Conversation is crucial for language development and mastery – the importance of conversation is something that those studying child development have known for years but it’s something that learners of second languagesoften forget.
Even those who are looking to immerse themselves in a language and have opted to learn German in Germany, for example, often fail to take advantage of the many opportunities to talk to locals that exist outside the classroom.
Here is a guide to getting out there, making the most of your travels and speaking to the locals so you too can talk like a local.
Learning A Language Abroad – Don’t Be Shy
The best way to perfect your language skills is by using them, so try and overcome your inhibitions and start conversations with locals when you travel – you will not only pick up new words and phrases but also invaluable listening skills and many new friends.
Here are some useful tips to help you start conversations and keep them flowing smoothly:
Don’t be afraid – ask people to speak slowly and clearly.
Always seek clarification if you do not understand – rephrase what you have heard to make sure you have understood correctly.
Carry a pen – a picture speaks a thousand words and you can ask for words you do not understand to be written down.
Learn to look out for the non-verbal communication – and use exaggerated actions yourself if you’re struggling to find the right word.
Take A Chance
Of course, if English is your first language just getting people to stop speaking to you in English is the first barrier to overcome.
Here are some tips to achieve this:
Get off the tourist trail – you will find people are more comfortable speaking just the local language away from the tourist sites.
Just ask – explain you want to learn their language and would be happier if you used it as much as possible.
Avoid always reverting to English if you get stuck – use gestures, drawings or similar words to prompt your partner to supply the right one.
Be expressive – if you feel your speech is slow you can retain a listener’s interest through changes in your tone of voice and the use of your face, hands, arms and body.
Be fair – if people wish to practice their English suggest having some conversations in their language and then some in English.
Taking a language course abroad or Language Travel is a great way to travel and learn a language.
However, here are some other ways you can ensure you get those conversations started and meet locals abroad:
Couchsurfing is a great site for looking for and arranging meet-ups with locals who will gladly show you around and provide conversational partners.
The Ghetto Gourmet (theghet.com) lists places all over the world where strangers get together and eat dinner at someone’s home.
Meetup.com is another great site for meeting locals with an interest or hobby that you share.
Finally the Travel Blog Exchange (travelblogexchange.com) lists travel bloggers from all over the world who are exactly the sort of people who could show other travellers around and share some conversations along the way.
The successful language learner needs to lose their reservations and start making those conversations.
Learn a Language on your Next Trip
A trip can be a very good reason to learn a language, and learning a language can also be a great reason to start planning your next trip.
Studying a language is something that doesn’t only require theoretical studying, but also practical, and so, we shouldn’t just limit our learning to sitting down with a class book for hours on end.
The process is more dynamic than that, and has to include speaking with others, having fun with the new sounds, applying the new knowledge to our daily life, making it more natural, discovering the culture behind the new language, and planning our future by taking this language into account.
When taking French lessons Leicester students are aware that this is the only way to truly understand a language, and also the most effective way, regardless of how ‘difficult’ the foreign language we’ve chosen may be.
If you’re already abroad it’s the perfect time to put in practice everything you’ve learned. You might be afraid you will practice too much and miss all the fun and the ‘practical experience’ side of your longed-for trip, but it’s the exact opposite.
Start a Conversation with Locals
Locals are usually friendly with foreign people, sometimes even more than they are with one another..!
This is probably so because even though they might be in a rush mood because of the city’s pace, when they meet a traveler they find something different for a change.
Traveler’s are in a sort of naïve, exploring mood… and as they are enjoying their trip and discovering new things, they are always in a good mood, and interested in your culture.
Have you ever met a traveler on the street? Have you noticed how you are automatically over-friendly? Locals always love finding out a foreigner takes an interest in their culture.
Put your Ear to Test
We wouldn’t normally suggest that you overhear other people’s conversations because it’s rude. In this case, however, it could be very useful and there wouldn’t be a bad intention.
When you overhear local conversations, you always learn something new.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been learning the language for, you’ll always pick up a new phrase, a new word or a new expression by doing this.
I found when taking Italian courses in London students really enjoyed travelling to Italy and always carried a notebook around.
You may think you’ll remember these expressions, but sometimes it’s not easy to retain all of them (you’ll be hearing people speaking all the time).
Besides, it won’t take a lot of your time to write down short expressions or sentences on the road.