Writing: The Magic Skill for Better Memory and Focus in Any Language

Writing in another language is so deep, focused and beneficial. It can be a little difficult to build a writing habit at first, I know. But with a clear focus on fluency and a few simple steps to break down your practice, this is not something you'll want to miss out on. Check out these simple tips - they work for any level.

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How To Learn A New Language With Smart And Useful Goals

For a long time, I had a difficult relationship with goal-setting. As a fully-fledged questioner, I find it hard to take anything at face value, let alone the idea that I must have a goal to achieve anything.

When I was learning languages in full-time education environments like school and university, the goals weren't on my mind. My school sorted that out for me: turn up to classes, write essays, take exams. But since I've started working with independent language learners (and since I became one), goals have taken an entirely different role.

As an independent language learner, you need to know what to do. It's easy to think that you're already doing the work by stating what you want to achieve. But let me have an honest moment with you here:

Those goals don't help you do things.

smart useful goals

In this article, you'll learn about the two types of goals you need for language learning.

Goal Type 1: Vision Goals

Let's have a look at those language learning goals I see online again and again.

  • "I want to become fluent in Spanish"
  • "I want to have a 15-minute conversation in German" Or here is one that I set for myself last year:
  • "I want to speak Welsh at the Eisteddfod festival in August"

I am sure you have often heard about SMART goals. In many areas of life, our goals will only serve us if we make them specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.

In my mind, these fail the SMART list on a bunch of counts:

None of this is a bad thing in itself. If you are motivated and driven by a vision of your future self speaking a foreign language without hesitating, then that is an amazing image to hold on to. It should be one of the many vague and inspiring concepts you hold dear, and in fact I would even advise you start visualizing your success.

But those visions aren't useful goals, because they just won't help you when it gets down to doing the language learning work. You need that vision.

And for times when you've carved out that half hour to get to business and really learn a language, you need goals.

Goal Type 2: Path Goals

In my Welsh studies, I've been completely independent from the start. I don't have that external structure of tutor, group class, exams, and it took a while before I found a way to use my time for language learning. At first, I tried ideas like "I want fluency" and even "I want to speak Welsh at the Eisteddfod in August". They worked as a motivator, but failed to give me a clear idea of the steps I wanted to take to learn a language.

My current path goals in Welsh

My current path goals in Welsh

I needed something that would help me know what to do when my study time comes. These goals are what I call path goals. They guide you when you're in study mode and mark the milestones on your path.

Here's what you need for making good path goals:

Structure

Structure is the thing that stops you from starting every study session wondering what you'll work on today. It's absolute gold for independent language learners, because you simply don't have the time to faff every single time. Decision fatigue is real, and it's going to paralyze you if you allow it.

  • Schedule the days when you're going to study your language, so you can treat them like any other appointment.
  • Use your path goals as simple "next steps" so you spend zero time deciding what matters.
  • Get some external structure. Follow an established course, work with a tutor, or use a textbook or online course. Even without that, you can be just as successful. Set your goals up to match the four core skills, and this should provide you with the sense of variety and progress you need.

Core Skills

The four core skills are the essential set of everything that makes language learning a success for you. You will want to focus on some more than others, but ultimately you need to put work into all four for becoming that inspiring future self.

The four core skills are listening, speaking, reading and writing. Structure your goals around improving in each one, and you're guaranteed to succeed.

There might be other areas you want to focus on too, such as improving your pronunciation and vocabulary. But if you've got the four core skills covered in your goals, I would advise you not to worry too much about any others. They will come naturally as you improve and respond to your needs in every situation.

Variety

Variety is a key component of the path goals you set for yourself. It's realistic to acknowledge that moods, motivation and focus can vary from day to day. So on one day you might be excited to crack open the textbook and work your phrases, but on another day all you want is speaking practice with a tutor.

Having varied goals (I recommend at least 4 to cover each core skill) allows you to pick from a short, focused list of tasks and make progress in every single study session.

Recap: The 2 Goal Types You Need for Learning a Language

So there you have it. Goal setting isn't the holy grail of productivity. But when you do it right and know your goal types, each step can give you the right support you need to progress today.

