Learning a new language is to have one more window from which to look at the world. It is true that without language we cannot understand others, grasp their history, appreciate their poetry, or enjoy their songs. But let’s say you started learning a language, memorized and practiced vocabulary and grammar and then one day you get thrown together with a native speaker. Excited to converse in the language you are learning you start to speak but freeze. You stumble over words and your brain shoots into what it does best – overthinking!
Am I saying that alright? Does the noun come first or the adjective? Can the person understand me? Am I even speaking?
Who would have thought that speaking a few words could make you break in a cold sweat? If you are someone who is in the process of learning a new language, you are probably quite familiar with this situation. Listening, reading and learning vocabulary is one thing, but speaking a new language can be a whole lot knackering in the beginning.
Read on to find out what it takes to get to a conversational level in a language!
Step 1 – Set Your Goals Straight
If you ask a language learner what their language speaking goals are, they are probably going to say to become fluent in said language. What language learners really need to understand is that this goal is unrealistic and vague to begin with.
Being fluent in a language means speaking perfectly like a native speaker. When the truth is, most native speakers cannot speak their language perfectly, if any at all. So, what your goal really should be is to be able to speak a new language comfortably without losing your nerve.
Step 2 – Add More Input
People who travel a lot have a common habit of picking up a few phrases and sentences of foreign languages that are enough for them to be able to get by. By the time they get back home, in a week at most, they cannot even speak a short phrase in that language anymore.
Often people ask me at what level of learning they can consider themselves at a conversational level. My answer is, to some extent, you can start right now. The more input you put into your learning, the sooner you get to the conversational level. The trick really is to keeping adding new words and phrases to your vocabulary.
Step 3 – Practice, Practice and More Practice!
Practice makes perfect couldn’t be truer than when it comes to learning a new language. The conversational fluency can only come around after consistent and thorough practice. Limited time to learn does not mean you also have limited time to practice.
So, tell the new words you learn to your family and practice with a native friend to take the plunge and get going.