I’m Not Ready! Posted by Sean Young on Jan 16, 2013 in Language Learning, Reference/Usage Tips
I was visiting my parents over the winter break, and my 80-year-old mother is learning Spanish. She is doing a very impressive job. In just a few months of study, she is reading and understanding a Spanish book written for children ages 7-8 years old. She’s not a fast reader yet, and she asks for help with certain verb conjugations and other tenses, but she’s doing very well.
She has her dictionary, her flashcards, and her software and she studies and practices twice a day – her review time is just before bedtime. Believe me, I’m very impressed with her progress. But there’s one thing that she said a few times while I was there that concerns me. The words I hear often from other language learners – “I’m not going to speak until I’m ready.”
You’re not ready?!
That kind of thought process confuses me. You’re learning the language and you’re doing well with the lessons and exercises. What’s holding you back? If you’re afraid of making mistakes, there’s an article to help you get rid of your fears. If you’re afraid of just speaking, there’s an article for that also. Below I put some links to articles with tips to help you gain confidence in your language capabilities.
So, when are you ready to start using the language? Let me give you a clue. Open up your lesson book or your software program. Go all the way back to Lesson 1, and look for the very first foreign language word or sentence that began the lesson. Did you find it? That is the point where you were ready to use and speak the language. Yes, you’ve learned it, now use it. Even if you’re going to say “May I have one kilogram of butter, por favor?” – you’re using what you’ve learned. Even a simple ‘hello’ will get your confidence up to do more.
But what if I don’t understand what they answer back?
Don’t worry about that. You will not believe what you can accomplish by speaking what little you know and using gestures and body language (stay tuned for that article). Thirty years ago I was learning Spanish and when I found myself in Mexico, it took me about 10 minutes to order a sandwich with what little Spanish I could get out and lots of gestures and pointing to the different sandwich items. That was fun for me and for the vendor. Today, I can order a sandwich as well as a native speaker without the need for gestures and pointing.
If after all that gesturing they speak to you and you don’t understand what is being said, don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat it, slowly if need be. This way you can attune your ears to the native sounds and you can adapt your own speech to what you hear around you. Hearing these varieties in speech will help boost your confidence also.
When are you ready?
So let me ask you, are you ready to speak that language? Are you ready to use it? Of course you are. And if you have a language partner, practice with that person first so you can get the feel of using a language in conversation. You are ready. Go have fun!