After the relationship advice I dished out in the last Rule of Language Learning, quite frankly I’m amazed you’re back for more!
Because this is part two of a very important, albeit slightly touchy subject, that we began last week.
Last week’s rule was, of course, to keep your language learning out of the home!
So what on earth is part two going to be?
We know that the secret to learning to speak a new language is to actually… speak!
We covered this in rule 012 in fact.
Now we’ve already established that your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife is not the right person to help you with this (unless they’re enthusiastic about it).
But even if you’ve never had the experience of practising your target language with a loved one…
Chances are you’ve had plenty of friends and acquaintances over the years who are native speakers of the language you’re learning.
Friends, colleagues, the guy down the pub, I don’t know who.
Perfect people to practise speaking with, you might think!
After all, if they’re already your friends or colleagues, they should help you practice your new language, right?
But unfortunately it’s rarely that simple.
You know how it goes…
You go and say hello, hoping to get a few moments of language practice in. They play along for a few minutes and humour you with your attempts to speak their language.
But before long, there’s something you don’t understand, they speak a bit too fast, whatever it may be, and before you know it, you’re back into English, and it’s pretty much all over.
“Oh you speak really well!” they say, while you smile through gritted teeth, knowing that what just happened couldn’t have gone any worse.
Much like in last week’s rule, where we talked about your significant other, I think it’s natural to feel like your friends and colleagues really should be the people you practise with, since they’re the ones who are in your life and close to you.
But the problem is exactly the same.
You already have a relationship established in English. That’s what you speak together, and that’s what they want to speak to you in.
Is it really realistic to expect your friends to sit there and humour you for 15, 30, 60 minutes at a time, while you try to remember verb conjugations?
Because let’s be clear…
To really make progress in your speaking, a quick chat over the water cooler doesn’t cut it. You really do need to be speaking for 15, 30, 60 minutes at a time to drive yourself forward…
That’s how you do it…
And so with all but the most fortunate cases, you’re just not going to get that from the people in your immediate circle.
Apart from anything, it’s just not fair on them.
So, just as in part one of this rule, where we said that you need to take your language learning outside the house so that you can focus on it properly, without emotions getting in the way…
So it goes that it’s just not a good idea to rely on people in your life with whom you already have an established relationship in another language, for language practice.
It works for you, then great… I envy you.
I really do.
But the evidence is that for most people, it’s a faster path to frustration than to fluency.
And the quickest way to end the frustration and get the regular practice you need to start speaking your language well is to go out and find a bunch of speaking partners, teachers, whoever it may be that you can meet with regularly.
And who turn up to meet you with the express intention of giving you your vitally important speaking practice… without feeling like you’re taking advantage of a friendship!
The psychological trap is that feeling that it’s logical for your friends to be the ones that you should practice speaking with… because they’re the ones close to you.
“Why does it make sense to go out and find new people?” you think.
But it’s precisely because you need to interact with these people a lot, and regularly, that you need to leave your friendships out of it.
And yes, this means you need to get out of your comfort zone…
Get out there, meet new people…
But it’s easily done these days thanks to websites like ConversationExchange.com or apps like Tandem.
So go out there and make it happen.
Take responsibility for your speaking practice…
And keep going until you get your language level to a point where you can go and hold a genuine conversation with your friends and colleagues, where you can talk about stuff in your new language on an equal footing, without them feeling like they’re just humouring you.
Learning to speak a foreign language takes sustained effort…
So do the right thing, and…
Take responsibility for your own speaking practice!
Have you learned a language through willing friends and colleagues? Are you the exception that proves the rule? Let me know in the comments below.