Starting to speak a new language is always a daunting thing to do. We’re usually scared especially at the beginner’s level. We’re afraid to making mistakes and the vicious circle perpetuates because our stress level doesn’t help us at all when we want to remember words.
Language students usually feel frustrated when they realise that they are unable to express themselves the way they do in their mother tongue. They lack the vocabulary, they stumble upon the words they can’t recall, so they are constantly afraid of being labelled as boring conversation partners. It happens for two reasons: they either lack adequate vocabulary, or they are unable to weave the words they know into sentences, so that they can communicate their ideas.
So, how can you become more confident in conversations?
If you are a beginner, make sure to learn the sounds of your new language. It will prove to be easier because you haven’t incorporated yet bad pronunciation habits in your way of expressing yourself.
Having a good enough pronunciation will boost your confidence when chatting as it will be easier for others to understand what you’re saying. This will constitute a positive reinforcement that will help improve your overall performance.
You should also bear in mind that a native-like pronunciation is not necessary and besides it’s quite hard to obtain.
Even in more advanced stages where you already have bad pronunciation habits, it is possible to reverse the damage, but it will require a bit more effort.
Practice pronunciation exercises and learn the sounds you find particularly difficult to pronounce. Work with a pronunciation coach who will make you aware of the pronunciation guidelines, give you feedback and help you apply these rules.
It is paramount that you hear and speak constantly the language.
The best way to do so is by practising the shadowing technique .
The goal of shadowing technique in second language learning is to turn passive language (words you know but can’t use in speech) into active vocabulary (words you can use in speech).
When mimicking the speaker word for word, you stop thinking in your native language because your brain is actively engaged in a listening activity and a speaking one at the same time.
You listen to someone speaking and after a brief pause you repeat what is said.
You do not need to understand everything, the aim is to get the muscles in your mouth and tongue to get used to producing certain sounds and at the same time you learn to pay attention to pronunciation, stress, pause, intonation. As an added benefit you will also improve your listening skills in your target language.
Here is a guide to shadowing.
Find an audio (podcast, song, video etc.)
Slow down the video if necessary, so that you can identify sentences better.
Play the audio and repeat what’s is being said as quickly as possible with minimal delay.
You’re listening and speaking at the same time.
Try to do the exercise without reading the transcript. You want to strengthen your memory muscles.
Some find it easier to sing along with music. Go ahead if you feel more comfortable as it is an excellent way to practice the sounds of your target language.
What are the benefits of shadowing?
Shadowing helps you prevent translating in your native language.
After a while you can talk confidently in your target language.
You reduce your accent (having an accent is perfectly alright in my opinion if it does not prevent communication).
Your pronunciation improves and you sound more natural.
Listening to native speakers becomes easier.
You learn to listen to the sounds and patterns in your target language and you produce the same sounds effortlessly.
You’re more confident at speaking.
Talk to yourself
It is especially useful if you’re a beginner and don’t have an extensive vocabulary pool. Even if you don’t have a major topic list, you can always introduce yourself, talk about the weather, or practice any new vocabulary sentences that you’ve just learned.
Once a bit more confident, record yourself having these conversations. Being in front of the camera might be daunting but not as much stressing as having your first in person conversation. If you want a bit more accountability you could upload the video on Facebook where you could ask for some feedback.
You can practice, get feedback and be held accountable with a private tutor.
Take private lessons
The best way to have an all in one practice, feedback and accountability is by having a private tutor. You should focus your goal on conversations that can allow you a great deal of practice. Anyway, in this session, there is no point in feeling embarrassed because the aim is for you to get guidance to improve.
Choose topics that interest you, to make the sessions more enjoyable. Prepare each topic beforehand, learn the relevant chunks and filler words so that the conversation looks more natural.
Fillers alone or accompanied by pauses and/or gestures are frequent in all types of spoken communications. They are an integral part of spoken language, and they exist in most languages.
Fillers have various functions:
* Cognitive processes
* Word retrieval (um, er, uh: In English)
The first one happens when the person is trying to process information that might be complex. They try to buy time using expressions such as: you know, so, I mean, you see.
Find out what are the fillers used in your target language. They will make your conversation look more natural when you use them.
Use your writing to improve your speaking skills.
Use your writing to improve your speaking skills. Write the same way you would speak. Write about anything you want and use the new words and expressions you just learned in a few sentences of paragraphs. It will also allow you to see where the gaps in your vocabulary are and the words you now in isolation but you’re still unable to use in a sentence.
Practice topics of conversation you think you’re more likely to use. Everyday situations you might find yourself into, like going to the corner shop to buy a pint of milk, ordering some food at a restaurant, asking for directions, the list is endless. These types of conversations tend to follow a fix pattern, that makes it easier for you to memorise and include in your real-life conversations.
When you follow these advice, you will notice that your speaking skills will improve dramatically, you will be less scared of speaking in your target language, you’ll start enjoying your conversations with the natives. If you don’t know any, try online by visiting Facebook groups or the website Meetup.
The important is for you to create the opportunities.
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