How To Master Speaking In Foreign Languages

As mentioned before, speaking is the toughest of all the language skills and your language acquisition is only complete if you are able to converse in your target language with a relative degree of fluency.

Concentrate on speaking only after you’ve obtained a certain level proficiency in the first three skills. Although you should be careful not to neglect your speaking skills, you’ll make better progress if you are already equipped with reading, writing and listening skills…

Start off by memorizing simple dialogs in the language text books. You don’t need to learn the conversation word for word, but do imagine yourself speaking to someone in that language. You could also engage in role-play with a partner.

You can borrow a few foreign movies, just like when you were learning how to listen. These movies will get you in touch with the sound of the language.

Also, build up a library of special phrases that help you speak like a native. These phrases will help enhance your conversation with a native speaker.

You will feel tongue-tied initially, but always keep in mind that ultimately, you will become fluent.

In the middle of a conversation, if you suddenly find yourself lost for words, make do with a phrase that is similar in nature. However, do remember to refer to your sources for a better word and add it to your “word bank”.

A Simple Technique That Makes You A lot More “Native”

“…Umm”, “Ah!”, “Er..”, “Este”, “Eh bien!”, “Zhe Ge…”

These are probably the most frequently spoken words in their respective languages. They’re known as fillers and are normally used before you start a sentence, in the middle of a conversation or even to portray hesitation. They are handy tools for when your vocabulary is still limited as thus perfect for beginners.

Fillers are particularly useful when you are lost for words, and they prevent you from slipping into your native tongue when you are searching for words. There also make you sound natural and your conversation will flow more smoothly

It is also much easier to learn a few fillers than to learn the equivalent of “What I basically mean to say is…” in the target language.

In German, some common “fillers” (technically they’re not fillers but are used to convey sub-context) are “ja”, “doch”, “aber”, “jetzt”, “also”, “bloß “. They seldom add semantic meaning to a sentence but they do make it more familiar and personal.
Some more examples:

  • “Das habe ich doch ” or “Das habe ich ja gesagt.” as opposed to “Das habe ich gesagt.”
  • “Das meinst du jetzt aber nicht ernst, oder?” as opposed to “Das meinst du jetzt nicht ernst, oder?”
  • “Hör mir jetzt bloß auf damit.”
  • “Du kennst mich ja jetzt schon etwas länger.” as opposed to “Du kennst mich jetzt schon etwas länger.”
  • “Fährst du jetzt eigentlich in den Ferien weg?” in which “jetzt” (now) is contradictory to the time mentioned “in the Ferien” (during the vacation)

And some more examples in Chinese:

  • “wo zhidao le as opposed to “wo zhidao le.”
  • jiu zheyang ba” as opposed to “zheyang.”
  • zhege ma, wo yao xiangyixiang” as opposed to “wo yao xiangyixiang”

The “Magic Words” Only Native Speakers Use

Now, do you know what an interjection is?

“Eh?” “Huh??”

Correct! Some other common interjections in English are “Good Golly!” “Sshh” “Tsk tsk” “Ugh!” “Grrr” “Ahem!”

Interjections as you can guess are words that are used to express emotions. Most of them sound like noises rather than words, but they are popularly used in written language as well and hence their importance.

It is difficult to translate interjections among languages and they are best understood within their original context and emotion. So the next time you hear a Bulgarian exclaim “Yaoo”, you’ll realize that he’s not in pain (if he was, he’d say “Evich!”) he’s just saying “Really??”

Even sounds that you’d think were generic across the world have different meanings in various languages. If you’re in France, and you’ve just had a meal, you say “Miam Miam” if it was “yum!” or you can say “Beurk” if it wasn’t. And in Chinese it becomes “hahh”.

Do keep track of the different native interjections, as this is not something they’d teach you in school. But they sure are useful if you want to blend in with the natives.

Know How You Sound Like

When learning how to speak in a new language, it is very important that you record yourself. You should then play back what you have recorded and take note of your pronunciations.

I’ve mentioned before that how you sound to yourself and how you sound to others can be quite different, so you don’t really know how you sound to others until you have heard a recording of your own voice. To attain a good (if not perfect) level of pronunciation, you must practice with a recording of your own voice.

And recording yourself is now much easier with the abundance of computer microphones and portable media players that are available.

An Effective Method To Build Your Confidence And Conversation Skills In A Foreign Language

Would you like to practice speaking without any of the accompanying stress?

Role playing is a fun way to help prepare you for communication in the real world. Simulate a typical conversation with your friend in a comfortable setting. You can practice memorized/cued dialogs, or just improvise.

Role playing helps you build rapport while speaking, prepares you for unpredictable situations and builds your self-confidence.. You will realize that you really can express yourself in your target language and this will motivate you to speak more.

Find a partner to converse with, and try to converse about simple topics first. Over time, progress to more diverse topics and this will also help you increase your vocabulary. While role playing, you should also try to get a feel for the language and learn how to make use of fillers.

Here are some ways you can practice role-playing:

Try on different props and accessories with your friend, like a wig, a hat or funny glasses. Take turns to comment on each other’s appearance. You can also try on different uniforms and take on different characters.

