In a previous post, we talked about the four skills of language learning: listening, speaking, reading and writing. All four parts interconnect with one another and practicing all of them on a daily basis will greatly improve your learning process. A lot of people tend to put a lot more effort on certain skills and not enough on others. Interestingly enough, speaking is the skill most people wish to be really good at. Yet, it’s also the skill they practice the least. In the next few posts, we will talk about the ways you can practice your speaking skills in language learning.
Bruce Lee once said: “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do”. Sure, it may sound all zen and philosophical, but it’s very true! However, one of the main reasons why people don’t practice speaking as much as other skills is that it’s not nearly as convenient. Learning at home on your computer is great, but to practice speaking, you need humans. As human beings, having a conversation in our mother tongue is something that is second nature to us. But for computers, conversations are very complex and it’s one of the few things they simply can’t do right. A computer can solve ultra complex equations, remember mind-boggling amounts of data, play chess better than world champions, but they can’t have an interesting conversation with you. Sure, you can ask the virtual assistant on your phone to tell you a joke, but let’s face it, they’re often pretty lousy. In order to truly practice your speaking skills, you’ll have to talk to real human beings (scary I know). Fortunately, while computers can’t really have engaging conversations with you, they can certainly help you find these wonderful conversationalists called humans.
It can be nice to have a basic foundation in your new language before you go out into the world, but try not to wait too long! We believe that it’s best to try to speak as soon as you start learning, even if it’s just simple words like “hello” and “thank you” when visiting foreign destinations. It will train you to combat language anxiety in the future. It is quite amazing how much people will appreciate the fact that you are making an effort to speak their language, and it is very gratifying. It’s important to keep in mind that there will never be a perfect moment to start speaking. Might as well start as soon as possible, right? Unfortunately, not speaking enough is the reason most people have trouble speaking. I know this sounds obvious, but for some reason, many don’t understand this when it comes to languages. You can learn all the theory in the world, but there comes a time when you need to apply it and simply practice. In the fifth season of the television show “Friends”, Phoebe tries to show Joey how to play guitar without ever touching one. This is the outcome conversation from this approach:
Phoebe: Do you want to learn how to play guitar?
Phoebe: Then don’t touch one! Oh my god!
Joey: What? I didn’t touch a guitar!
Phoebe: No, but you’re questioning my method!
Joey: No, I’m not questioning it Phoebe, I’m saying it’s stupid.
Learning how to play the guitar without ever touching one is rarely the approach people take. It probably wouldn’t work very well, right? On the other hand, if you have never heard the sound of a guitar in your entire life, having a hands-on approach with it would be pretty much pointless. The key is having a lot of listening exposure to get familiar to the sounds, but also to have tons of hands-on practice. See where I’m getting at? In language learning, the hands-on part (aka speaking) is often very neglected. Most of us actually study a foreign language in school, and although we may reach a certain level and understand a good amount, we rarely speak it. Unfortunately, the purpose of language classes in grade school is not communication, it is passing your exams. When school is over, we usually forget most of it, because we never use what we learned.
Most people will feel some level of foreign language anxiety, especially when starting out. But the good news is that after a few conversations, the idea of trying to be perfect often goes away. Even if you take some time to find your words, you eventually understand that there’s no need for any anxiety. Speaking in a different language is a wonderful experience and it’s likely what you are aiming for. The sense of accomplishment after completing a conversation in a different language is greater than you can imagine. Depriving yourself of that experience for months and months would be a shame. We highly encourage you to start speaking as soon as possible.
Now you might say: “Good advice wise guy, but how am I supposed to do that?”. Luckily, we live in a world where connecting with others is easier than ever before. You don’t need to move to a foreign destination and work in a coffee bean plantation for two years to learn a language. In upcoming posts, we will talk about the numerous ways you can practice speaking in your new language on a daily basis. Until then, why not practice your pronunciation in the Ouino program?
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Fair Use: All rights to their respective owners. “Friends” clip and Yoda picture used under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for educational purposes.
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