Speak any language: crash course week 4

Speak any language

Welcome to the five week linguist show. So week four of your course, we’re going to learn to talk in new languages, output. Right? Learning new languages through speaking and writing. Oh. I want to start with a writing. Writing is often the skill we develop last in languages, whether that’s your own language or a foreign language. And if you don’t believe me ask a high school English teacher. Or if you went to college, staring at either a white screen or a piece of paper in a typewriter, you need so much input and practice to master writing. It’s hard. But the good news is when you’re learning a new language and you’re an adult, you’ve already got literacy skills. Right? You already know how to read and write.

You can use these skills to develop your skills in a new language. And so the method is actually really simple. You just have to write really regularly. And I can’t stress how important this is. If you don’t have a real context in which to communicate with other people like a pen pal or something like that, don’t let that stop you. So you can learn how to fill in your gaps in your knowledge, by practicing speaking, and you do the same thing with writing. And it works at all levels and all languages. Writing at a very basic level, is just copying. Right? As an absolute beginner, you want to get communicating soon. So just understanding, listening, and combining it with speaking, will really accelerate your learning. And when you read and you write, it’s going to really help you develop those speaking skills.

And I just want to talk about a few little places to start, and I want to start with one that a lot of people have worked on and it’s flashcards. And so writing and creating your own flashcards is a really active way to build vocabulary. I really like to use a notebook. I really prefer that to flashcards, but I know a lot of people like… They really find flashcards effective, especially when you can… Once you’ve learned something, you can put it aside. So do whatever works for you. And when you write your cards or your notebook, it’s going to help you learn how to read in a new language. Right?

For example, if you were learning Korean script, copying those down, copying down all those strokes or Kanji for Japanese is really going to help you become literate in that language. And you’re going to have to take the time out to do it, if you want to learn how to become fluent in another language. So I really like to do everything in themes, themes and tasks. So when you sent your learning around talking about certain themes, and then you break them down into tasks and then all that vocabulary into chunks, that gives you everything that you need to learn. So themes could be food, for example. And it could be really simple, just the names for foods or how to order foods up to a very long and involved critique on a restaurant and everything in between.

So think about those themes and then think about the tasks that you want to learn how to master. So if you want to learn how to, we’ll stick with food here, learn how to return something at a restaurant, all in the target language. You can take a notebook and you write down everything that you need for that task. It’s a great way to learn language when you don’t have a teacher with you. It’s completely free. It’s low stress. And another thing that I really like to do is pick different ways to draw, different things to draw as a beginner.

And think about… I’ll stick with food here. Since we’ve been talking about that. Let’s say, I want to learn all the words for common vegetables. I might draw a salad that has all of those vegetables and I would label it. You can do this with people, faces, clothes, like and dislike, your house, the possibilities are endless, and they’re a really fun, engaging, easy way to learn vocabulary when you’re beginning and just keep them in your journal. Do it really regularly. You can use phrasebooks. Get an old textbook from Amazon probably cost you a couple of dollars and start regularly writing in your notebook. And if you can’t write, again, you don’t have it. You can copy down words and phrases for different tasks.

And when you become more fluent, you can use those to test. So I’m going to go over some topics that are really great for tasks, and this list is not exhausted. So just add your own. Right? These are topics that you can use writing to help you get communicating in a new language. So introductions. Right? Meeting and greeting, and then all your cultural notes in there. For example, if I’m in Spain, I need to give my [foreign language 00:06:28] Right? That’s different than being in the United States. You wouldn’t do that. Directions, getting around, making a purchase, a shopping, going to a hotel, anything having to do with food or restaurants, talking to your Uber driver or a taxi driver or asking for help when you’re at a subway station or a train station, going to the doctor’s, making a doctor’s appointment, making a phone call, answering the phone, leaving a voice message.

Those are challenging because you don’t get your visual cues that you might get on FaceTime, but they’re really valuable learning activities. So with those notebooks, everything you write in your notebook, you can use those to practice speaking, and you don’t need a teacher for this. It’s great if you do get a teacher, somebody on italkie, but realistically, are you going to do that every day? You might be doing this in your office at lunchtime. Right? If your company allows that.

You can use these task notebooks to practice speaking. So one thing I like to do with the things that I write in task notebooks is I like to write little plays, little dialogues, particularly for those beginning level tasks. And you might not even need to write them. You might already have all the words and phrases you need, and so pretend the conversation between two people. And you can use those and start speaking. I really like to use voice memos on my phone, but any app that records works. And you actually have the conversation with yourself and you’re recording it. And I know I felt ridiculous the first couple of times I did this and I started doing it really regularly. And you will be amazed at the progress you make.

It’s great documentation. So as you move on, listen to your recording every week, and look at your notebook. It’s pretty amazing. As you become more advanced and you need fewer aids. Right? The writing. You are using your notebook to complete specific tasks in your target language by writing them down and by practicing them, and by keeping an archive of all this new vocabulary. You don’t need a teacher. You can do it on your own. You can do it at your own pace. And you’re taking these, if you need to, and using them as speaking activities. But the next step is to move into fluency journals. And what this means is after you’ve gotten a lot of input through your notebooks. Right? So you’ve done something in your notebook every day.

You’re going to give yourself a topic or a task, and you’re going to give yourself a certain amount of time. And I recommend keeping it shorter at the beginning. And you’re going to write. You could be writing dialogues. You could be writing about anything, so it could be describing your house. It could be describing your dream house. It could be describing your family and don’t allow yourself any aids. And then when the timer is up, you look up the words that you didn’t know, and you fill in the gaps. It’s really powerful. And, again, that writing is going to serve you as great documentation of your progress.

Another way that I like to do this in the beginning is to… Do this on a Google Doc. And Google, of course, is so intuitive, but doing this on a Google Doc, it has built in dictionaries. And I almost prefer this sometimes to writing by hand. I think there’s a lot of power in hand to brain, in learning. But I’m also an incredibly busy person as I’m sure so many people are out there. I’m not unique. And it’s a way for me, as I’m typing, I can look up a word as I’m going, and it really does serve the same purpose. And my writing becomes longer and longer and more and more fluid. Do what works for you. I have an entire book of tasks for you that I’ll link to below, if you’re interested. And these are all the prompts. These are, I think, there’s more than 400 prompts and these will certainly keep you going and keep you learning using all the methods we just outlined here today. Until next time, when we talk about putting it all together.

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