While everyone starts learning for their own reasons, there aren’t actually that many for why someone might want to master a new language. It’s usually work, study or travel that pushes us to learn. Regardless of our motivations, however, the goal that drives us is usually the same: fluent communication in an additional language.
The ability to speak another language seems to come easily to some, while for others it can feel impossible. Why is that the case? And is there a surefire way to achieve fluency in a second language and speak it without feeling filled with doubt? To answer the above questions, I turned to experts in language teaching who also prepare courses and exercises in the Babbel app daily, as well as a few people who teach lessons as part of Babbel Live.
Before You Get Started
To help anyone who dreams of becoming fluent in a second language, I decided to talk to someone who knows all about the topic: polyglot Noël Wolf. Noël is a German who speaks English, Spanish and French, as well as Dutch and Portuguese (though she notes that the last two still require some polishing). She’s also a Babbel Live instructor who regularly meets people who are striving for fluency in German.
I told Noël the story of when — to my surprise — I realized that I could finally converse in English without too much difficulty. Many years ago, I went to Ireland to earn money to buy my first computer. My English wasn’t too bad, but I felt blocked when I tried to speak. Once, I was asked at work to talk about what had happened the day before. Something unusual happened: without a stammer I recounted all the events, using the supposed to construction or the verb would in ways I wasn’t used to. How did I suddenly unlock this ability to speak? And to speak at a level that until then seemed unattainable to me?
According to Noël, what happened is that I shifted my center of gravity and focused on communicability instead of grammar and linguistic “correctness.” In other words, I decided not to get in my head and simply to get the job done, which was to answer the question in such a way that I would be understood. When we finally realize that to be communicative is to be able to convey thoughts without paying attention to our accent, vocabulary or grammatical rules, we can speak much more freely.
I also spoke to Rita Morczinek, who is responsible for preparing Babbel courses in Spanish, and she told me pretty much the same thing. She added that communicativeness is associated with self-confidence. And how do you build confidence in a second language? By continuously deepening our knowledge of the subject and gathering the necessary skills. In this case, skills that allow us to express everything we want to say without obstacles.
Is There A Bulletproof Way To Start Speaking A New Language?
Since it’s become clear that communicativeness is the result of our attitude toward language, self-confidence and the skills that enable us to have fluent conversations, I decided to find out if there is an ideal method to get speaking. In this case, my experts agree: the answer is no.
Each of us learns a language in a slightly different way. There are people who only need one episode of their favorite TV series to remember the meaning and correct pronunciation of new phrases. Others might need a time spent with a vocabulary list in absolute silence. Since each of us masters a language differently, it follows that we come to fluency in the other language.
Not having one method that works every time is not a bad thing, though. Why not? According to Babbel’s experts in the didactics department, it’s all about the variety of learning experiences and the ability to choose the ways that work for us and discard those that don’t work at all. And, as always, it’s practice that makes perfect, but this—as it turns out—can mean a number of things.
Practical Tips To Get Talking
Noël, who speaks several languages, highlights the importance of self-discipline and regularity in learning. For her, videos and podcasts are always a good choice. While watching and listening to various media, she writes down entire sentences and repeats them aloud. Repetition is key for transferring information into long-term memory. That’s why she reads out the notes she takes more than once.
“Don’t be afraid to talk to yourself,” Rita adds. If you feel uncomfortable about talking out loud when you’re alone, all you have to do is talk to yourself in your mind. Rita says that words, phrases and even whole sentences “spoken” silently can help you master your vocabulary faster. Without that, it will definitely be more difficult for you to convey what you have to say.
Here’s our next piece of advice to start speaking a second language faster: you should read a lot. Rita says that if you don’t have time for books, there are newspapers, online articles, blog posts and posts on social media channels, and even product labels that can contain information in the language we’re learning. Keep your eyes and ears open so that you can absorb the new language at every possible opportunity.
Using Babbel To Get Conversational
Noël says talking to another person speeds up our learning, and each conversation we have now prepares us for future ones at work, in college or while traveling abroad. That doesn’t mean that people who don’t have the time or resources for tutoring or language school courses can’t master the art of speaking. Rita says that self-study is excellent, as long as you can find a program that will allow you to focus and feel comfortable at the same time. It’s these conditions that the educators and programmers at Babbel considered when designing the Everyday Conversations feature.
According to Jovana Acimovic, a product manager who supervised the development of Everyday Conversations, the tool is a safe space for Babbel users to practice their new language. You can try listening and speaking without worrying about saying a word or sentence with the wrong accent. In addition, you’ll discover that you have a lot of freedom with Everyday Conversations. The feature will indicate whether your speech has been understood by changing the color of the speech bubbles.
Babbel also offers a number of other features that can help you build up your confidence when speaking a new language. Rita mentions Babbel’s Audio Repetition, which can help boost your listening skills. Babbel also offers podcasts in a number of languages, which are an excellent way to expand your vocabulary and correct your pronunciation. No matter how you learn, there’s something that will work for you!