1. Set Vision Goals

You can call this an intention, a vision, a goal. This is the imagined, vivid image of your future self that will keep you going. Go deep with this, make moodboards (maybe on Pinterest?), be inspired. Blow that SMART stuff out of the water.

2. Set Path Goals

Path goals are not big visions, they are the structured next steps that will help you when it's time to work on studying. Your path goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. They should be anchored in what you can do now, and what you want to do next.

How to Structure Your Language Learning Routine

Do you want to follow the system I explained in this article and start to discover your ideal language learning routine? Then I recommend you check out the Language Habit Toolkit, my hands-on course to help you learn any language with personalized milestones.

--> Click here to learn more about the Language Habit Toolkit <--

Learning German With TV Shows: The Most Effective Strategies and Resources for Your Study Routine

Here's a dream scenario: Watch an hour of German TV every day. Within two months, you will understand everything.

German with tv shows

Think that's impossible? Well, you're kind of right. No passive activity is going to give you a huge result if that's all you do.

But working with TV, podcasts and radio shows does deliver excellent results. It's not just a great addition to language learning routines that lack interaction. Using content like this also saves your lessons and study time from terrible dullness.

Just remember to do your work and think about where these fit into your study routine.

In today's article, I'm sharing recommendations for German shows that fit into your study plan and help you get big results.

So How Difficult Should A Show Be?

Opinions vary on how much of your input you should understand in depth for it to count as helpful for your language learning.

Intensive Listening

Intensive listening and watching helps learners develop better listening comprehension. You should want to work more in-depth with your materials, and aim for shows that you understand well. Make sure you are happy to spend an hour or two on the subject. The key expression here is comprehensible input, meaning you work with language that you actually understand.

There is no embarrassment in going for the "this is right for me" label, let’s not be over-ambitious. Slower speeds and easier vocabulary are helpful and mean that you can get the full effect out of the time you put in. Understanding more words is going to help you absorb German grammar naturally.

Extensive Listening

Got no patience for feeling like a learner? Then watch and listen a little above your level. No need to go straight for the intellectual talk rounds, keep it realistic and find a show about what you love.

This approach is best if you’re all gung ho about your learning and want to approach it with zest, speed, and intense practice sessions. You’ll be pushing your boundaries and get a fast sense of progression. The cost? Rapid learning loses thoroughness. The benefits of working with natural input are fast vocabulary expansion. And as Ron Gullekson described on the Creative Language Learning Podcast recently, it helps him to feel good being out of his depth.

So pick your level of challenge first. Now, let’s think about the topics and materials that are likely to work for you.

How To Find a Show That Works For You

Millions of language learners have bought translated versoins of the Harry Potter books. Materials for lower reading ages help you enjoy a good story while learning a language. And what's more motivating than wanting to know what happens next? I think it’s brilliant, and encourage you to look for the kinds of things you enjoy in a foreign language.

Books have a huge advantage: They move at your speed and allow you to pick your own level of engagement. You can skim or speed-read for that immersion effect ("extensive reading"). For "intensive reading", give your text the full study treatment. Olly Richards covers more infomation about reading in this recent IWTYAL article.

Reading and listening are both important, of course. They are two of the four core language skills (listening, reading, speaking and writing). If you want to learn more about core language skills and get tips on how to focus on them, check out my book Fluency Made Achievable.

Right now of course, you're not looking for a book. We're ready to listen! Here are my favourite shows to add to your learning routine:

Designed for German Learners:

  • Learn Out Live Audiobooks

André Klein is awesome, you already know that if you’ve checked out his written materials in the Dino lernt Deutsch and Aschkalon Fantasy book series. Over the last year, André has also worked on adding audio versions of his popular stories. If you like an engaging story, these audiobooks are perfect practice material and the right choice for learners at A2 or higher. The books are read by the author himself and put you right into the middle of the story. The background sounds bring the story to life. André focuses on practice and pronunciation to help you learn German. Here’s a sample so you can try it for yourself:

With this telenovela, Deutsche Welle has produced something incredible for language learners. The show is a professionally produced telenovela. Its story focuses on the adventures of Brazilian student Jojo as she moves to Germany and starts her new life in Cologne. There’s romance, music, and grocery shopping. It’s great for speakers upwards of B1 level. The website offers worksheets and exercises to make each episode into a full learning experience. If you’re working with a tutor, this is a great one to share. The addictive Jojo effect is good for extensive learning, because every short episode will make you want to watch the next one. German teachers, check out this page for guidance on how to teach with Jojo.

