Speaking skills


I understand what is said in the courses; I understand podcasts and even radio. But I can’t speak (I don’t dare; I make mistakes; I speak primitively; I can’t find an interlocutor ...). What will you advice me? »

I will tell you about the method of improving the conversational skill that I use myself: “conscious self-learning of foreign languages”.

The author, my friend and colleague in language learning, American Richard DeLonge, speaks 8 foreign languages. Among them is Russian, which he speaks without errors and accent. It took him more than 20 years to develop and polish the method.

I will briefly talk about just one of the main techniques related to the topic of today's article, in the format of three famous questions: What? How? Why?

What to do?

Start talking. What do you need to do to start speaking the language you are learning? Personally, I take the approach that "in order to speak a new language, you need to master it passively." That is, to spend a sufficient amount of time listening, reading, understanding ... - getting used to the language, in a word.

But how long this period will be depends on the temperament and on your goals (and what if you need to speak urgently). Be that as it may, after completing our 30-day basic course, you are ready to communicate in much the same way as you will be ready after a couple of years of passive practice.

Whatever material you use, no matter how much time you spend learning or practicing the language, it will not prepare you for what happens during communication. It is always a shock that passes gradually.

At first, you use only the simplest and most basic phrases - those that you are confident in. Gradually, with experience, you feel calmer. The personal set of used phrases and constructions is growing.

Therefore, if you want to speak freely, start talking as often as you can afford it. This may be personal communication with a native speaker or a teacher; language club or Skype conversations; specialized sites, such as Italki, etc. The main thing is that these should not be lessons, but live communication - a conversation on an interesting topic.

However, often, having started to communicate, people mark time, do not progress (make the same mistakes, forget the same words, etc.). It comes from not knowing exactly what to do.

How to do it most effectively?

Apply the "lexical capture algorithm". In order to develop a conversational skill as quickly and effectively as possible, Richard suggests 8 consecutive steps that should be applied whenever there is a chance to communicate. I have reduced them to three main stages, retaining the essence.

Step one: Take notes.

During communication, take notes, marking "important" words, expressions, structures, etc. "Important" for you is that you "almost know, but not sure." The criterion for what should be written down is a positive answer to the question: Can I easily remember and use the word (expression, structure, tense ...)?

That is, you do not need to write down words new to you and unfamiliar things (there are simpler and more effective techniques to replenish the passive stock).

Let me give you an example from Spanish: Let's say you have repeatedly come across various exclamations, such as: “ Yes, okay!”, “Yes, really!”, “Don't say it!”. But you're not sure when it's appropriate to use one or the other. And so, during the next session, you hear the interlocutor repeating several times: but med digas . If you feel that this is what you need, you can write it down like this (even in Russian, you should not be specially distracted from the conversation).

As a guide. For an hour-long conversation, your notebook should contain from 5 to 20 such notes. Not more.

Step two: Record your notes on audio.

At the end of the conversation, “decipher” your notes and rewrite it all clean, after checking the translation, correct use, spelling, pronunciation. You can briefly write down any related information - everything that you consider important for yourself. Then, make an audio version of your finishing notes.

Continuing with the previous example: As you work through your notes, you will find that " no me digas " is spelled ¡No me digas! , and that it literally means "Don't tell me!". This is the negative form of the imperative, which is identical to the subjunctive form of the verb. At the same time, in its final form, the note may look simply like “" No me digas - And do not say ".

Step three: Listen to your notes.

Listen to your recordings periodically when the opportunity presents itself. Try to remember the context in which these expressions were used. Your goal is to master them confidently.

Correct your notes from time to time. You can make new entries, crossing out what you have already mastered, or vice versa - if you realize that the moment you recorded does not meet the necessary criteria (easy to remember and use).

This process is repeated with each new conversation. It should not take more than 20 minutes to process notes after an hour of conversation. Remember! You write down only what you "almost know" anyway.

Why is it important?

We are progressing in what we train. Depending on your goals, you can divide your language learning time between different techniques:

If communicating in a language is not a top priority (as in my case with Italian and Portuguese), enjoy movies, books, etc. If your goal is to speak, communicate whenever possible and practice daily with our courses (they allow you to train your conversational skill between conversations).

The thing is that the language array can be conditionally divided into 3 large circles inscribed one into the other:

  1. External: the entire language (including those you don't know).
  2. Smaller: circle of awareness (passive reserve that you understand).
  3. Smallest: Circle of Ownership (the active stock you use).

So, all activities, with the exception of direct communication, expand your circle of awareness. The task of the above algorithm is to expand the boundaries of your circle of ownership, bringing them as close as possible to your circle of awareness.

The algorithm is universal for any level, as it switches the focus from learning things you are unfamiliar with (which are difficult to remember) to those that your brain is ready to learn right now.

  • On things that you use, but are “not sure” that you are doing it right;
  • On the constructions that you heard, but now “realized” their meaning;
  • To correct grammar, style, pronunciation, etc.

If you don’t do this, you will continue to “step on the same rake” for a long time and stubbornly - make mistakes in the simplest things that you literally have “on your tongue”, or simply ignore something that you could easily remember and use.

A few practical tips:

If you have a language club in your city, start attending it. As a rule, the organizers know how to help newcomers to adapt. But if you communicate "tete-a-tete" with a native speaker or a teacher, the following tips may be useful:

  • Don't overdo it . At first, try to keep your conversation sessions short, no more than 30 minutes. Don't try to overcome fatigue. Take breaks or just listen to the other person if you feel tired.
  • Think of it like a game . Remember that you are not in class. Do not interrupt the flow of the conversation with grammatical questions. Just talk. Accept the fact that you will constantly make mistakes. Don't be ashamed of your clumsiness and narrow-mindedness.
  • Get ready. Think over a topic of conversation that is interesting to both of you (do not tire the interlocutor with your monologue). Try to listen several times to the material on the topic you will be talking about, so as not to search for the most necessary words (you can choose a course lesson or a podcast episode that you are studying as a topic and use our “parallel texts”).
  • Don't use your native language . Don't switch to another language to get over the awkwardness. Use everything you know. Try to express things the best you can, but don't start a sentence that you can't finish. Do not fixate on unfamiliar words of the interlocutor. Try to understand the essence of what he is talking about.
  • Take notes as you talk . Write down only the “important” things that you can easily remember and start using. If you are studying with a teacher, you can ask him to mark your mistakes without discussing them (this can be done at the end of the session). You will be able to use the teacher's notes to make your own notes for later audio recording (anything that does not meet your personal criterion of "importance" will have to be thrown out).