E&T: The Blog

Language Coaching for high
performance professionals

To Learn a New Language, you Have to Speak up!

 

When you learn a new language, you open the window to a multitude of potentially fruitful and rewarding exchanges. However, when it comes time to physically open your mouth, you may be overwhelmed by the complexity of the task. Talking very little or not at all despite your best efforts is frustrating to say the least when you want to communicate. Most people will choose to avoid committing themselves, stay silent, or use their native language instead. However, in order to learn to speak you have to speak. It is important to open your mouth at all times. Regardless of what comes out of it, opening one’s mouth shows our interlocutor that we respect them and intend to do our best to initiate the discussion, within the limits of our abilities.

Do you ever hesitate when speaking in your native language?

I am convinced that on a daily basis you search for your words in certain situations, make false starts or even correct your words during a sentence. It is therefore reasonable to think that in a conversation between a learner and a speaker of the target language, this kind of situation also arises. No one speaks in perfect sentences: the oral syntax is truncated and some words and expressions are unique to the spoken language. Also, when we hear a word that we don’t understand (and it happens to everyone, let’s be honest!), we’re trying to decipher its meaning using context. Why not go ahead and ask, during the conversation, for clarification (Can you clarify this idea?), to slow down the flow (Can you repeat this more slowly, please?) or to express our incomprehension (I don’t understand. Can you help me?). You might be surprised to discover the effect such a request can have on a person. It’s very rewarding to be in a position to help someone. Give this opportunity to your interlocutor. It could brighten up their day!

“Learning is a voluntary enterprise of self-destabilization and it involves a reconstruction of our vision of the world. It is an active and courageous process that involves negative emotions.”[1] (Dulude, 2020, p. 192)

The Pingpong Player Analogy

Say a friend tells you that he has only recently learned pingpong. He’s very motivated: he attends games every week, pays a private coach who plays matches and comments on them live and gives him his best tips. In addition, he reads books on pingpong. However, this friend never plays pingpong.

Do you think this friend will soon become a good player soon? If so, in how long? What could he do to become a good player? Yup, you guessed it! He should… play pingpong! He will learn by playing.

Like our friend, to become an interlocutor of a language, we have to speak the language, even if it destabilizes us and elicits negative emotions at times. We have to make mistakes, start over, reflect, correct ourselves, smile, feel. Because languages, after all, are life.

[1] Dulude, Guillaume. Je suis un chercheur d’or : les mécanismes de la communication et des relations humaines. Les Éditions de l’Homme, 2020.


Image par oTschOo de Pixabay

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