Slow German with Annik Rubens is a culture and language podcast narrated by a native German speaker. Annik tells stories about what Germans get up to in everyday life. She talks about current affairs and offers transcripts and exercises in the paid premium edition.

Ready to engage with German at a higher level? Then this podcast from Deutsche Welle is a great resource. This slow news show comes out every day and offers German learners an insight into current affairs. It's recorded at slow speeds to help you focus on understanding as much as possible. The language is not simplified, so this podcast is suitable for learning levels C1/C2. And if you’re not finding this enough of a challenge, you can check out the same broadcast at the original speed.

Logo is a kids’ news show that has been going since 1988 and enjoys huge popularity in Germany. The show’s web version features written articles, videos and images to help explain what's going on in the world. I like using Logo’s written articles because they have a great way of explaining current affairs and offering background insights and straightforward answers. If read things like Reddit’s “ELI5” (Explain like I’m Five), this news show is perfect for you.

When listening to radio shows or watching TV in German, remember materials for children are not designed for learners. The speakers will be talking quickly, and sentence structures are not be simplified. These materials don't offer transcripts or exercises, either.

Logo is made for native speakers, but its clear explanations make it a fab choice for German learners.

I reviewed Yabla here on Fluent Language a little while ago and I'm still ever impressed with their language learning content. The Yabla player offers one of the best multi-media experiences for learning that I've seen so far. Slower speed, multilingual subtitles and regular reports from all walks of life make this more than just one show.

Yabla is the kind of thing you should check out if you wish there was a whole TV channel just for language learners.

How To Use Your Time Wisely

No matter which of these programmes you choose to check out, remember the purpose of your activity.

  • Are you taking a serious study approach to your material?
  • Or is this something you're adding onto basic study to give yourself more motivation?

Each approach is valid. Still, you can't expect great results from minimal input. An hour of watching German TV with English subtitles is fun and keeps you interested. An hour of watching Jojo sucht das Glück while reading the transcript, adding new words to your notebook or flashcard deck, and then working through every exercise? Yep, that's going to deliver a BIG result. It's also going to make you more tired.

The key is for you to think about what you really want. If you want to understand more spoken German, it's pointless to work with materials above your level. That is just not how immersion works.

Ultimately language learning isn't down to genius or age or talent. You do the work and you get the results. There could be nothing simpler in the world, and still it's tough to consider.

What are your views about studying with TV shows and radio?

Which do you use for your own language lessons? And what are YOUR real results from building these into your learning routine?

I'd love to hear from you in the comments, especially if you're using materials in other languages!

Three Quick Techniques for Speaking and Writing More in a Foreign Language

If you are the self-directed type of language learner, I bet you’ve got yourself a little routine set up and have a large amount of input coming in. Online courses, flashcard decks, podcasts. And instructions and TV shows. And Harry Potter in whatever language you are learning. It’s all about how much you can put into your head in the shortest possible period of time.

speak-write-more-fluent

And then an article comes along and tells you to “speak more”, so you pack your motivation and get yourself that language exchange partner, you open your mouth and …. nothing. Where the HECK are all those new words, please?

Like you, I totally know the feeling of wanting to just open your mouth and speak. I see it in my students on a regular basis. I can feel it when I try to have a French conversation. Why is it so frustrating?

For me, the heart of the problem lies in the nature of the skills you have been training. There are output and input activities. And within those, thee four core language skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. All languages are systems of communication, so they require you to be able to both understand and produce comprehensible things. Balance really matters, and if you are on chapter 15 of your Assimil, but you can’t talk at chapter 3 level, you need to go back to the core language skills and start pushing yourself to go from input to output.

