Your plan of attack - Speaking

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Your plan of attack - Speaking

Postby smallwhite » Mon Feb 06, 2017 2:55 pm

How are you learning to or how have you learned to speak your target language(s)? What is your overall strategy, and what actual activities do or did you do? What worked best for you, what didn't work, and what's neither but is at least enjoyable to do? Have your beliefs, strategies and methods changed over the years?

(Please indicate your target language and the level in question to put things in perspective for us!)

Speak up!
Last edited by smallwhite on Mon Feb 06, 2017 3:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Your plan of attack - Speaking

Postby neofight78 » Mon Feb 06, 2017 3:05 pm

The main thing is to speak, and to speak a lot. You also need to make sure you go out of your comfort zone and discuss something new, or use new words or constructions. It's great if you can work with a tutor or language partner who can note down (ideally in a chat window) all the words and constructions that you are missing, and any other fragments of language that would be useful for you. You can then go away and learn these, so that next time you talk on the same subject you can speak a lot more freely and idiomatically. It can be effective to cover something new, go away and learn and then talk on the subject again, perhaps a number of times to build up your fluency in that area.

Well, at least that's how I approach it and I find it effective. But I suspect there may be other ways to skin this cat...
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Re: Your plan of attack - Speaking

Postby Theodisce » Mon Feb 06, 2017 3:10 pm

I've learned to speak my languages mostly through input (mainly listening). 700-1000 hours seems to be enough, at least for Czech, Russian, German and French as learned by a native speaker of Polish who graduated in Classics (the knowledge of Latin and Greek facilitates the process of vocabulary acquisition ). Of course, handling one on one conversation is not the same as being able to participate in a conversation between native speakers, the latter requiring hours of immersion.
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Re: Your plan of attack - Speaking

Postby reineke » Mon Feb 06, 2017 3:16 pm

I am all ears :)
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Re: Your plan of attack - Speaking

Postby golyplot » Mon Feb 06, 2017 3:39 pm

I'm trying the Mimic Method to learn to speak French. I haven't gotten very far yet, but I'm hoping that it will work well. Would anyone be interested in a language log to document my progress (if any)?

I used to think you could get pretty far just through input, but the problem is that if you never learn how to make the sounds, then you'll have a terrible accent. Even if you know how what you are saying is supposed to sound, that doesn't mean you can actually say it.
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Re: Your plan of attack - Speaking

Postby Brian » Mon Feb 06, 2017 3:41 pm

I suppose I'm lucky in the sense I married a native German speaker and had a ready-made immersion situation when we spent time in Germany. I just listened a lot and started joining whenever and wherever I could. After a few years I was quite a comfortable speaker. I haven't a clue how I would learn without this sort of support network.
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Re: Your plan of attack - Speaking

Postby IronMike » Mon Feb 06, 2017 5:01 pm

I'm lucky in that I'm working in Russia. I'm working in the US Embassy so my normal office language is English, but the minute I leave the office and meet locals (we have many working in our embassy) I only speak in Russian.

Same goes with when I'm not at work. On the metro, walking the streets, shopping, I always speak Russian. Every opportunity. Unfortunately, many Russians want to work on their English so it is sometimes hard to get them to speak Russian. Just yesterday the family and I went to a local restaurant and without us even saying anything, they handed us English menus. We gave them back and told them, "Нет! Нам нужна практика!" They gave us Russian menus and the waiter only used Russian with us, thankfully.
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Re: Your plan of attack - Speaking

Postby Xmmm » Mon Feb 06, 2017 5:54 pm

Old plan of attack:

Once I learned about two thousand words, I signed up at Italki and did 50 hours of conversational Russian at the A2 level. At first it was really exciting because the tutors gave me a lot of positive feedback (I was really good for being self taught, my accent was not bad for an American beginner, I was able to express fairly complex ideas albeit with a lot of circumlocution, etc.).

But ultimately I quit because:

1. I realized the tutors had stopped even trying to correct my grammar. They probably didn't even hear my mistakes anymore. I was developing fluidity in Tarzan Russian and essentially teaching the tutors that this was the best I could do, so they just gave encouragement and maybe washed their ears out with hydrogen peroxide afterwards.
2. I realized that I was becoming fluent in the sort of abstract conversation one might have discussing politics, but I couldn't tell the time or describe the things in a room.

New plan of attack:

No speaking right now. I'm trying to increase my listening hours. I have documented about 75 hours of listening to Russian. I think it's probably considerably higher than that because I was often to lazy to write it down when I listened to Echo of Moscow, etc. But 75 hours is what I have recorded so I'll go with that. I'm going to try to listen for a lot of hours (Interns, Echo of Moscow, maybe some documentaries) ... 1000? Then go back to Italki.
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Re: Your plan of attack - Speaking

Postby blaurebell » Mon Feb 06, 2017 6:24 pm

For me it was always through immersion. With English I had a lot of input before ever attempting to speak properly. Tons of grammar at school, vocabulary training, later reading. I only got to speak when I was going on trips to language schools. I think having lots of input actually prevented me from developing bad habits, because I could hear when I was saying things wrong.

With Spanish it was also in an immersion context, but I started speaking on day one and stayed in that context for months. That was not only a lot more stressful, but I still say some wrong stuff occasionally that some of my course mates said all the time. Basically thanks to early speaking in lessons I got too much wrong input and it broke my inner mistake radar for Spanish. I've had tons and tons of native input since, but still, occasionally I catch myself saying things that are clearly wrong.

Because of that I basically only repeat things from confirmed sources now - Assimil for example - and only attempt to properly speak after tons and tons of input, ideally a whole Super Challenge or more. That said, I do the Gabriel Wyner pronunciation trainer before everything else and shadow my Assimil lessons to get the accent right. It's just that I don't do conversations until much much later.
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Re: Your plan of attack - Speaking

Postby Soclydeza » Mon Feb 06, 2017 7:35 pm

My basic method is to learn all the basics (grammar, basic vocab, etc.), do a lot of level-appropriate input (Assimil works great for this, podcasts and readers as well), parrot/shadow along the way, then hire a conversational tutor. I did this for German (though I was lucky enough to know a few natives that I could have brief/basic conversations with in the beginning, so I had kind of a head start) and this is my current strategy for French. With enough input, you have enough material in your head to have conversations, you just need to work on activating it; in time, common phrases, sentence structures, words, etc. start to become second nature and they just come out rapidly and without thought. Eventually, the process starts to become similar to when you learn new words/phrases in your native language: you hear a word/phrase/saying and it just sticks with you (without having to study or memorize anything) and eventually it comes out in conversation, at which point it becomes your own.
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