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{09} 2018

Chatting Your Way to Fluency

Having fun and learning can come hand in hand

In the classic 80s film The Karate Kid, impetuous youth Daniel is taught the art of karate from the sensei (teacher) Mr. Miyagi. However, instead of starting off by practising cool martial arts moves, Daniel is instructed to do a series of chores, including waxing his teacher’s car and painting his fence. Frustrated, Daniel confronts his teacher and asks why he’s made to do such menial work. His teacher then attacks him, telling Daniel to defend using the motions he utilised while waxing the car and painting the fence. In the end, the repetitive action the student conducted while handling the chores was in itself his initial karate training.

This is an important lesson to language learners. Often we don’t feel like we’re making progress through tiring study, but in reality we are taking incremental steps toward fluency. Language learning is a long process, more of an endurance race than a sprint, and so it’s important to find exercises that you can do daily and sustain over long periods of time.

For those with little time

Having face-to-face conversations is the best way to learn a new language because it involves a fluid interaction with another person. To converse with others is, after all, why many of us learn new languages in the first place. But we don’t always have time to sit down for a chat, and our friends and language partners don’t always have the opportunity to sit with us.

Watching movies is also a good way to learn a new language, however they take a lot of attention and time. Even watching films on a smartphone requires you listen and watch. Listening to podcasts can take the visual necessity away, however you’re still separated from the world through your headphones.

This is where chatting comes in.

Chatting with others on the phone is a long process broken down into short pieces. Conversations can occur over long periods of time with constant interruptions allowed. And because chatting involves reading, writing, and exploring new vocabulary and grammar, it’s an ideal method for practising a language for those with little time.

Finding the right chat partner

Another ideal aspect of chatting is that it’s far easier to find a language partner since it requires less time from the other person. Apps and websites like Tandem and Conversation Exchange are great free resources for finding new language partners who are native to your target language.

There are no rules. Simply chat as you would with a person who speaks your native language. Let the conversation go where it wills, so you can experience new opportunities to use foreign terms for subjects new to you. Talk about your home, your hobbies, your problems, and your dreams. Because you are personalising the conversation, the subjects will be highly relevant to you, and you will end up learning the most useful vocabulary for your life.

When you’re busy, simply excuse yourself and return to the conversation later. Your chat partner can do the same. Once you have two or three steady chat partners, you’ll find yourself writing and reading your target language more and more throughout the day without even trying. It is like studying without forcing yourself to study.

Some people like to avoid using dictionaries, opting instead to ask the other person for the definition. This is a valid method, however it may be less tiring for your language partner if you only ask questions you can’t find the answers to yourself. With tools like WordReference and Google Translate, there’s really no need to ask for definitions. The dictionary is also really important for finding the specific word you want to use, so definitely do not hesitate to look words up.

Ultimately, you want to integrate language learning as much as possible into your daily life, so that it mirrors being in your target language’s country itself. And when we make studying more fun and seamless, we stick with it longer and end up learning more than we thought we would.

Do you chat with others in your target language? What are some of your tips on finding a partner and starting a stimulating conversation? Let us know your thoughts on our Facebook Page, and be sure to “like” TELC English for more language learning articles!

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