Core Language Skills to the Rescue

Luckily, this isn’t quite as tough as it seems. In my book Fluency Made Achievable, you can find lots of easy exercises for training the specific skills of writing and speaking. And here are three ideas you can use in your language learning routine to focus on boosting your output. If you have to cut some of your study time away from the input-focused tasks through this, don’t hesitate to do so. The aim of incorporating output into your language learning is not to make you better at producing language right away, but instead to give you that core skills balance. You will find that you become a better and more confident speaker through this, and that you’ll start approaching that desirable feeling of fluency and confidence.

1. Reply Back

This exercise is for all those learners who spend hours with foreign language podcasts and TV shows. It cuts right through all those excuses and attention drifts that are holding you back. Whenever you are listening to those recordings, get into a routine of stopping what you are listening to every five minutes. Think about whatever the actors were talking about and imagine you are being interviewed about the same topic. If you are watching a drama, imagine you are part of the action. What would you say? What do you think about these facts?

Don’t just imagine what you would say, but reply back to the video, talk to the actors or the imaginary interviewer in your head. Speak out loud, like no one is around you. This exercise is so perfect for being in the car or studying at home. Not only does it force you to say something, but it also prevents you from tuning out. If you force yourself to think about what was discussed and reply back, you are also forced to listen attentively and make sure you really understand. No more hiding.

If you’re interested in a great tool deeply understanding native language content, check out Yabla, a fabulous tool that goes so much further than your average YouTube channel.

2. Describe Your World

Here is a quote from Fluency Made Achievable, in which I interviewed language learner David Mansaray about his favourite practices in learning a foreign language:

I like to describe the world around me in a the foreign language. For example: ”The boy is wearing a hat”, or ”The woman is pushing a pram”, or ”The people around me are boring so I'd rather think in my head in a foreign language”. I can do this exercise anywhere at any time. It not only helps me practice, but it also helps me to discover vocabulary and grammatical structures I need to work on. I make a note of these in a small notebook I always carry with me and work on them later.

No matter if you are recording a voice memo on your phone or jotting sentences down in a notebook like David does, the key is that you are using your language in the context that works for you. You can go from foreign language shopping lists to describing an everyday scene in great detail. The key is that you maintain active use and produce something in a foreign language on a regular basis. This exercise is also particularly great because it builds habits very easily, which can make a huge difference when you start coming out of the first honeymoon phase.

3. Write Short Lines Every Day

There is a reason I keep making my students aware of the need to write as part of their language practice. Writing forces you into paying attention. When you try to write something on your phone, you miss what's on the TV. When you try to tweet while talking to someone, it comes out as nonsense. Writing has this way of being an activity that tells you "HEY! Look here! This is where you focus now". I often talk about how much I find that this practice is underrated, and it is the quietest core language skill. If speaking a foreign language appealed to you because you are an introvert, or dreaming of overcoming shyness, then you may not be willing to spend hours crafting short stories.

Nonetheless, you should put your mind to short and regular writing practice. A line a day is easily written, takes up five minutes of your time and STILL does more for you than half an hour of podcasts can. If you work with a tutor, why not email or text them in your target language from time to time?

Or alternatively, start out translating one line from your native language every single day. Over time, you will feel this huge sense of achievement as you realise you have written thousands of words in your foreign language. Behold the achievement when it happens, congratulate yourself on your progress and make sure you get this proofread.

Remember Balance

Nothing is as frustrating as feeling you are working hard and making no progress at all, and understanding the core language skills idea will help you propel forward your language learning progress. Getting stuck in a rut is not for you.

Here is the key: Maintain variety and keep doing the things you haven’t done.

It’s not about beating yourself up when you find that your writing skill doesn’t live up to your advanced reading routines. It’s about recognising that there’s a skill gap and getting to work. I promise you that you’ll find yourself getting better and boosting your confidence in a little matter of weeks. It’s incredible what a shake-up can do for language learners.

If you want to work through your own core language skills assessment, check out my book Fluency Made Achievable which is focused entirely on this system of four skills and contains a neat 3 week planner. It will help you build your proficiency and focus on strengthening the precise skills you need.

