3 steps to speaking a language fluently (ebook excerpt!)
The question I'm asked most frequently is:
"How can I quickly learn to speak English/Polish/etc fluently?"
Usually I avoid answering this question directly because (1) I don't like the word fluently :-) and (2) it's a BIG question.
So instead I usually ask what's causing the person to struggle with the language, and then focus on helping them solve their particular problem.
Now I've decided it's important to finally answer this question definitively in the introduction of this ebook, to clarify what is included in this ebook, as well as what is not included.
Read more for the full introduction to the ebook!
How this ebook came to be
When I decided to write this ebook, I wanted to make something short, focused, and useful. I knew that if I wrote about everything, I would spend years trying to complete it.
So, I asked my readers to complete a survey asking them what they wanted the ebook to be about. I gave them four possible ideas and a few free text fields. These were the four ideas:
- A step-by-step guide on how to learn a language naturally on your own.
- An extended guide to getting over your fear of speaking.
- Advice, tips and tricks for practicing speaking (for language learners who have already achieved a high level and no longer have a fear of speaking, but who still have trouble speaking).
- All the language learning advice already on my blog (over 125 articles at that time) reorganized into an easy-to-read format.
Honestly, I was hoping that my readers would chose number #4 because I thought it would be easiest to write. ;-)
Here are the full results:
|#1||Step-by-step guide to natural language learning||38%|
|#4||All my blog articles re-organized||27%|
|#2||Extended guide to overcoming your fear of speaking||21%|
|#3||Tips and tricks for practicing speaking||14%|
At first I was disappointed that my favorite idea didn't win. :-) But the more I thought about it, I realized my readers actually chose a much better topic...
...Because choices #1, #2 and #3 were not arbitrary! They're the three steps to learning a language.
The 3 steps
No matter how you learn a foreign language, if you went from zero to speaking at a high level of proficiency, you will have passed through these three steps.
These steps don't need to happen one after the other - they can be done simultaneously. However, when I was learning Polish, I did them practically in order.
1. Get the language in your brain
How can you speak a language if you don't know any words or if you can't understand someone when they speak it? Well, you can't! :-)
First, you need to somehow get the language in your brain.
Personally, I did this by reading and listening to Harry Potter.
But there are many other ways to get a language in your brain, like taking a traditional course, living in another country, using the "shadowing" method, watching movies, listening to music, etc. Some of these methods are more effective than others, but if you use any of them long enough, you will eventually get the language in your brain.
If you're doing these in order, at the "end" of this step (there is never really any end to learning a language!) you will be able to understand anything and form sentences in your head without translating (but not necessarily during a real conversation).
2. Overcome your fear of speaking
One of the most common problems I hear from people learning languages is that they can understand a great deal and they know tons of words - but when they're actually speaking with someone they get really nervous and their mind goes blank.
But immediately after the conversation, when the stress is gone, they have no problem coming up with the words they wanted to say.
Not all people have a fear of speaking - but most do!
Many people are afraid of making mistakes when speaking. They're afraid the other person won't understand them - or even that the other person might laugh at them or think they're stupid.
This is a very serious problem and I've written one article about how to overcome it. In the future, I plan to write many more!
3. Practice speaking
Once that language is in your brain and you are no longer afraid to use it, you need to speak as much as possible!
At this point you develop and practice "speaking strategies" like circumlocution (for when you don't know a word), various conversational phrases to keep things flowing, and even non-verbal tricks to make people more comfortable when speaking with you.
This practice will allow you to respond quickly and naturally, without slowing down the conversation.
The goal of this ebook is to help you complete step 1 of the 3 steps.
I think this is great because it's probably the most important and the most misunderstood step.
Few people know the true mechanisms by which the brain learns languages - and even when they do, it can be difficult to decide how to use them in practice.
For this reason, the ebook is broken into two parts:
- A theory part, where I explain why this method works, and
- A practical part where I give you a step-by-step guide to developing your own method based on these ideas.
Unfortunately, this also means that steps 2 and 3 aren't discussed in this ebook. However, there are a few articles and videos on these topics on my blog (linked above) and I plan to write more.
Or maybe someday I'll write two more ebooks. ;-)
Thanks for taking the time to read this ebook! I hope it's helpful on your language learning journey.
Best of luck!
What do you think of the introduction? Does this sound like an ebook you'd like to read? If you'd like to receive it, please subscribe to my blog and it will be emailed to you when it's finished!