Talking in the language you are learning - Keeping the conversation going

I often read it is best to speak from the beginning and I know there are different views on this but for the most part, I agree. I once had a teacher say to me, if I don't know the word in Spanish (or whatever language I'm learning) to try describing, if the word was "bird" and I knew "to fly" and "animal" to just say that and she can give me the correct word. This way, the conversation is more in the language I'm learning. 

So, I'm wondering what techniques people use to start talking or continue talking when in the beginner/lower intermediate stages of a language?

Do you have keywords that you use to keep things going? If so, which ones?

Please share! And teachers, if you have any tips, I look forward to hearing them too!

*Note, I'm putting this under English as there is no general option.

Apr 7, 2019 5:22 AM
Comments · 4
It's interesting to read different opinions. This question was actually prompted by being told in various ways to use less English. Maybe the important thing is to try and use what I know and keep practising. I often feel bad or like I'm not trying hard enough. The problem is no matter how hard I try, there are going to be words I don't know, that's learning I suppose. I've finally got away from thinking in English first, so I suppose that is something.
April 7, 2019

I think you’re in the right track, I’m learning Spanish from scratch and my native language is English. My tutor is excellent. A professional language tutor who can speak 4 languages fluently inc English. She lives in Argentina. 

She has done extensive research on the topic of what is the most effective way to learn a new language. 

Her verdict is that you abandon your native language altogether and start from scratch your target language. It helps a lot if your teacher can speak your native language to move things along. She has opened my eyes to her way which has always been there  but alas, is rarely used. 

Folks want instant gratification and expect a quick result. That’s unrealistic. In her words she is loading up my brain with Spanish. Translating from English is a no no. Thus, I’m learning Spanish just the same  way I learned English. it’s as simple as that. Through simple sentences with pictures. I also listen to Spanish only audio to help with pronunciation. 

Good luck, I hope this helps you. 

April 7, 2019
Honestly, if I know the conversation partner shares a third language with me and I can remember the word in the third language on the spot, I just use that one, in order to keep the conversation going. Code-switching is normal when two people share more than one language.

But when I have to stick to the one language no matter what or even fail to remember the word in a third language I paraphrase a lot like the way you mentioned and also use gestures. If nothing helps I draw a picture. The other day I was recording a video in Spanish and I couldn't for the life of me remember the Spanish word for "kindergarten". I said that in French it would be "la maternelle" and then ended up saying "asilo". But I had the hunch that it was wrong, so I added that it's like a school for small children. After finishing the video I looked the word up and found out that "asilo" was the Italian term and that I should have used "guardería".

I think for basic conversation it's good to have some basic words on stock that can substitute for others. For instance verbs like "make".

I make food = I cook

I make bread = I bake

I make better = I improve

I'm copy & pasting here a little story about basic conversation from my blog:

"Then during the stay in Italy, I tried to communicate as much as possible with our Italian neighbours. One of them, an elderly gentleman, knew a handful of German words, that he remembered from the war: nein (no), gut (good), raus (out), kaputt (out of order) and Bunker (bunker). Actually, you could have a full conversation with those words:

A: Bunker gut?

B: Nein, kaputt!

A: Raus!"


April 7, 2019
I don't know if this might be a good example, but in my case sometimes I struggle with the past tense of some irregular verbs and whenever I try to say I did something in the past, instead of using the past tense of that specific verb, I try to use the present tense of it and "I did (this or that) yesterday" In the end, maybe this whole explanation is a perfect example of what I'm trying to say lol.
April 7, 2019