Speaking boost for beginners

In the early stages of learning a language it makes sense to use your energies on things that have a high surrender value – language that will be genuinely useful and that you'll be able to use over and over again.

I'd love to banish the term “self-introduction” to the language learning graveyard because it conjures up images of stale classrooms with nervous students who never get the chance to speak standing up one by one and telling the class how many brothers/sisters/cats they have.

So let's paint it in a more positive light. If you want to become fluent in another language, being able to talk about yourself is crucial. Not so much for the information itself, but for the fact that if you have a confident start to a conversation you're much more likely to continue the conversation, be more endearing to the other person and, as a result, probably end up having more conversations with more people and improving at a faster pace than you may otherwise!

So here goes.

1) Write a short statement of interesting things about yourself in your mother tongue
2) Get it translated into the target language and written out in parallel
3) Get it recorded onto your phone by a native speaker
4) Carry it around and learn it thoroughly

Congratulations! You can now chat with anyone you meet socially!

But that's not all. You'll learn heaps of vocabulary that's relevant to you and your life (and therefore much more easily memorised). You'll learn a number of different grammatical constructions. Depending on how well naturally the translation has been done you'll also learn some valuable conversational phrases.

Even if you're not a beginner, this would be a nice refresher activity – up the level a bit and throw in some more interesting language!

I dug up an example that I did in Cantonese in the early stages of learning. Here you can see how important it is to have the script written in parallel. By reading and listening at the same time I was able to familiarise myself with the characters and associated sounds.

What have you found most useful to learn for speaking in the early stages? Leave a comment below and let me know!

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