How to Eliminate Your Self-Doubt and Get Speaking

Today I have another awesome guest post for you. Do you remember the podcast with Jade Joddle, where we talked about introversion and extroversion in language learning? I feel like Jade would love today's guest poster. This is all about how to get out of your own head and be that extrovert you HAVE to be when you want to speak another language. For me as a pretty extroverted person, that fear is weaker than for most people I see. I literally just go up to people and speak terrible Russian/Spanish/Italian. Honestly, I'm embarrassing!

Guest writer Kevin Morehouse is a language coach on a journey to make the world a more multilingual place. Raised as a monolingual English speaker in the United States, Kevin is all too familiar with the struggles of the language learner looking to go beyond English and make the leap from monoglot to polyglot. On his blog Language Hero, Kevin gives actionable tips on mindset, method, and goal-setting that can help intrepid learners escape the language learning labyrinth. You can read more of his work at Language Hero or connect with him on Twitter @Kevin_Morehouse

So let's beat that voice in your head!

get speaking language

Speaking.

It’s the bane of many a language learner. The idea of going up to someone and trying to communicate in a non-native language can be excessively intimidating for some. Every new opportunity to do so unleashes an unrelenting barrage of questions straight from your unconscious:

  • What if I blank out and don't know a word?
  • What if I say something wrong, or unintentionally offensive?
  • What if they laugh at me?
  • What if they can't understand me?

This is self-doubt in its purest form. By unwittingly asking yourself what would happen in the worst-case scenario, you're psyching yourself out from the possibility of success. By answering these questions, you're painting a picture of the worst-possible scenario.

And sadly, if you paint a bleak enough picture, you'll likely never go up to that person and start speaking, no matter how much experience you have.

And if you want to live out your dream of speaking a language confidently, that just won't do.

The problem isn't you, or your "talent" or how much experience you have. The problem here is that you're letting your self-doubt run your mental imagery, and thereby run the show.

We need to take back our mental imagery. Instead of imagining the worst-possible scenario before it happens, we need to change our angle of approach.

We need to go back…wards.

A New Angle on Visualization

Comedian Kyle Cease is no stranger to the paralyzing effect of negative thoughts and visualizations, known to many as performance anxiety.

In order to combat the excess worry that he would feel before going on stage, the comedian found a unique way to reapproach his mental imagery and, in his own words "get out of his own head."

The technique is called Kylegling (kuh-lay-gull-ing), and is best described by Kyle himself in this short video:

The Technique, Step by Step

  1. Notice when you are anxious about the outcome of an event
  2. Instead of thinking about how it will go, imagine yourself in the not-too-far future and begin to imagine how it went.
  3. Mentally construct the best possible outcome you can think of, and load your thoughts with positive emotions. Do this until you start to physically “feel” happier, more positive, and more confident in the present moment.
  4. Once you've built up the outcome in your mind, ask yourself "How did I do it?" and retrace your steps mentally all the way back to the present time.
  5. Use the new information and positive energy gained from this visualization to “get in the zone” and live out the situation as close to your vision as possible.

An Example in Action

You overhear a Spanish speaker walk into your job.

You've been studying Spanish, so you know you need to go over to them and say something.

Instead of psyching yourself with questions of Can I do this? or Will she judge me? you stop, imagine yourself in the future (post-conversation) and think about how well it went.

You imagine yourself going up to her, introducing yourself simply and succinctly, with a smile and a nod.

She smiles back, widely, pleased to have an opportunity to share her language with someone as enthusiastic as yourself.

If you're an experienced learner, you chat back and forth for a bit, maybe exchanging a few laughs, all the while forging a connection. If you're just beginning, you use what Spanish you know, and then, if necessary and/or possible, you explain politely in English why you're so eager to learn Spanish, and how you're going about doing it.

She compliments you on your language skills and your enthusiasm, give you a few friendly tips, and you say your farewells, happy to have met one another.

You come back to reality: You still haven't spoken any Spanish yet, but now you've got an encouraging and positive view of how everything will go.

Then, with the confidence gained from the exercise, you sally forth and start the conversation for real this time, using your mental script to “get in the zone” and guide you through successfully.

