I don’t know about you, but I think generic courses are pretty boring.
I was in my favorite bookstore the other day, flipping through language course books (everyone has their own ways to relax) and I almost fell asleep reading through them.
Generic business travel conversation, check.
How to talk about family members, check.
Scripts for students talking with other students about class, check.
Now, one or more of these situations may be relevant for your goals, but I always feel a lack of engagement when I study from these sources. I get bored hearing Mark talk about his family to a taxi driver from the airport to his hotel.
And it’s a situation we really don’t have to accept anymore.
Creating your own language course isn’t really that difficult, it just takes a little extra prep time at the start. Doing this prep is actually the key to achieving your language goal. The more engaged you are with the material, the more likely you are to maintain your practice habit. Before you know it, you’re speaking with an ease you only dreamed of.
- Schedule two sessions with a teacher.
Before everything, you want to give yourself deadlines so you have pressure to complete the tasks. The first session is going to be in two days, the next session will be 5-7 days after the first.
- Brainstorm goals.
Most people go into a language project with a vague idea of wanting to speak something one day. So you’ll pick up the, aforementioned, generic course book and follow along for a few days (maybe even weeks) until boredom takes its toll.
Instead, let’s spend some time brainstorming topics you like talking about. Some of my favorite things to have conversation about are politics, movies, and gaming.
- Pick a goal and narrow focus.
The goals I listed above are still too vague, but they allow me to narrow my focus. Get really specific at this second step. If I choose ‘talk about movies’ as my big goal for the week, I want to narrow it further to something like ‘talk about what I liked about director Ava Duvernay’s most recent movie.
- Record self.
I record myself talking in my native language about that super narrow topic for 5 minutes. You probably won’t use the whole 5 minutes for practice, so just let yourself have fun with this step. Interview yourself about the topic- asking and answering questions. Mention things you’ve heard other people say about the topic. Speculate about the future or how you were reminded of something by the topic.
Type out that recording! Once you’re done typing up your words, edit it to be a dialogue and cut out at least half of the original length. You’re going to speak slower in your practice than you do in your native language, so you don’t want to give yourself a long script that’s going to take 30 minutes to practice. We want to keep our practice sessions 5-10 minutes.
Depending on where you are in your language learning journey, you have two main options. If you’re advanced, type up the translation with as little help as possible, making a list of words or phrases where you have trouble.
If you’re a beginner, use Google translate, then ask for a quick proof from a place like the italki forums, Quora, or another language learning community. I’ve helped out my fair share of people in this situation in the past.
- Meet with teacher.
Send your script to your teacher when you finish it and tell them you want to practice the dialogue, especially the pronunciation, during your lesson. You want to take your time in the lesson and make note of the words and phrases that trip up your tongue.
Ask your teacher to read the whole thing so you can record it and review throughout the week.
Every day until your next lesson, dedicate 10-15 minutes to practicing the dialogue. Listen to the recording of your teacher and try to imitate them as closely as you can. As you practice, put your emotion into the words- act like you’re on a grand stage and need to project your feelings to the back row.
Please, don’t read the dialogue when you listen to the recording. Remember, we’re training our ears, not our eyes, we want to struggle a little and make our ears work to make the new sounds have meaning.
- Meet with teacher.
Put away the dialogue and just talk with your teacher about the topic. Our goal isn’t to memorize a script, it’s to be able to react to conversation. All the practice you did during the week is to train your ear to recognize sounds. It’s going to take more practice until the recognition is unconscious.
Repeat words you hear them say that you don’t understand, ask them to clarify. They are there to help and should have no problem slowing down or repeating things as often as you need.
- Do it all over again.
Book your next lesson for two days away and pick a new goal to focus on. You brainstormed a whole list of goals, remember? Or maybe this week’s goal inspired you to keep going on that topic. It’s your language journey, make your own path.
And for all those aspiring polyglots out there, the dialogues can be reused for your next language journey.
Now it’s time to practice!
If you’d like to recruit me as your teacher in your dialogue project, I’d love to be there for you. Check out my courses or just sign up for the Pronunciation Habit newsletter where you’ll get weekly pronunciation practice techniques. Plus, exclusive special offers.
And if you found this post helpful, feel free to post it around. We can all use all the help we can get with our goals.
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