How to prepare to strike a conversation in a language you don’t know?

So, you have just started learning a language and you feel the time is right to strike up a conversation with a native speaker. Although there is relatively little confidence in you but you know that the time has now come. You have lots of thoughts running in the background:

What if they laugh at you?

What if you grossly mispronounce a word of reverence?

What if you make a mistake in gender?

What if you are not able to convey what you actually mean?

What if I could not understand a simple sentence and make a fool of myself?

Well, you are not alone. Most language learners who decide it’s time to open up their skills to the world go through more or less the same chain of thoughts. Afterall, it is not easy to showcase a skill you are still learning with a person who seems to be adept at it. It is also important at this stage to counter any and every negative self-talk that you have in your brain and prevent yourself from not trying out this newly learnt skill. In this article we have compiled a list of tips that will help you lose your hesitancy in striking up a conversation with a native speaker. Let’s dive straight in.

  • Recognize the humanity of the process

As mentioned above, most people go through the same chain of negative thoughts when they are about to try their language skills with a native. However, one thing you can do differently is that you have to recognize the basic psychology of a human who has learnt a skill. You will be afraid. You will falter undoubtedly. You will lose your ground. But at the end of the day you will survive. If we remove the spotlight from above ourselves, we will be able to see that people are kind to other people who have just learnt something and they are trying it out. Ask yourself this- won’t you be kind to a teenager who has just started their lemonade stand. You might even go one step further and make a generous contribution buying 50 litters right off the bat. Therefore, instead of judging yourself harshly, recognize the humanity of the process and trust the kindness of the other person.

  • Stove perfectionism away

Perfectionism is the enemy of good and without good you can’t get any better. Therefore, ask your perfectionist self to shut up and focus on getting the words right. In fact, while having a conversation with the native speaker, focus on getting major words right, the tenses, forms of the word and gender come second. Learn simple sentences such as How Do You Say…? In the language you are learning and apply it whenever you feel stuck. This is your exit strategy. Once you know this, you can unstick yourself from any situation and focus on having a meaningful interaction.  In case you are looking to learn about Haitian Creole, you can Learn Haitian Creole on Creole Tutors. 

  • Prepare a draft dialogue with the native speaker beforehand

This tip will save you from looking for directions in case you run out of ideas. You do not need to draft a line-by-line dialogue but an overview of important vocabulary that you can use, the range of subjects that you will cover, prior information if any on the person you are interacting with etc. Have it handy on a page. The focus that this document will provide is unparalleled and you will be able to derive more value from the conversation as compared to a more relaxed free flowing conversation. You will know exactly what you are doing, and it will help you have a sense of control over the conversation. And as you will notice people who have more sense of control, tend to perform better in situations.

  • Ask for feedback

Never leave the table before getting sound feedback. Feedback will give direction to your learning as well as help you identify your weaknesses and strengths. Once you know where they lie it is easier to work towards improving them. For instance, the speaker might suggest you need to learn to make certain sounds better or work on gerunds better. They might also offer little known resources that can help your learning curve rise steeply.

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