Are grinding over verb tables and repeating individual words from a recorder the most effective way to learn a new language?
A lot of language learning experts say “no.”
The words or phrases you memorize may help you do little to understand sentence structure and grammar, or how the literal meaning of a word may be different when using it in context.
The importance of conversation in language learning cannot be overstated. After all, one of the primary, perhaps the primary, motivations in learning a new language is to converse with others.
Conversing will actually give you more exposure to your new language.
Learning through conversation, such as the Berlitz Method®, is a successful way to reach your language learning goals.
Following are some tips that will help you converse sooner and better in the language you’re learning.
Throughout your day, try describing in your new language what you are seeing, doing or hearing. Sure, mistakes will happen and you’ll not understand how to say some things. But as you learn and converse these moments will become more and more infrequent. It’s important to speak out loud, this will help your pronunciation and sentence structure.
Try another way. There are many ways to say the same thing in almost every language. Give it another try using a different approach. This will also stimulate your creating thinking.
Learning practical phrases first will help you pick up others. Knowing how to say “where is the bathroom,” is a great start.
Have the teacher constructively critique what you have said and how you could have said things better, but wait until your conversation is over. Constant correction may confuse or interrupt your train of thought. Maybe, try the conversation again using what you have learned.
This will help make your conversations more enjoyable.
Many TV cable systems offer foreign languages; check if yours provides your new language. A recent check of one cable network showed it offered foreign-language programming in six different languages. Watching will help you learn vocabulary, sentence structure, pacing and pronunciation, particularly true of news shows where speakers generally provide the most precise pronunciations. You can also get recorded books and other materials in many languages.
Pick a discussion topic and tape the conversation; don’t just read it. Play it back, critique yourself and try again.
This is fairly simple if you’re in a class. If not, there are still lots of opportunities. Many cities and towns have cultural organizations and societies where you meet and not only speak, but learn the area’s culture. Some even offer discussion groups.
Look hard enough, and you can also find everyday people who speak the language of your choice. One Italian student reported meeting several people, including a restaurant owner, who were happy to practice with him.
Just remember that speaking is not recitation. You have to practice speaking, to actually converse.