Speak as often as you can the language you are learning to move out of discomfort and into comfort at a pace that quickens the learning process. Speaking in another language that you haven’t yet mastered can be terrifying. So many questions begin to swirl in your head. What if I sound stupid? What if they don’t understand? What will they think of me?
The answers are yes, no, and it’s not what you think. As in; you WILL sound stupid. It’s okay. They WILL NOT understand you. It’s also okay. And they WILL BE appreciative of your effort, and be able to help you out immensely. That is more than okay.
This is the proverbial elephant in the room: In order to learn how to speak another language, guess what? You have to actually speak! The biggest mistake beginners make is staying silent. The only way to learn is to fail, over and over again, until your failures become fewer and farther between.
Now, speaking is a task that is obviously easier said than done (please excuse the pun). It is much easier to simply listen – to movies, music, and other people’s conversations. And these are all very important and helpful, but the process of speaking is a naturally corrective one. It gives you the most important answers the quickest.
So instead of wondering how stupid you may sound, whether or not they will understand, and how they will react, I will tell you a little secret. When you speak, it will ABSOLUTELY be very difficult for ANYONE to understand. You will ABSOLUTELY be asked to repeat what you say – and this is extremely helpful for both you and the person you are speaking to. It forces you to think about your pronunciation and also learn perhaps the most important phrase for beginners. “Can you repeat that?”
You will try again, perhaps slower, with a little more thought (your second sentence!). The native speaker will then correct you. The magical thing about speaking is that answers to questions you didn’t even realize you had will be answered. This is why the vocal student learns so much quicker than the silent one.
It all comes down to having the right attitude. This can be a painful process if you take yourself too seriously. You are going to be saying things that don’t quite make sense. You can either laugh or cry about it, and I would highly recommend laughing.
Finding comfort in the uncomfortable is a skill that is essential to learning a language. It isn’t easy, but it makes you realize how entertaining a language barrier can be. It also allows you to shift your attention from your poor language skills to notice what amazing empathy is directed your way. They will appreciate you trying to learn their language – because they know it isn’t easy.
It turns out that 9 times out of 10, people are appreciative that you are trying to speak their language, and are more than happy to help.
So start speaking, and watch your lesson plan unfold in front of you naturally!