Final Thoughts

Even if the situation doesn't go exactly as you mentally planned it, the outcome is likely to be much more successful than it would have been had you kept your focus on the possibility of failure, embarrassment, or rejection.

I’ve used this technique many times to clear my thoughts and offset the pressure that often comes with a new opportunity to test my language skills. It’s worked well for me, and I’m positive you’ll benefit from it as well.

If you’re having trouble getting up the courage to speak, use this method to take control of your inner thoughts and back your way into success.

So, readers:

What do you think?

Have you ever used this or other visualization techniques to get in the zone when learning your using a language?

Please let me know in the comment section below!

Do your Mistakes Matter in Language Learning? A "Written Homework" Perspective

You know, language learners, how we bloggers always bang on about “things don’t have to be perfect” and “start speaking even if you will make mistakes”? You’ve heard all this, right? You’ve heard it and nodded and seen how it makes sense. You believe that you will be able to get over yourself.

But here’s the thing:

When it comes to really putting your skills on the line and “showing your workings” to another person, are you still holding back?

mistakes

Take this example from one of my German students. We had spent a little time reading a news article and discussing the themes in it. In terms of core skills, this guy is a red hot reader! He is not only happy and confident about picking up any book from Harry Potter to Dune in German, but will also approach it with the positive mindset of someone who enjoys understanding every single word. We’ve also worked so much on speaking skills over the year and made excellent progress. But there’s one thing on my list, one left to cover: The Writing skill needs a push.

Why Do I Prompt My Students to Write?

You can tell me that pushing ahead on writing skill is just not what an adult learner needs in 2014, but I’d just direct you to what I wrote in Fluency Made Achievable: There are four key components to building up expertise and confidence in the language you’re trying to acquire: listening, reading, speaking and writing. You can't skip out on one of those four without feeling the consequences at some point. Even if you are not planning to enter into a German story competition any time soon, pushing your writing skill has a million advantages for your language learning journey. For example, your composition and structuring skills transfer straight to the spoken word. An experienced writer doesn’t need language exchanges, their confidence will come naturally when they open their mouth. For introverted learners, getting into writing also has huge advantages since you’ll become comfortable AND GOOD at using your target language correctly, before ever entering that “risk period” where someone else sees you. And believe it or not, being a great speller means being a great reader and speaker of your target language.

To speak a language well, it helps to understand how spelling and pronunciation work together. (Tweet this here)

If a tree falls in the forest…

Writing can be very introverted, it’s an exercise you do at home, typing away on your computer or scribbling into a notebook. No one else needs to see what you write. And there's why this is so difficult: Because your writing isn't for others to see, it becomes pretty easy to just not do it. What you need is accountability.

You know what it’s like with New Year’s resolutions: No one will ever know you’re doing it unless you actually tell them. Your foreign language writing is the same thing. If you don’t find someone that actually expects you to write, it becomes too easy to avoid doing this work altogether. You start realizing that mistakes are really, really visible when you write. On the one hand, language learners subscribe to the philosophy that making mistakes is part of learning. But on the other hand, showing those mistakes to people as a “written fact” is the hardest thing in the world.

Which leads me back to my wonderful student. I set him an exercise two weeks ago: Summarize each paragraph of our text in simple words, just one sentence picking up the key points. Yesterday I got an email saying:

I must admit that I am just not getting it done right now. I have tried to work on it a couple of times this week, but have only a few sentences to show for it. I feel like I’m still learning, but just not making progress on this part.

Those are the words of somebody who’s judging himself pretty harshly. My reaction? “A few sentences? That’s AWESOME!! All credit to you for trying, and we totally have something to work with now for the lesson.” Do I care if he’s sending me a perfect summary of the text? No! Do I treat this like a school exam, grading him on a scale of A to F for “failure”? No! From the point of view of your language tutor, let me tell you that all I want you to do is try your best. Or even your semi-best. Just sit down and do the thing, open up, be vulnerable and let’s work on this together.

