Listen up, speak up and get ahead in a language

The Jakarta Post | Supplement | Mon, 06/25/2012 5:02 PM

Many of us dearly want to be able to speak a foreign language, whether it is English or Indonesian, but there are different factors holding us back. We become tongue-tied when we have to use a foreign language, and sometimes do our best to avoid using it.

Actually, that fear of speaking it (we may be very good indeed at reading proficiency) is what is the worst for our ability to express ourselves.

So why are we tongue-tied when it comes to using English?

1. Don’t want to sound “stupid”

2. Scared of making mistakes

3. Don’t know what to say

4. I’ve got a lot of other things on my mind already – why do I have to worry about this too?

Here are some ways to overcome that fear of failure, and to speak freely.

Speaking Up:

People want to hear your opinion, so speak to them. They will forgive grammar and word choice mistakes, because they’re more interested in what you have to say than having perfect prepositions and grammatical expressions.

Speaking more English or Indonesian will also help you improve; you will be getting practical experience.

If you keep quiet out of fear of making mistakes, your speaking companion will probably feel uncomfortable – have they done something wrong?

When it comes to speaking English, like all languages, it’s best to keep it clear and simple. No need to “strive” for big words; just “try” to explain yourself.

Listening Lessons:

Listening also works wonders in understanding how native speakers converse in their language. Whether it is taped books, songs, TV programs or simply attending a lecture by a visiting scholar, all will be of help (heavy metal music
may not be the way to go, however).

Try to take part in a foreign exchange program, or go on career workshops or training abroad to practice your language and listening skills. “It made such a difference to me in learning a language abroad when I was overseas, because you are surrounded by the language and you have to use it,” says “Yana”, who studied in France. “And there is always someone to help you out.”

Of course, another great option is to take an established language-course in your host city. Look for ones with an excellent reputation for teaching students the skills they need.

What are you waiting for – learning a language will win friends and influence people! JP

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