Not only is Siôn Owen a regular contributor to our Diary of a Language Learner series and the brains behind Smash English, he has also agreed to contribute some of his road-tested tips and tricks for language learning. Here, Siôn actively promotes singing out loud and talking to yourself as sound ways of practicing your target language (things I never do… yeah right!)
by Siôn Owen
Nothing beats sitting down for a lengthy chat with a native speaker of your target language. Unfortunately, such opportunities aren’t always easy to come by, or our busy schedules don’t allow for as much socializing as we’d like. And while options to chat exist online, we’re not always near a computer or in the mood to sit in front of a screen. Not to worry! Here are some tips for practicing your speaking and pronunciation skills even when you’re on your own.
Have a sing along
There’s lots of great music out there in any language. Find an artist or style you like and play it loud and proud while running errands or doing chores. Singing along is a great way to practice the sounds of the language while simultaneously getting back at your neighbors for all those rowdy parties they’ve been having. Don’t worry about understanding all the words – you can look them up later.
Call your local consulate
If there’s one place you’re guaranteed to find native speakers of your target language, it’s a consulate. Call them up and start asking questions about travel destinations or restrictions. If they detect your funny accent and try reverting to English, politely explain that you would prefer to avoid English in order to perfect your skills before traveling. I recently phoned up the local Brazilian consulate asking about visa requirements, and ended the call with a hotel recommendation and a treasured family recipe for feijoada.
Cook a tasty meal
Why not cook your favorite recipe and practice saying the names of the ingredients and techniques as you go? Better yet, try cooking a typical dish from your country of interest while reading out loud about the meal’s history in the local language. Speaking like a pro and preparing a delicious traditional meal can serve up a double dose of satisfaction, provided your dish turns out better than my feijoada.
Talk to yourself
Forget the stereotypes – unless you’re spouting conspi racy theories, talking to yourself is A‐okay, and excellent practice. Ask yourself what you did today, and answer as if you were having a stimulating conversation over dinner. Ask yourself what’s on the agenda for tomorrow. Ask yourself why none of your lazy friends have picked up this language so the two of you can practice it together! Then plan your pitch that’ll surely convince them to sign up.
So, even if you’re all on your lonesome for certain parts of the day, there’s no reason you can’t get creative and use your downtime to prepare for that next encounter with a native speaker. Learning a language is a big battle, but it’s the small strategic maneuvers that can make the greatest difference.
So… what song do you belt out when you’re cooking up a feast of your favorite ethnic food?
Siôn Owen is a Livemocha contributing author and earth’s biggest fan of curry and Caribbean food. He’s learning Portuguese, and also loves helping people learn English on his Facebook page, Smash English. Siôn lives in Chicago, Illinois USA.