Let’s get straight to the point.
• Just like going to the gym
• Just like learning how to play a musical instrument
• Just like learning how to code
• Just like learning any new skill….
it goes without saying that the very best way for us to dramatically improve our speaking and writing skills in the languages we learn is to simply PRACTICE, PRACTICE and PRACTICE.
Nothing (REPEAT NOTHING) is more beneficial to us than regularly practicing our speaking and writing skills with native speakers of the languages we learn.
Of course, it takes a lot of courage, effort and willpower. Without a doubt it’s not the easiest or the most relaxing thing to do.
We inevitably make a lot of mistakes and mispronounce many words when we learn a foreign language.
We write things that don’t make much sense and are completely grammatically incorrect when we learn languages.
We feel self-conscious and embarrassed when native speakers point out our mistakes to us.
We feel like finding excuses not to do it.
The saying no pain, no gain is particularly relevant to us language learners. We can feel discouraged and disheartened when we see the numerous mistakes we’ve made when (for example) a native speaker corrects the grammar and spelling in our texts or corrects our pronunciation of certain words and phrases.
Yet the fact is the more we practice our speaking and writing skills with native speakers and take on board what they say, the more quickly we’ll make progress. The more likely it is we’ll reach that dream goal of becoming so fluent and confident when writing and speaking our target language that we are mistaken for a native speaker. Now wouldn’t that be a fantastic achievement!
As Bruce Lee once wisely said “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.”
Hang on…doesn’t it appear that this article seems to be neglecting the importance of listening (to songs, video clips, films, TV series, for instance) to our target language as much as we possibly can?
If we do appear to be giving off the impression that, we sincerely apologise.
After all, scientific research shows that babies first start developing their language skills when they’re still in their mother’s womb, which shows just how important listening is. Think about it:
• learning how to play the piano without ever having heard how one sounds
• learning how to make a website without ever having looked at how one is meant to look and function.
• learning how to play football or tennis without ever having watched a football or a tennis match
would be ridiculous and utterly pointless. The same applies to people like us who are learning a foreign language.
The fact is though, as language learners, most of us get plenty of exposure to our target language. This is because the internet has made that process incredibly easy and (in most cases) completely free of charge. All we need to do is go to sites like youtube.com (or a specific website about something we're interested in in our target language) and we can guarantee that we’ll never run out of songs to listen to, documentaries, films and TV series to watch and articles to read in the languages we learn.
Most language learners (evidently) therefore find that it’s much easier for them to understand the languages they learn than to speak or write them. The overwhelming majority of us are guilty of neglecting the amount of time we dedicate to the hands-on elements of language learning: practicing our speaking and writing skills.
So what can you do?
When it comes to learning languages, there really is no substitute for practicing your writing skills with real human beings.
You should start by asking yourself the following questions:
Q: How much time do I spend a week interacting with native speakers, practicing my speaking and writing skills with them?
A1: Less than 1 hour
A2: 1 hour
A3: 2 hours
A4: 3 hours
A5: 4 hours or more.
Q: What am I going to do to vastly increase the amount of time I devote to practicing my speaking and writing skills with native speakers?
This will be the topic of our next post, so make sure you watch this space...