The Importance of Conversation in Learning a New Language

6700725221_28641308e6_zBeing able to engage in conversation is key when speaking a new language. True mastery of the language comes when one has grasped vocabulary, sentence structure, grammar concepts, and linguistics. But as you’re learning to speak the language, aim not for fluency but for sufficient knowledge for traveling in a country that speaks that language. Following these tips will enhance your ability to speak a foreign language.

-Speak out loud. Even as you’re learning, start practicing speaking the language aloud. Don’t worry about mispronunciations or sounding unpolished, as these things will improve with time and experience.

-Focus on key phrases. This is particularly helpful if you will engage in conversation in an unfamiliar place. Instead of memorizing a list of vocabulary words and their meanings, focus on learning practical phrases first. Learning how to ask for directions to your hotel, a bathroom, or another destination will help you communicate with locals about your basic needs.

-Don’t focus on grammar. While you’re learning the basics of speaking a new language, grammar isn’t as important as communicating a general idea. The more you speak the language, hear it spoken, and study it, the more you’ll be able to fill in the blanks with proper grammar.

-Take advantage of technology. Listen to local radio shows to immerse yourself in a foreign language, watch TV shows, or enjoy movies with subtitles to help you understand the conversation. Thanks to the Internet, it’s easy to access podcasts and videos in any spoken language.

-Practice introducing yourself to a native speaker. Write out a quick, one-minute introduction of who you are and where you’re from, then work with your instructor or a native speaker to translate it into the spoken language. This will help reinforce common vocabulary words and phrases that you’ll use often when learning a new language.

Speaking a new language requires a lot of time and practice, but non-native speakers shouldn’t aim to immediately perfect all aspects of vocabulary, grammar, and linguistics. Instead, a lot can be gained by focusing on conveying the meaning of words through conversation with native speakers.

Photo Credit: Nacho Rascón

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