Simulate a real life situation like borrowing from a neighbor. Your friend can be the neighbor and practice how to make polite requests asking to borrow food. Have your friend show you picture cards with ingredients of what you are planning to cook. Try to explain what you’re making while you ask for the ingredients.

What In The World Do You Talk About In That Foreign Language?

By now you would have learned the customary introductions in your target language. But most of the time that’s not enough to get the ball rolling in a conversation. You need a ready collection of interesting things to talk about to keep your conversations going.

Conversations with native speakers are great learning experiences, so you’d want to sustain a conversation for as long as you can and make it as lively and interesting as possible. Try to break the ice by asking them where they live and what they do. I’m sure they would also be interested if you were to describe your experiences trying to learn the language.

Try to use this opportunity to pick their brains about their culture. Show that you’re interested in their customs and traditions and not just their language. An easy way to make this an interactive conversation is to compare the differences and similarities between both of your cultures. You can talk about anything from the way of life to the different eating and drinking habits.

Alternatively, you could strike a conversation about your favorite movie or sport.

But remember that some conversation topics are “taboo”, and they’re normally specific to each culture. So do your research about the cultures to avoid offending someone. For example, the French consider it taboo to talk about money. You would never know these things unless you make the effort to find out.

You can also practice your grammar tenses in conversations. Try out different subjunctives by asking hypothetical questions like “If you were…”

Mimicking For Language Success

Have you ever encountered small children who followed you around imitating everything you say?

You’ll be surprised to know that apart from making a nuisance out of themselves, they are also picking up valuable language skills and vocabulary.

Mimicking a language is a lot harder than copying a text as you’ll have to put in a lot more effort and focus.

You might not understand what exactly you are mimicking, but what is more important here is learning how to pronounce the words correctly. So don’t waste time trying to understand word for word. Instead, just focus on mimicking accurately. Over time, not only will you be able to pronounce the words perfectly, you’ll also know what is being said.

Secret Of Instantly Overcoming Any Fear, Frustration Or Embarrassment When Learning To Speak A New Language

Here I’m going to teach another technique many psychiatrists use to deal with negative (or horrible) experiences. You can use this method to handle any frustration or obstacle encountered when learning any language.

This method is based on what is known as “sub-modalities”.

Most of us have recollections in the form of mental pictures. (Certain people, such as the blind, experience life in the form of mental sounds.) And sub-modalities are the various internal attributes of the mental pictures we construct in our mind on a minute-to-minute basis.

These pictures are extremely closely associated with our feelings. In fact, they are our internal representation of the world. By modifying the attributes of the negative internal representations we can shift our feelings from frustration to motivation, fear to courage, sadness to happiness, and so on.

Now read the following instructions carefully before closing your eyes and carrying them out. If you find it hard to do on your own with eyes closed, go and find a partner.

  • Recall the last time when you were embarrassed by uttering the wrong word, when you were laughed at because you made a silly language mistake, or when awkwardness resulted from your inability to express yourself. Go back to that very point in time and feel it.
  • Construct in your mind the exact situation where you felt discouraged. Take a good look at the picture you have in mind.
  • Notice whether you are looking at yourself or looking at things through “your mind’s eye”.
  • Notice the size of the picture. Does the frame occupy only a small portion of the vision? How far is the picture away from you?
  • Notice the brightness of the picture. Were you in a dark room or out in broad daylight?
  • Notice your posture and facial expressions. What about your breathing rate?
  • Are you hearing any sounds? If not, what would you say to yourself in that situation?
  • For any of the question above, if you cannot remember, just imagine what you would do if you were placed in that frustrating mood once again.

You probably don’t feel very good after the above process. I don’t mean to let you suffer from this exercise. But here’s an important point… Often the unpleasant experience is not a big deal but we intensify it by constantly thinking about it. And sometimes we obsess over it to the extent that any related actions become scary and we stop performing them.

Remember the mountains of homework you had to do as a child? The homework itself wasn’t that bad, but because you had the mindset that homework was a chore, you started dreading it.

Now, read the following instruction again before following them one by one:

  • Repeat step 1 to step 8 of the above
  • Now imagine yourself manually altering the picture with the immense power of your mind
  • Change the viewing angle of the picture. If you were inside your body, step out, vice versa.
  • Change the size of the picture. If it was small, blow it up. If it was too near, push it away until it shrinks to a point.
  • Change the lighting of the picture. If it was dark, fill in light, until it is dazzling, vice versa.
  • Change your posture. Sit up, breath in confidently, and look motivated.
  • Say to yourself in the picture, “come on, we can do it!”, “do it now!”, “it’ll be fun!”, etc.
  • Open your eyes.

Feeling much better now, right? Continue practicing this. Intensify the attributes of the picture in the second part, and experience the increase in your motivation level.

Take A Break If You Need To

Learning how to speak in a language you don’t know well can be extremely frightening.

You’ll never get words out of your mouth if you’re constantly worried about how you’re going to sound. Just keep in mind that you’re expected to make mistakes, and it’s just part of the learning process.

Your partner is very unlikely to get impatient with you, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If you’re anxious before speaking, try taking a deep breath and spend a moment collecting your thoughts. You’re going to sound funny in the beginning whether you like it or not, so you might as well learn to laugh at yourself.

If you’re still tongue-tied then take a break from the language and do something else. When you get back to it later you’ll be a lot less stressed.