Speak a foreign language fluently: crash course week 5

Speak a foreign language fluently

Speak a language fluently in 2021

Welcome to The 5-Week Linguist Show and today’s the last lesson in our New Year’s Get Learning Languages five week course. And today we’re just going to talk about putting everything for lessons one through four together. So I wanted to talk about the four skills we really talk about in learning a language, right? We talk about, we need to learn listening and speaking, and those have reciprocity, and we also need to learn reading and writing, which have reciprocity. And we’ve talked about that in lessons earlier.

So generally speaking, these four skills have an order in which they develop. So we first listen and then we speak, we read, and then we write. And as a young language teacher, I was asked to equally assess these four different skills. And it was something I really struggled with because it didn’t completely make sense to me to separate these skills. So while those are four separate things, we often learn and practice them in a really integrated way. So consider in a simple conversation, you listen and then you speak, right? So those are two skills, those are integrated. And usually what’s said is dynamic, right? It’s based on what the other person has said.

And the order of our skill acquisition is pretty similar to how we learned our native language. We weren’t suddenly writing five page papers. We started with understanding first, and then we begin to learn how to read, which is learning what the words we say look like. We then learn how to write. And as you learn each skill, each enhances the other. So for example, as we learn how to read, we’re often at the same time, learning how to write. It’s not completely linear. You don’t completely learn how to read and then write, they have reciprocity. As we learn how to write, we start with copying and we’re learning how to read better. And we don’t learn the entire alphabet before learning the sounds letters make. All these things are sort of happening at the same time as you progress towards becoming a literate person, right? You learn to read and then you read to learn. And then all the language you understood became language you learned how to produce yourself. That became part of your language.

And we continue to learn how to read until we’re proficient enough to be able to read to learn. And when you can read, you can learn anything and you can do this on your own terms in your own time. ACTFL, The American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages has defined some different modes of communication that are much more appropriate to talk about the skills, the reading, writing, listening and speaking that we talked about. So there’s interpersonal, and this is communication between people. Presentational where one person is communicating. So think writing, writing an essay, writing a letter, speaking and interpretive, it’s where we’re understanding. And just as we talked about in our experience in what it’s like to learn our own language, we also see how these modes, these three modes together can accelerate your progress to help mimic your first learning language environment.

So I want to share some examples from real life that you can use in your language learning journey. Reading a book and being part of a book club where you talk about the book. I’m loving Reese Witherspoon’s book club. Reading a letter or a newspaper article, and writing a letter to the editor, watching the news or a film and talking about it with someone, right, going to the movies, or just simply having a conversation. So in language classes, a lot of times we do things called IPAs and those are Integrated Performance Assessments. And the purpose of those are to mimic communication across those different modes of communication, just like real life. So I want you to think this way because it’s the best way to speed up your progress, right? You want to integrate as much as you can. And in every day, as you’re making your plans, and I hope that you’re thinking in terms of five weeks because it’s sustainable, it offers variety and it keeps things fresh, that what you’re doing does involve some integrating of skills.

And it’s really important to be really conscious of it if you’re studying independently, right? So input, output, input, output, input, output, and that’s the secret to speeding up progress. And I get that you’re going to want to take advantage of all the time that realistically fits into your life and that enjoyably fits into your life, hopefully while you’re working on languages, otherwise you’ll quit. And I want to share some of my favorites.

So reading a magazine that has interactive quizzes. So as I was learning French, I was obsessed with this because it was really fun. It was those sort of women magazines. I always think of what’s the name of the book that became, it was bestseller. It became a movie and Neil Patrick Harris was in it and Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl, that’s it. So I want to say that the character, Amy, the one who disappeared, wrote quizzes for a women’s magazine. They were light, they were fun. The ones I did in French, I bought them at the supermarket, but they were interactive. I was really engaged. And you learned tons of vocabulary.

Journaling, which we talked about last week, reading and writing in your journal to react to it. So to react to the quizzes, but also reading and writing in your journal in general. One of the best and most powerful tools that you can have is a notebook and a pen, something to write with. And if you’ve got your phone and a connection to the internet, you can learn anything with those three simple tools and a little bit of time, right? Time, notebook, phone.

Crossword puzzles. So I love crossword puzzles because they force you to read and write and they also require you to problem solve. I have some for you in French and Spanish, they’re sort of geared towards beginners, but they’re a fun and powerful way to build vocabulary. Anything that you read or write, think a movie, a film, a newspaper article, a news broadcast, bullet point out a reaction to it. Use your notebook, bullet point out just even a few words and then record yourself talking about those points. The recordings will serve as a documentation of your progress. And probably one of the most effective ways to get started on that at home is to find somebody to talk to you. So you’re going to integrate your skills all the time when you get communicating.

And if you follow Benny Lewis, he’s all about speaking from day one. And I’m not as outgoing or as gutsy as Benny is. So a lot of those times I spend working on my own, right? I do input and output on my own. Either with my notebooks, my phrasebooks, recording myself or simply doing something like Pimsleur, that gives you prompts throughout each 30 minute lesson. Or Michel Thomas, which gives you … So you’re doing the input and the output all the time. You’re integrating those skills, right? You’re listening and speaking, you’re reading and you’re writing.

Make your own phrase books. But one thing that he, that Benny does, that’s really great is he gets on italki almost right away, he speaks from day one. And he and I talked about that and he’s going to share with you in my book exactly how he does that. It’s pretty cool because I thought that is gutsy. How do you do this if you don’t know any language? And he shares some of his tricks. Thinking back to when we talked about writing, right? We talked about tasks and task notebooks. That’s again, another really powerful way to use your three tools. Write out all the words and vocabulary that you’re going to need to be able to complete the task, like going to a restaurant, take the words and phrases, make them into a dialogue. Then practice both sides of dialogue on your own. Test yourself out by writing short little bullet point prompts about what’s being said, and that’s just one way to integrate different skills, right? And in the example, I just shared with you, there’s reading, writing and speaking all in one activity.

There are infinite different ways that you can integrate yourself if you study a language. But I felt like this was really important to talk about because while we learn from input, we process and develop our skills through our output. So as much as you can be mindful of that and the activities that you do, that you’re doing input and output. And I like to keep my rules simple. I try to listen and read twice as much as I speak or write. I’m going to share with you some resources in the show notes for you to download. So crosswords and a few other things, so you can get started right away.

I wish you the very best language learning journey in 2021. You don’t need all the time in the world. You need really, at least 30 minutes a day. You need a commitment to do it throughout the year. You need a commitment to ramp up the intensity if you want faster results. You need to find things you enjoy. You need to persevere through the rough spots. You need to talk and put yourself out there. You need to offer yourself variety and give yourself permission to have fun. And every week I’m going to be sharing tips and interviews and experts and I wish you the very best year in language learning.

Click here to learn more about the course. https://real-life-language.teachable.com/p/the-5-week-linguist

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