, it’s possible to improve your speaking skills and become a more confident communicator. By overcoming your fear of speaking, actively engaging with the language, and seeking out opportunities to practice, you can achieve greater success in both personal and professional settings.

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