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Automatic English For The People

Saturday, December 30, 2006

With Speaking, Be Patient

I still do not speak Russian with anyone and have no real desire to do so. I guess I would summarize my philosophy as follows; until I can read and listen to a novel, news programs and recorded conversations in Russian and enjoy doing so, I have no desire to speak with anyone. I might be extreme but I feel there is so much I can do on my own to improve in the language, I am not sure that stumbling around in a conversation at this stage in my learning would really help me. I think the same is true for English learning.

--Steve Kaufman of The Linguist (Learn English With The Linguist)

The above quote is from Steve's blog. It comes at a great time for me. As I mentioned previously, I have just restarted Spanish study after a two and a half month break.

The most discouraging part of my Spanish learning experience has been the pressure I get from other people to speak. Whenever someone knows I'm learning Spanish, they immediately want to know if I can speak... or they ask me to say something. If they are a Spanish speaker, they try to talk with me. Of course, they are being friendly and I do appreciate the chance to try out a bit of Spanish.

The problem isn't them, its me. Because whenever I have these encounters, I invariably feel frustrated. I can't say much and what I do say is stuttered and hesitant. Worse, I feel an immediate surge of stress when someone springs Spanish on me.

After such encounters, I feel my motivation drop. I begin to question myself. I start doubting. I think, "I'll never be fluent in this language. I don't really need it. I might as well give up."

Its easy to forget that speaking takes time. Speaking is something that naturally emerges after you have acquired a lot of the language through listening and reading. There is a lot of research about this, and I know that. But its still easy to get discouraged when you feel that your speaking ability hasn't kicked in yet. Its easy to think that nothing is happening.

Which is why I was so encouraged to see Steve's post. It reminds me that even Steve, who already speaks 9 languages, still waits for speaking to emerge. It reminds me to remain patient with speaking, and continue to focus on lots of input. Steve has the benefit of experience-- he's done this before so he knows, from personal experience, that it works. But some of us don't have that personal experience yet and therefore need periodic encouragement.

So remember Steve's advice: Before you can read a novel and enjoy a TV program in English, do not worry about speaking. You might need to speak sometimes, you might want to... and that's fine. But don't put any pressure on yourself in regards to speaking. Focus on input, input, and lots of input.

Be patient. Speaking will emerge naturally, without effort.





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