I hate being a beginner. I hate it when I can’t express myself. I hate this annoying “lost for words” feeling.
I’m a very patient teacher, but when it comes to learning, I get bored and distracted too easily when I can’t say what I want, and fast.
This is a very common thing among language learners. We try to speed up the pace, learn over the top and round the clock, until we exhaust ourselves and burn-out. We do this to achieve a satisfying level where we can actually say something that is more or less meaningful.
They say you should hold back and save your energy, but… if you are so keen, why not use it? Here are five steps that will help you to make good and fast progress in your speaking skills.
Step one: Bon app-ètit!
Use apps to learn basic vocabulary and grammar structures.
Personally, I use Duolingo (found it a bit too slow) and Memrise.
The good thing about these is that:
- They don’t take a lot of your time.
- You don’t need to think much.
- It really sticks due to constant revision.
There are never too many apps, but remember that they are nothing more than a good cornerstone for your studies. Don’t get stuck there.
What if I'm not a computer person?
I often hear that. So here's my advice. If you’re not a computer person, BECOME ONE! C’mon, it’s 2016. The websites and apps I have named above are surprisingly easy and user-friendly, whatever your age and however computer literate you are.
Step two: Have a goal
Get a good textbook or make a list of things you need to know for levels A1, A2 etc. and use this as a map of developmental milestones for you. No, you don’t actually have to read the textbook. Go through the content. That's enough.
You may not see much sense in this at the beginning, but one day you’ll come to a point where you don’t know where you are and you’ll have no idea whether you’re making any progress. If you’ve followed my advice, you’ll have something to refer to.
All these topics are too difficult / impractical / uninteresting for me
That's even better if you think so. Then just sit down and write a list of topics you want to be able to talk about. Let this be your curriculum.
Here are a few points that I have written:
- London: what I like and dislike there
- London and Moscow: a comparison
- Looking for a job
- Cooking and eating habits
After writing your list, you may find it a bit complicated. However, I advise you to stick to it and just try to simplify the language whenever you can.
Step three: Get creative
Now, this method is quite time-consuming initially, but it will eventually save you time.
- First, write a short story about something that matters to you and makes you feel emotional. Keep it simple. If there is more than one new word in a sentence, paraphrase.
- Have native speakers on italkireview it and make it perfect.
- Now the least pleasant part: learn the text by heart.
- Record yourself saying it (not reading it!). It’s even better if it’s a video, not just audio, because you’ll get more confident when you can see yourself speaking. Be ready to re-record it a few times before you are completely satisfied.
- Share the video with your teacher or language partner, as well as with the italki and/or lang-8 community. Get positive feedback!
I don't know what to write about!
Don't be too picky. Write about simple things, like your breakfast. For example, you can explain that you burnt it and now you have to pop into a cafe on your way to work, which might make you late. You could also write about your cat: it's behaving weirdly today, running around, and you wish you had its energy. Anything. The most important thing is that it should involve emotions.
Now, the bad thing about this step is that there’s no chance you’ll hold this excellent text in your head for a long time, so…
Step four: Recycle
Let your teacher or language partner watch (or listen to) your recording and ask related questions so that you can use the same phrases again.
Controlled practice is an important step in language learning, and it normally comes before freer practice. At the controlled practice stage, the student's speech is closely observed by the teacher in order to prevent mistakes, as opposed to freer practice, when there shouldn’t be any interruption.
Final step: Think on the spot
I bet you know what I’m going to say now...
Yes, just speak. Speak with different language partners and make sure the topics you know arise in the conversation. Get more practice so that the phrases are stuck in your active vocabulary.
That's it for now!
Thank you for reading this. I hope it was helpful.
My next article will be about language exchange: how to look for partners, how to work with them, and how to be the perfect language partner yourself.
Enjoy your learning, and see you soon!