When we were in grade school language class, the emphasis was on grammar drills and memorization of vocabulary. But that’s not actually the most effective way to learn a language. Speaking out loud is what really helps you get the hang of a new language and get comfortable using it in practical situations. And speaking from the start enables you to learn a lot quicker.
Babbel’s primary focus is getting you speaking. That’s why the beginners in the video above could have conversations in Spanish after just 15 hours of study with our app. Here are 4 ways actually talking can improve your language-learning experience:
1. Confidence Is Key
One of the most common concerns new language learners share is the fear of not knowing what to say. What if I stumble or can’t find the right word? What if I freeze up and don’t say anything at all? These fears are completely valid, but they can be easily alleviated with a healthy dose of confidence. And just like rehearsing a speech before you present it, confidence in a new language comes with practice.
How do you practice? Start slowly, and by yourself so you won’t feel self-conscious about messing up. Repeat new words and phrases out loud to get a feel for how the language sounds. Use Babbel’s speech recognition feature to test yourself and make sure you’re pronouncing everything correctly. You can also talk to yourself in the mirror. It may feel silly but it’s a great way to practice without the pressure of a two-way conversation. When you’re ready, bring in reinforcements. Find a friend or community member who speaks the language, or even someone else who’s learning, and practice having a simple conversation with them. You can even join a foreign language meet-up group, which will help facilitate your practice sessions. The more you practice speaking the language, the more confident you’ll feel.
2. Trial And Error
One of the great things about practicing a new language is that you’re not expected to be perfect from the start. You’re expected to make mistakes, and we would actually encourage it! Mistakes are great because you learn from them and are less likely to make the same errors again. When you practice your new language with a partner, try out some phrases you’ve never said before. Change up the tense from present to past or even (gasp) past participle. It’s the ideal opportunity for you try new things, probably mess them up, and learn from those mistakes for the future.
If your partner is a native speaker or more advanced learner, ask them for feedback during or immediately after your conversation. They can give you pointers on both what you did well and where you have some room for improvement. And then try again! This feedback loop is invaluable to the learning process.
3. Get Your Pronunciation On Point
Another benefit of speaking: it’s the only way to perfect your pronunciation skills. If you only study silently, you could be pronouncing a word completely incorrectly in your head over and over until it’s so ingrained it’s hard to unlearn. Next thing you know, you’re traveling in a foreign country and speaking the language, but no one can understand what you’re saying. This defeats the entire purpose of language learning.
As mentioned above, our app has speech recognition technology that allows you to practice saying words and phrases aloud and corrects you when you make a mistake. Once you do that, try it out in the real world. Have your conversation buddy give tips on your pronunciation and accent. After all, the goal of language — and communication in general — is to be understood.
4. Listen And Learn
There’s another crucial component of a conversation that some people tend to forget: listening. Listening is just as important as speaking if you want to have a productive dialogue. But it’s also a great way to learn. Simply hearing a native speaker’s pronunciation and cadence can help improve your speech. If you practice with a native speaker, pay close attention to how they say words and sentences — where they put the emphasis, where they take a pause, where their inflection changes. These details can make a big difference in your ability to speak and be understood.
Can’t find a practice partner? Foreign language media — movies, TV shows, music and podcasts — can be useful tools for improving your language skills. All you have to do is listen and learn.