❝Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own ‒ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Speaking a foreign language can be incredibly fulfilling once you reach a certain level of fluency. The hardest part, though, is reaching that level.Everyone defines fluency differently. To me, spoken fluency involves speaking to a native with very little hesitation and having the ability to avoid correcting your mistakes mid-sentence. Maintaining flow is key.
How Can You Get to This Level?
Language exchange (sometimes called tandem) – find a native speaker of your target language who is interested in learning your native language. Finding natives has never been easier. With the emergence of sites such as Conversation Exchange, My Language Exchange and Totalingua you have many native speakers at the tap of a button.
How Does Language Exchange or Tandem Work?
Most sites that are free allow users to post an ‘ad’ detailing what language they wish to practise and what languages they can offer ‘in exchange’. You can choose your preferences for channels of communication e.g. instant messenger, Skype or face-to-face.
Meet Face-to-Face to Get the Most Benefit
Meeting your language exchange partner in person is by far the best way to improve your spoken language and also makes it more difficult to chicken out and cancel. I initially agreed to Skype a partner in Japan but with the time difference it didn’t work. Having someone on the ground gives you a sense of accountability and forces you to be a more proactive learner as you can meet more regularly. Skype can disrupt conversation flow when there are delays and instant messenger defeats the object of ‘speaking’ practice.
Why Should I Learn a Language?
You’ve clearly not read up on the benefits of learning a language that I shared previously. To add to this list, learning another language enhances the understanding of your own language. Investing time and effort into understanding that language forces you to look critically at your own language in terms of patterns, exceptions and unique traits.