How do you communicate when you are learning a new language?
Speaking and writing, as well as listening and reading, are, of course, all forms of communication in the new language.
The key is to communicate in a way that suits your interests and skill level. When speaking, stay within your limits. Do not use slang, idioms or complicated words.
Try to limit the conversation to subjects you can handle. Every time you communicate in a new language, even a little, pat yourself on the back and enjoy it!
This will build up your confidence.
Even at the earliest stages of learning a language your objective has to be to communicate, not to learn the language as an academic subject.
It does not matter how much you struggle nor how many mistakes you make, you will progress faster by communicating than trying to master theory.
For example, if you go abroad, try to communicate with all the shopkeepers in your neighbourhood by learning the names of, say, the vegetables and fish that you want to buy.
Even if you think your grammar is atrocious you can have a lively and enjoyable conversation in your target language with the locals.
If you feel the need to improve your grammar you can do so later, but at least you’ll have a sense for the language and some degree of confidence in communicating.
To use a language effectively in working situations requires real fluency, but for social purposes the ability to communicate is sufficient.
Try to get enough experience and confidence in casual communication so you can achieve greater accuracy if you choose to pursue that as a goal later.
It’s the same when you listen and read: focus on subjects that are of interest or relevant to you. Your studies will be much more enjoyable and effective if you read or listen to aspects of the new culture that attract you or subjects that you need to learn about.
Seeking out meaningful content is your first step to becoming a better language learner. This can be on daily life, business, an academic subject that you know already, a hobby or common interest with a new friend, food, music, or whatever.
You must articulate your reason for communicating. If you are only motivated by a sense of obligation to learn the language, you will just see a bunch of rules and words and language learning will be a difficult struggle.
The term “meaningful content” appears often when learning languages. It refers to real language situations, such as a conversation for a genuine purpose, rather than a dialogue in class or a drill or test question.
It refers to reading and listening to content that is of interest and comprehensible to you. The more the context of your learning is realistic, the better you will learn. You will get beyond the details of the language you are learning and absorb the language naturally, because you are interested in the content.
That is real communication. You will find what you are learning to be useful and therefore it will be easier to remember and retain.
The classroom is not real life. To learn, you must expose yourself to situations where you need the language, because you want to communicate or learn something other than the language itself.
Taking unusual approaches to plunging into a society of your target language is one of the truly best ways to achieve perfect fluency. This can include spending a few months of your life abroad selling door to door, for example, in communities where there are no people speaking your native tongue.
After such practice, your target language will become outstanding. Another example is opening, say, a shop, which can bring you into contact with the neighborhood. Rather than worry about your limited target language skills or your status, this way, you’ll plunge into a real context and as a result learn the language quickly.
Learning a new language can be intimidating, especially for the first foreign language. However, by proceeding gradually and gaining small victories, your confidence will grow.
It’s important to remember that in learning a language you are not learning knowledge so much as acquiring a skill that takes time to develop. You have to get used to it. You are learning by becoming, not from theory.
You won’t always perform equally well. When you play sports you are better on some occasions than on others, regardless of how much you practice. Language learning is the same way. Enjoy the moments when you are doing well and learn to forget the occasions when it seems that you are losing ground.
Once you have learned a second language, you will have the confidence to learn another one. In fact, the more languages you know the better you’ll speak them all.
You will even speak your native language better, because your ability to speak and to understand the nuances of meaning is enhanced when you learn new languages. You’ll be on your way to becoming a better language learner!