In my years of being a language instructor I have met thousands of students who have spent years learning a language but who cannot speak a lick of it. Sure, their test scores are off the charts, and they understand grammar points that even many native speakers don’t fully grasp. Their lack of speaking skills can be attributed, of course, to the fact that they never actually speak out using their target language. Most make the excuse that they lack opportunities to converse with native do not need to be a person who makes excuses. In this article, I will show you three great ways to practice speaking in a foreign language, even if you never meet, in person, someone who speaks your target language.
Live in Idaho but want to learn to speak Chinese? No problem. Skype, in case you don’t already know, is a totally free Internet communication device. Using this technology, a person in Bangladesh can have a conversation-video included-with a person in Buffalo, and neither person has to pay a dime, assuming that each has an Internet connection. Of course, you have to find someone willing to speak with you, which must be difficult, right? Wrong.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Internet forums dedicated to connecting language learners from around the globe. Just go to Google and type in “Skype language exchange,” or something similar. Once you find a forum you like, search for a person who speaks your target language and whose target language is your native language. Once you find that person, the two of you will engage in a language exchange; you will practice speaking to him or her in your target language, and he or she will practice speaking to you in his or her target language. It’s a win-win situation for everyone!
I know, you feel silly singing to yourself, but if you haven’t got a native speaker to converse with, you have to make some concessions. Plus, singing has been proven to help second language learners acquire their target language much quicker, when compared to speaking alone. In fact, there are entire language acquisition programs designed around belting out your favorite tunes. The best way to use this method is to first memorize the dialogues you want to speak. After that, simply sing them to the tune of your favorite songs, or just sing them in tunes that come naturally to you.
This learning method works well for two reasons. One is because it allows you to concentrate on your target language for much longer periods of times, as opposed to simply reciting dialogues in a normal voice. Second, the sentence patterns you are learning meld together with the rhythm of your songs, making them stick in your brain in a natural and fluid way.
Recite Famous Speeches
Once you move past the basics, like “What’s your name” or “How are you,” you can move on to memorizing and repeating famous speeches that were given in your target language. This method is great for several reasons. First, there are thousands of translated speeches available on the Internet in nearly every language spoken. All you do is download them and print them out. It’s easy and it’s free! Second, most of the speeches given were recorded for television or radio and are now available for free online. Just type the title of the speech and the word “video” or “audio” into Google, and, most likely, you’ll find a nice, clean copy of the speech spoken in your target language. After you’ve got the text and the audio or video, memorize a sentence or two. After that, listen to the speech and then speak it out loud. You can practice over and over until you can deliver the whole speech fluently and with proper tones and hesitations. Just make sure you study the vocabulary. There is no point to reciting something if you do not understand its meaning–you’re not a parrot!
Speaking a target language out loud is essential for improving one’s speaking skills, but, unfortunately, many learners of second languages neglect it. Don’t be one of those people. Use Skype, sing in your target language, and learn to recite famous speeches, and, in no time, you will become a well-spoken master of your target language.
Best of luck in this and all of your learning endeavors.