Diagnosing why you cannot speak your target language

Ask specific questions about your target languages. Beginner questions welcome!
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Diagnosing why you cannot speak your target language

Postby Sprachprofi » Sat Jul 02, 2022 6:12 pm

This is for all those who are able to understand their target language but somehow cannot use it in conversation. I wrote a guide to self-diagnose why this may be the case, and I also suggest remedies suitable to the diagnosis.

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Re: Diagnosing why you cannot speak your target language

Postby Le Baron » Sat Jul 02, 2022 10:35 pm

Yes. A good article. Two of them seem to me to be the most common:
Your brain is not in the habit of calling up words in conversation and you may also not have enough chunks. Solution: book some lessons (e.g. through the "Find a Teacher" menu item) or language exchanges which will be 100% dedicated to conversation

If you were able to write this without much deliberation but the pronunciation was awkward, your tongue is not yet in the habit of producing the language. Every language has its own kind of tongue gymnastics. Even after you can do all the basic vowels and consonants, it still takes some practice to have the transitions come naturally to your tongue.

Both of these struggle somewhat against the double mindset of: 'input creates speech' and 'classes/tutoring aren't all they're cracked up to be'. Both of which turn up on this forum, and which I find to be nonsense. Practise and getting into the habit of recall, what I've referred to as 'reflex action' or 'the knack' is something that needs a little work to reach. The biggest obstacle for sure is when you have no-one to talk to in a target language within easy access. Part of the effort is in seeking out those speakers: either in real-life (unless you're really tucked away in the middle of nowhere) or online.

It's the difference between hitting a tennis ball against a wall and having someone serve a ball at you. Some control of the situation is ceded and there's uncertainty. Learning to speak is about learning to manage this.
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Re: Diagnosing why you cannot speak your target language

Postby Iversen » Tue Jul 05, 2022 8:08 am

For me the main problem is to get an avalanche of spoken input at a time where you already know the basics of the language, i.e. the essential core grammar, chunks, common words and common expressions - all the usual stuff including knowledge about the sounds of the language in question. If you don't have such a basis all you can do is to learn single phrases by heart - which essentially is the same as learning some very long words by heart.

Right now I'm at a stage where I basically can think in Modern Greek - slowly and with lots of holes. And if I can think (and write) in a language then the thing that could propel the process further would be to get so much input that my head starts to produce Greek utterances by itself. In other words, I need to get my head buzzing to get the language production running automatically by itself without me constructing each sentence one by one. But this avalanche of input would not have the same effect if I didn't already have a stock of passive language elements and some training in constructing sentences at a more leisurely speed.
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