Are you using online language exchanges to practice speaking in your target language? If so, are you taking full advantage of this amazing learning tool? In this post, I’ve got some advice for getting the most out of your online language exchange. I’ll also compare and contrast a language exchange with an online tutoring session to help you decide which is right for you.
So, you started learning a language. You’ve been diligently studying vocabulary and grammar. You’ve been working on your listening skills and perfecting your pronunciation. Maybe it’s been 2 weeks, maybe it’s been 2 months. Regardless, you have decided that you are ready to start speaking and/or writing. The massive input phase has been fun, but now you’re ready to reap the benefits of your hard work and start actually producing something. Ok. So, what next? The answer certainly isn’t the same for everyone, but I can tell you what works for me. Read More
I know, I know. I used the F word. Well, for the remainder of this post, I’m defining fluency as fluidity of verbal speech. I am not defining any level of competency or functionality, just the ability to speak at a fluid, even, and unbroken pace. Therefore, the purpose of this post will be to help you develop a natural, easy, and fluent-sounding speech pattern in your target language early in the learning process.
Before I jump into the post, I’d like to share the reason that I feel like this is an important piece of the language learning puzzle. Two and a half years ago, when I started learning German, I hit the books and flashcards hard. Within three months I had memorized over 1000 words and could recite lots of obscure German grammar points. By six months, I was over 2000 words and could write large paragraphs with good speed and accuracy. I could also “kind of” hold a conversation… My speaking was ok. I could say anything I wanted to and get my point across with no problems. I wasn’t lacking vocabulary, grammar or pronunciation. My problem was my “fluency”. I stopped and started and “ummm”ed and stuttered and stammered and basically sounded uncomfortable speaking the language. Fortunately, I was able to overcome these issues in the following months and would say I’m pretty comfortable with my oral abilities these days.
What follows are some tips I’ve picked up that really work for me. Hopefully you find some gems among them:
If you’re like me, you are probably super excited about learning a language. You probably also enjoy what I call “The resource round-up”. What is the “resource round-up”? It’s that exciting stage right BEFORE you dive into learning a new language when you scrounge for resources to help propel your learning to new heights. I’ll talk about how to do a proper round-up in a future post.
For now, let’s assume you are all “resourced up” and ready to explode! I’ll paint the picture. You’ve got a dozen free language websites in your favorites with all the vocabulary lists, grammar points, common phrases, native audio, and encouragement you could ever possibly want. You’ve gone on an Amazon.com shopping spree and now you have 6 or 8 or 20 new books including multiple courses, vocabulary books, dictionaries, verb guides, and who knows what else because you really haven’t looked them over that well yet. Maybe you’ve downloaded some podcasts, audio courses, or even some simple audiobooks. Maybe your bookshelf looks something like one of mine:
Maybe it looks like a less (or even more) extreme version of mine. Basically, we are assuming that you are 100% totally geared and psyched up to drive your shelf into Language World and kick some major butt. You’ve got the firepower. You’ve got the attitude and the confidence. You’ve got the desire. What’s stopping you?
Oh yeah… What do I do now? I always run into this too. Honestly, it doesn’t get much easier the more languages you know. I’ve never started two languages the exact same way. No two languages are the same, why should the methods be?
You may be saying “Great advice Sherlock, what am I supposed to do now?” Well, bear with me for a little while longer and I will have you ready to move on from “Resource Round-up” to “Language Launch” in a matter of minutes. Read More
I get a lot of questions about how to start a new language. In particular: “What words should I learn first?” Well, today I’m going to share my list of the words I prioritize when starting a language. This is a list of 250 words that I learn first. They are MY basics. They are not for everyone. They involve things that I want to be able to talk about. They are not all encompassing and, to be honest, they will not bring you to fluency by any means. They DO however allow me to talk about the things that I feel like talking about. Not all of the things, but enough for me to feel like I can communicate most of the things that I need to (even if in a roundabout way) in a foreign language.
I get a lot of questions about learning multiple languages. Should I do it? How do I manage the time? What about interference? And so on. So, I figure that today would be as good a day as any to answer as many of those questions as I can.
Disclaimer: All of the opinions expressed in this post are the OPINIONS of Bill Price and not of anyone else, real or imagined. Any similarity to anyone else’s opinions is purely coincidental (and kind of cool).
We all knew it was coming, the dreaded “grammar” post. I promise this won’t be anything like actually studying grammar (unless you’re into that sort of thing…) Ok, hopefully I haven’t scared everyone away because I think there is going to be some great stuff in this post.
So far, we’ve touched on vocabulary and phonemes. We have words, which have assigned meanings. We have a standardized way to convert those words into sounds. What are we missing? Yes, rules. That’s all grammar is. Rules for assembling words into a consistent comprehensible message that can be used to communicate. Or, as the dictionary defines it:
How important is proper pronunciation early in the language learning process? If you ask me, the answer is VITAL. Mispronouncing phonemes in your target language right off the bat is one of the biggest mistakes I think learners can make.
I have two friends (impressive, right?) who both “speak French”. Interestingly enough, these two friends struggle mightily to communicate with each other on even a basic level in French. Obviously one or both of them don’t REALLY speak French, right? Wrong. They both are at fairly advanced levels of French and both would be considered “conversationally fluent by my definition (and by most other French speakers). So, what’s the deal? How is it that they can barely communicate even basic concepts to each other in French? Let’s examine each in more detail: Read More
The Eternal Debate.This is a topic that really gets language learners riled up. I mean REALLY riled up. I can’t even begin to tell you how many flamewars I’ve seen on various language forums start up over this exact topic. Normally the language learning community is a very tolerant and level-headed bunch, but typically that tends to change when this topic is discussed. Therefore, I shall tread very lightly and preface this all with the following disclosure:
“The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author, Bill Price and do not necessarily reflect the views of everyone in the language learning community(hereby referred to as “the Community”. The information set forth herein has not been proven or disproven by any scientific methods. The author does not make any representation or warranty, express or implied, as to the information’s applicability to all individuals . Individual opinions may vary.”