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.
My previous post about vocabulary was very focused on methods and what has worked for me (and what hasn’t). With this post, I’d like to dig a little deeper and discuss some of the finer points of vocabulary acquisition.
I’d like to start off by discussing a topic that actually comes up quite a bit among both beginning language learners and polyglots alike. I’m talking about the age old question: “How many words do I need to know to be fluent in a language?” Obviously this is one of the most subjective questions you could possibly ask, but it does make you think, doesn’t it? Throw out the obvious distraction (“fluent”), modify the verbiage a bit, and you are left with a reasonable question. “How many words does one need to know to function in a language. “ Let’s see if we can find out. 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:
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
Hello fellow language enthusiasts! It’s about that time. In this post, I’d like to lay out my language plans for 2014. This will be an ambitious year indeed as I look to add THREE (3) , yes III, languages to my “speaks conversationally” list, bringing the total to 6. What do I consider “conversational fluency? Good question. Here is a quick and dirty explanation of what I consider conversational fluency and consequently, what I aim for on my personal language missions: Read More