No matter if you do work with a tutor or not, here are a few tips on embracing mistakes in your writing:

  • Stop apologising to anyone about how “little” work you do, and start embracing that any exercise done means you become vulnerable. Most likely you're not perfect. You will spell things wrong and (if I'm your teacher) I will still LOVE it, because that's how I can know which bits you spell wrong. We tutors are largely a kind bunch. We appreciate the fact that you have made a commitment to study a foreign language.
  • Converseley, if you ever hear a person in a "teaching position" tell you that you're never going to get it, consider FIRING THEM.
  • Go somewhere specific to do your writing: not in the office, not at the computer, not where you usually type all your Facebook posts. Here are a few more tips on why that is going to help.
  • Work with word order formulas. Here are a few German ones you can use, but if you are studying other languages please ensure that the word order you’re working with is actually correct:

1) Subject + verb + object

2) time + verb + subject + object

3) Subject + verb to say "says" or "expresses", subject + verb (indirect speech) + object

  • Use a little bit of lesson time or email time to type in your foreign language. This can be done right from day 1, and it's one of the easiest way to bridge the gap when you don't have a native speaker to practice with.

The Language Writing Challenge

In conclusion, writing is difficult. It may well be the core skill that takes the most time, makes your mistakes super visible and has the most potential to embarrass you. And now we've put that out into the open, it's time to get over it! Try one of the steps above, or even start by copying textbook language into your notebook, but it's a fact of language learning that writing will always be there. It's part of a healthy language habit!

I've tried my best to address all of the reasons why you would avoid writing in your language practice above. Got any others? Write me a comment and see if you can change my mind!

Thanks for reading this article on Fluent, the Language Learning Blog. If you are feeling stuck right now, why not subscribe to Fluent and check out our language book shop.

Fluency Masterclass, Part 4: Speaking

United States Government Work

Talking to strangers can be intimidating to some, but talking to a foreigner in your newly acquired foreign language? Wow, that's something daunting (even mega extroverts like me don't like the thought of that).

Well, fear not. After you have so diligently practised your  core skills in reading, writing and listening, you should already notice the confidence levels rising significantly. If you have read aloud, you have in fact made large strides in your speaking. Time to get chatting!

Prepare set dialogues

English tutor Mike Shelby, who writes helpful articles on all sorts of aspects of language learning, recommends that you pretend you're an actor for this one. What a fun idea! Find a real-life dialogue or even create your own script and get playing. There are many predictable situations you can use for this, for example greetings, shopping or restaurant bookings.

Practice mirror techniques

No, sorry, it doesn't count as French mirror practice when you spend 10 minutes putting a lot of Chanel make-up on. Mirror techniques are all the ones you use when you are checking yourself and getting used to yourself speaking the new language. The easiest way to do this is to record yourself using a smartphone, webcam or a cheap little dictaphone.

But don't neglect the real mirror either: if it's difficult to make a particular sound, read up on how to do it (a th in English, a Spanish ñ, a German umlaut..) and then try to look at your mouth as you pronounce the words. This can be a helpful trick for learning about the sounds you're producing.

Recite something you love

pic by  mustafakhayat

Rliberni's language blog gives readers a great tip for becoming a confident speaker: Learn through recital! If there is a piece of poetry, song or even a newspaper headline that you really love, just learn it. How cool will it be to impress your German friends by pulling some Loriot quotes out of the bag next time you see them? Or how about spicing up the next date with a bit of Appolinaire?

Okay, then. Maybe not quite, but appreciate how poems are crafted to bring out the beauty in language through rhythm, rhyme and vocabulary.

Make mistakes

If this sounds weird to you, then think about how little practice you're going to get worrying about getting things wrong. That's right. On to the next one. 

You are ready. Do it. Honestly, just try.

The abovementioned techniques are fantastic ideas to help you get started, get prepared and almost ready for talking. But the final step is entirely up to you. Just go out and talk to someone! You could have a go at Verbling or Italki or meet up with a local language tutor. Many cities also have a language exchange or café somewhere - try a local school or university for example.

Or if you like it bold, phone up a company abroad and going nearly through with a hotel or restaurant booking. Cheeky! If you need it, the German for "I'm going through a tunnel" would be something like "Entschuldigung, ich höre Sie gar nicht mehr....mir ist grad der Empfang weg..." 

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