Language Learning Tips: Speaking

Language Learning Speaking


Before we get into the different ways you can practice speaking, I want to talk a bit about nerves and frustration. It’s easy to feel afraid of sounding stupid.

When we start out, our vocabularies are limited, and we need to use simple sentence structures. Unfortunately what we often want to express complex ideas which require wider vocabularies and more complex sentences. To make matters worse, we know we’re going to make (several) mistakes and feel like idiots in the process.

Do It Any Way

Go beyond being afraid. Do it anyway. Sound like an idiot. Though, really, you’re probably the only one judging yourself that harshly. How many times have you heard a non native speaker attempt your language and thought how stupid they were? Odds are, that’s never happened, because we all know how difficult it can be to express yourself in another language.

Another reason to let up on yourself: people who are willing to risk being wrong tend to pick up languages more quickly. Which makes sense, as they are more willing to practice speaking whenever an opportunity arrives.

In larger cities, there are often neighborhoods where speakers of a certain language congregate. Go, shop, eat, and most importantly, talk. Even if there isn’t a neighborhood where your target language is spoken, look for individual grocery stores and restaurants. Not only will you get to sample a new cuisine, but you can try to find an opportunity to practice speaking too.

Go beyond being afraid. Do it anyway. Sound like an idiot. Click To Tweet

Language Exchange

There are several sites that let you set up language exchanges either in person or over the internet. Most are free, so you can test out a few to see which fits your needs best.

There are a few things to keep in mind when participating in an exchange. You may eventually encounter someone who makes you uncomfortable by creeping, flirting, asking for money, or something else entirely. So, have a plan in place for when it happens.

Something like “Please don’t (flirt), it’s making me uncomfortable.”

If they push back, then you can walk away from the exchange knowing that they weren’t a good fit. If they apologize, and don’t do it again, then you can get back to practicing.

I also suggest having a specific email and Skype account that you can just delete, on the unlikely chance that it becomes necessary.

Discussion Materials

Find a couple of sites that you like in your target language, to share with your exchange partners. That way you’ve got a go to source for discussion material and you can just send an article (or two) a couple of days ahead of your meeting.

Also, you may want to ask your partner if they want active correction or just for you to model the correct form in your response, and think about what you want. Too much direct correction can get frustrating and hinder language learning, but the definition of “too much” can vary greatly depending on the person.

Tutors, Apps, and Groups

Depending on your location you may find tutors for a one on one speaking practice. There are also sites where you can find teachers to practice your speaking with. Since it’s a paid situation, you may feel more comfortable speaking, especially in the early stages. This one is truly a personal choice, so just think about what you prefer.

You can find sites/apps where you record a snippet and send it to a conversation partner, then they do the same for you. This can give you a bit more breathing room to figure out what you’re trying to say.

Meetup groups work well whether you’re at home or immersing yourself in speaking the language while abroad. I would recommend also having an exchange with a native speaker, to keep your pronunciation in check. It’s easy to take on and reinforce errors if you’re only talking with other learners.

ps. I have a pinterest board just for you language learners, come check it out!

This is the last of a four part series. If you missed the other three parts, the first part was on reading and the second was on writing, and the third was on listening. Go give them a look.

If you have any tips on practicing speaking in another language, please share them in the comments!

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