You have been learning a new language for a few weeks or months and are now going to the country. How to make the most of your language acquisition?
1. If you have the space, take your study book with you. I did this in Greece and it helped me revise every night and prepare sentences I wanted to say that day - but was stuck - for the next opportunity; for example, if you know you will be buying stamps, revise questions and look up the ‘stamp’ word. If you know you’ll be taking a ferry, revise ‘where is the boat for...?’ ‘Is it on time?’ ‘I’m lost’ etc. Think broad in what you could need.
2. Don’t be scared
4. Be positive, tell yourself ‘I can do this’ instead of ‘I can’t do this’. If you always think positively, you will have positive results.
5. Smile: people will be more inclined to listen and help you if you smile. It’s obvious, but when we are stressed and nervous, we can forget.
6. Be like an actor, if you’re in France, be the ‘French Emma’, if in Spain, be the ‘Spanish Emma’. Speaking another language is the opportunity to be a different you. Try it!
7. Set yourself realistic goals.
8. Start small, like saying ‘bonjour’, ‘merci’, ‘s’il vous plaît’, ‘je voudrais un croissant’, ‘au revoir’, you have more days to build up.
9. Do not be put off by someone not understanding you. It doesn’t mean you were wrong; some people are not very good at understanding people with an accent. I had problems being understood in Glasgow half of the time (I have a strong French accent).
10. Do not give up, ever! If people keep replying to you in your native language, it’s often to gain time, don’t be put off by this, it’s not personal. A lot of people love the opportunity to speak your language. Just carry on with the language you want to practise.
11. Last but not least: have your ‘essential sentences’ paper in your pocket at all times.
12. When you’re back: if you were never understood saying a specific word or sentence, ask a native speaker or your teacher to check your pronunciation.
13. If you didn’t get to speak the language or understand as much as you were hoping, don’t get discouraged, it happens to most of us. It has to be an incentive to carry on studying – by maybe practising more speaking and listening - not to give up. Courage!
What is your experience? Do you have a story to tell? Is there a word you love or some that you never remember? Please comment below.