Speaking is the best way to learn a language.
How many times have you heard this advice? A lot, right?
How many of you ‘know’ you should speak more but hesitate to do it for one reason or another?
If you’re shy, like me, speaking is an enormous challenge. And more often than not, it’s all too easy to put off engaging with others in your new language.
But practicing your new language with other people has a huge number of benefits. Here are just a few.
You get to hear the language how it’s really used.
When you spend most of your time with language resources that are aimed at language learners, the language that you learn is just that – geared towards language learners. It’s usually incredibly polite, a little bit outdated, and rather limited. Real people are dynamic, they say the same things a lot of different ways, and are an amazing source of knowledge.
You’ll get insider tips on culture, on the colloquial language, and even non-verbal aspects of the language like body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice.
You can evaluate your weak points and strengths.
When you chat with a native speaker, you’re put in an unfamiliar environment. Your skills are really tested. You get the chance to evaluate what you most need to work on and what you do best.
Learning with a course is kind of like functioning on a closed track when driving a car. A lot of the real challenges are removed to create a “safe” learning environment. They’re designed to help you succeed in a specific scenario, but real life doesn’t work that way. When you work with a course it’s easy to think you know much more than you do because you’re getting all the questions right and completing all the exercises.
When you chat with real people, you get to work on the language in a new context and you can quickly pinpoint your weak points so that you can tackle them head-on.
You get feedback on how you’re doing.
Ever wonder how your level in your target language really stacks up? Native speakers can give you an honest evaluation. They can let you know about mistakes you don’t even realize you’re making. But they can also let you know what things you’re doing really well.
They can offer you suggestions to help you correct mistakes you’re making, whether you realize you’re making them or not.
You get to practice speaking and train your muscles.
Speaking requires training the muscles in your mouth and throat to work together to create the sounds needed to speak your new language. The more you speak, the more you train those muscles to do what they need to do.
You can get to ask all the questions.
When you’re working with a set resource like a coursebook or audio course, you have to hope that it will at some point, answer your questions. If it doesn’t, it means that you have to try to find those answers yourself elsewhere.
Practical Steps to Get Started
Despite knowing all the benefits of speaking with native speakers, it can still be tough to take initiative and actually do it if you’re shy. And even if you’re not.
You feel vulnerable. As though you’re not in control. And it can be scary.
That’s why it’s important to look for people to practice with in the right places. You want to connect with people who understand what it takes to speak your new language with another person. With people who won’t judge you for the mistakes you make. And with people who have the patience to help you sort a new language out.
Not sure where to find these types of exchange partners? Here are just a few ideas.
Find a partner on an exchange platform.
There are lots of excellent language exchange platforms where you can find native speakers to practice with. These are fellow learners who understand exactly what you’re going through. How it feels to make mistakes. What sort of effort it takes to learn a new language. And who will treat your time fairly.
Finding people like this is possible on language exchange platforms. They are fellow learners and they understand just what you’re going through. My personal favorite language exchange platform is iTalki.
Connect with a Language BFF
Instead of a language exchange partner, you can connect with a study buddy or language BFF. This is someone you are studying the same language as, and together, you can compare notes, practice, and share your questions. If you’re not sure where to find a study buddy, as a part of an upcoming event (read below), we’ll help you find one!
The tips in this article are just a snapshot of the benefits of taking a small step outside your comfort zone and the places to do it if you’re shy.
Where to Go From Here
I’m sharing much more in my session at the very first Women in Language Camp on Saturday, November 3rd. It’s going to be an exciting event.
The whole event is focused on the topic of community and connection, something we noticed got great feedback from the first Women in Language event back in March 2018. So we thought, why not dedicate a whole mini event to that exact topic?
On the day, you’ll hear from me as well as my other two co-hosts of Women in Language, Kerstin Cable of Fluent Language and Lindsay Williams of Lindsay Does Languages.
Kerstin will be sharing her session Not the Only Linguist in the Village: How to Create Your IRL Language Squad and Lindsay will be leading her session Switch on the Community: How to Practice Your Language with People Everywhere.
As well as the three main sessions, there’ll be the chance to ask questions and connect with other attendees in the final Campfire session and the Women in Language Facebook Group, which we’ve reopened for this event!
Finally, if you purchase your ticket before October 30th, you’ll get paired with a Language BFF for the day. This person will be someone who studies the same language as you and who you can compare notes with as a part of the event.
You’ll be able to secure your ticket to the main event in March too – but only during Women in Language Camp. A little heads up there.
And the final thing I have to tell you is that the recordings of Women in Language Camp won’t be available to purchase after the event. Although if you get your ticket, you will get access to all the recordings. So even if you know you can’t make the live sessions but you still want in on the action, be sure to get your ticket now while you can.
Ready for Camp? Get your ticket now.