Are you an “old school’ Learner? Join the club. I’m not stupid, but I’m slow. Ask me to plunge into conversation in a language I barely know? Well, you might as well tell me to stand up in front of a group of strangers and take off my clothes. Learning can be scary. It ’s no game for some Learners.
That’s why I need to share with you, ASAP, my ‘born-again’ experience this summer of learning through conversation. Our afternoon classes always began with at least fifteen minutes of casual conversation. No one was forced to participate, but depending on the subject everyone was eager to throw in a few phrases even if it took us a long time to find the right word, or more often than not, the right verb tense.
As much as you might dread stuttering and stumbling around in language, conversation practice serves its purpose. No one needs to tell you where you need help. You’ll know immediately as you scramble to remember the past tense of ‘to go’. How do I express my past actions? How do I translate all those’ ifs, ands and buts’ that I never even think about in my native language?
Conversation is your daily road map of what you ‘need to know’ to move forward. Think of each conversation as a date. Okay, so you’re on a first name basis - but where can we go from here? Before you can move forward, sometimes you have to come up with some background history - and that means brushing up on your past tense verbs.
And most important: take the time to laugh. Given the right dynamics, language classes can be so much more than parrotingdialogues out of workbooks. The right teacher brings out the joy, humor, and sometimes horrors of daily experiences living in new surroundings. Even the bad turns good, when a student explains how he successfully fended off a would-be mugger. Learning about what motivates other learners to approach a new language can expand your horizons also. This summer I met a Korean student who was studying Spanish to pursue his passion: Spanish classical literature. Wow. I never even considered that the famed Casanova was authored by a guy who spent much of his time in the monastic world.
Okay, so you’ve survived your first real person-to-person conversation and what do you need to do today to make tomorrow’s conversation even better?
To be continued . . .
Chris Card Fuller is a veteran blogger, currently authoring WWW.PARISGIRLSHOPPING.COM.
Passionate for languages, her recent favorite is Spanish. What’s yours?