Verbal communication is a prized skill when learning a new language. It may seem at times overwhelming and frustrating. But we usually feel over the moon when able to talk to a native for more than asking for directions.
To help you with the latter, here are a few strategies that you can put in place to help you be ready to talk in the foreign language that you are studying.
Patterns of conversations repeat themselves frequently.
Practice the possible scenarios that you are likely to come across with. Write down possible conversations you may have and try to anticipate your interlocutor’s answer. Learn sentences and expressions you might use in particular situations, repeat them frequently in a loud voice.
Research the words that you are unfamiliar with and write them down in your vocabulary notebook. You may also add them later to your spaced repetition APP so that you can learn them. To grow your vocabulary of the topic faster, also learn the synonyms and antonyms of these words. That allows you to build a more integral picture. You will then be able to create muscle memory in real time situations.
Record yourself having these conversations. Being in front of the camera might be daunting but not as much as having your first in person conversation with a native speaker.
Practice with a friend or accountability partner.
Live conversations are the best way to practice speaking. You can always find somebody speaking the language you are studying. There are websites specialising in language exchange where you can rehearse your target language with native speakers interested in learning your language. You can take turn talking each way. One of these sites is Italki.
If you are working with a language partner, a tutor, or a coach, you can use role play to speak. It’s a perfect way of mimicking real-life situations and this will force you to practice. You might become a customer at a restaurant ordering food, or someone making a hotel reservation, or asking for directions, the possibilities are endless.
Pay attention to your body language.
The way you present yourself during a conversation is also important. Stand up straight, look relaxed and smile; that will help you show confidence. Talk slowly if necessary, this will allow you time to gather your thoughts and retrieve the necessary words and expressions that you wish to use.
Use nonverbal communication.
There are ways to help us grasp the gist of the conversation, and these are labelled under the title of Nonverbal Communication. This is through sending and receiving wordless clues.
Wordless clues can be:
* visual stimuli: for example, eye contact, the action of looking while talking and listening, frequency of glances, blink rate.
* Body language: Distance between people conversing, voice, touch. etc.
Let me break down the parts of Nonverbal Communication.
1- VISUAL CUES.
As mentioned, they can be body language, distance, eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, and postures.
You should pay attention to all these when sustaining a conversation with native speakers. Where do they stand from you? their facial expressions when they talk: you might be able to perceive happiness, sadness, if they are annoyed or not or simply have a neutral expression.
observe their mouths, try to lip read especially when the speed of the conversation is fast.
Pay attention to the kind of gestures that accompany their speech. Gestures in any language are a familiar thing. There are some which are universal like the thumb up to say OK, or the shoulder shrug. Some other are "semi-Universal" like the hand-wave in Western cultures which signifies "hello" or "goodbye".
There are some gestures which are culture specific, and you should bear that in mind and investigate what is allowed and what is offensive in the country where you are, to avoid disappointments and conflicts.
In countries like Italy, you find quite a few conversational hand gestures. They accompany the speech and sometimes are used on their own.
Speech contains as well nonverbal elements known as paralanguage. Included in this category are voice quality, rate, pitch, volume, speaking style, rhythm, intonation, and stress. All these can give you cues. For instance, if someone is speaking to you in a raised voice volume, it might mean that they are annoyed for some reason, but bear in mind cultural differences as well. In some countries people usually speak in a raised volume.
As explained, all these can help you guess. You just must train yourself to observe and become a good listener so that you may answer accordingly.
Visual cues can be body language, distance, eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, and postures.
Talk to yourself.
This is another way to practice. Tell yourself what your plans are, what you intend to do, where you’re going to, who you are meeting, or what you're buying. It allows you to exercise your diaphragm and facial muscles so that you can produce the correct sounds in the target language. It helps you identify where your weaknesses are, your lack of adequate vocabulary, or the use of the wrong grammar structures. It allows your brain to familiarise itself to thinking and instinctively producing sentences in your target language.
Don't be afraid to make mistakes.
Be conscious that mistakes are inevitable. They are part of the learning process. Analyse them when you can and learn from them so next time you improve.
You should swallow your pride, learn from them, and carry on. If people correct you, don’t feel embarrassed, just take it as a learning opportunity and move on.
Like someone said, " Mistakes are stepping steps to fluency".
Believe in yourself.
Think positive. Trust that you have enough vocabulary and grammar structures to hold a conversation, no matter the level you're at. Remember that there are multiple ways to express the same concepts. Use simple sentences.
Asking for feedback from your tutor or accountability partner is an excellent way to know where you stand. It is indeed the most important part in helping you at improving your communication skills. You can even learn from unsolicited feedback from people spontaneously correcting you as you speak. I know it might be off-putting at times, but on the brighter side take it as constructive criticism.
Be willing to take risks. When the opportunity arises for you to speak in the foreign language, grab it with both hands. Also, be patient. Learning a language is a journey. There are no magic ways to do it.
You need to invest time learning vocabulary and expressions every day; train your ears to the sounds of the new language, practice talking with a tutor, friends or native speakers. The more you do it, the easier it will become to make sentences effortlessly and get your message across.