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Becoming More Fluent in Speaking


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I'm currently learning German and had recently took a written placement test that put me at B2 level. However, I really don't feel I'm able to communicate at this level. Sure, I can write some sentences but when I actually have to say something I'm struggling to find words. I know what you'll say - just practice speaking more. Unfortunately, I don't really have many opportunities to practice as I don't know any speakers. Are there any useful learning tools/techniques for for overcoming the oral communication barrier?

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My boss is a firm believer in repetition. A lot of the language programs we made in the past emphasize the method of repetition. While a lot argue that there is nothing to gain by merely repeating things, I , however, agree with my boss to a certain extent. Only having audio to use as tool, he believes that the more you constantly repeat the audio you hear, the more things become 'familiar' to you. I tell you, it can be tedious and boring, but I think the more you do it (repeating what you hear (ex. saying out loud and repeating scripts of German movies), you somehow are able to build confidence.

I too believe that 'speaking' skill has much to do with confidence. If you are not too sure if you are saying things right, then you're likely just going to be mum.

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I think that it takes over 30 times doing something before it commits to your memory. If there are words or phrases you struggle with, keep repeating them to yourself throughout the day. It is like when we had to memorize famous lines and quotes in school, some of them I could still recite to this day, just because I practiced so many times.

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It's the technological age, you can definitely find some native speakers willing to help you out, even on this forum. If you're SUPER shy, like me, then you can just download movies and try to emulate what the characters are saying. :wink:

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Yes, joining fora like this could also prove helpful. Perhaps somewhere out there whose native language is German will be more than willing to help. But if you're not too confident about that, then the movie thing can be a good route for you. Simply find a German movie with a subtitle. Once you understand the movie, you can watch it again in pure German (without the subtitle). Trust me, it will feel silly repeating things out. However, the more you repeat what you hear from the movie, the more you'll build confidence. Once you have the confidence, you can initiate talking with others who speak German, too.

Good luck with your German learning!

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My boss is a firm believer in repetition. A lot of the language programs we made in the past emphasize the method of repetition. While a lot argue that there is nothing to gain by merely repeating things, I , however, agree with my boss to a certain extent. Only having audio to use as tool, he believes that the more you constantly repeat the audio you hear, the more things become 'familiar' to you. I tell you, it can be tedious and boring, but I think the more you do it (repeating what you hear (ex. saying out loud and repeating scripts of German movies), you somehow are able to build confidence.

I too believe that 'speaking' skill has much to do with confidence. If you are not too sure if you are saying things right, then you're likely just going to be mum.

I agree with this method. I remember being able to learn a bunch of phrases and words just by hearing a couple of Japanese and Spanish words being repeated in movies, and the meaning has stuck to my mind because I always encounter the words. So repetition is the most effortless way to go.

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Thanks for the replies! I know what you're saying with repetition as I have used FSI German where you practice hundreds of drills over and over. Still, I find it hard to just make up new sentences on the fly. I don't know if it's a problem of confidence or just a lack of vocabulary. I guess I just need to practice more...

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The only way that you will improve your speaking skills, is to interact with German speakers, watch German movies, sing along with German songs. Basically, it takes some initiative on your behalf. :)

The problem with tests in schools is that they are mostly academic. When you step out into real life and talk with Germans in the street, they might not exactly understand what you are talking about. That's why it is so important to learn and practice a new language the way it is commonly spoken on a daily basis.

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I have to agree with everyone here, and I know you probably don't want to hear it; but even still, It's all about repetition. So you're right; practice, practice, practice because as cliched as it is, practice makes perfect! Where possible I'd also recommend you find German speakers and interact more with them. I know I'm not very good with all this, but sadly, it is a very effective way of improving your spoken language.

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  • 1 month later...

I'm a huge fan of Italki (http://www.italki.com/?ref=1555469) so I'll continue to recommend it on this forum. You can find a huge amount of students that you can have German/English exchanges with over Skype to polish up your conversation for free. You can also take private classes with professors on the site.

Hope that helps! Best of luck.

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I keep hearing good things about iTalki! It's definitely something to bear in mind for future reference. I like that it's also free and that you can have Skype sessions with fellow learners. The wonder of modern technology, ei? Thanks for the recommendation and posting the link :)

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I definitely agree with this method. If you remember when we were younger, or when we were still in the elementary grade level, there are teachers who make use of rote learning. This is a memorization technique based on repetition. The idea is that one can easily recall a data/object/material the more the person repeats it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I definitely agree with this method. If you remember when we were younger, or when we were still in the elementary grade level, there are teachers who make use of rote learning. This is a memorization technique based on repetition. The idea is that one can easily recall a data/object/material the more the person repeats it.

I'm not familiar with this method as such. But I can definitely see the logic behind it. With repetition, the information sticks and is retained for future use. The brain is a very powerful tool! Whether we know it or not, the information is stored and we may not use it today or even tomorrow, but the brain can recall it much, much later when we need it. Unless you have a serious case of amnesia, what you learn is retained in your brain forever :)

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  • 8 months later...

I'll share a method that worked really well for me in the past, back when there was almost no Internet and I did not have any opportunities to talk to French native speakers. I still use it occasionally with other languages. It is time-consuming but brings good results.

I read a simple book in my target languages. It can be adapted (even better if it has questions after each chapter) or it can be original (but must be understandable for you). Then, after each page, or every 5 pages, or each chapter, I try to retell the content out loud. It helped me move from "I don't speak French at all" to "Yes, I can do it fairly fluently now" zone.

Another thing that I've used is learning small texts / poems / songs by heart. The words and expressions get firmly stuck in your head and make it easier to start talking.

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Definitely the thing the OP most needs to do is converse. I believe the excuses he gives for not conversing are indicative of his problem. If the excuses are valid, then why would anyone want to become a good speaker in a language they have no chance to speak? Strange. If it were me, I'd pay for lessons from a teacher on italki. The teachers are reasonably priced, and this will save a lot of time. Pay for an hour of conversation, and be finished in an hour; exchange languages with someone, and be finished in 2 hours. Your choice. If you're looking for conversation tips, I recommend the book How to improve your foreign language immediately.

That being said, I particularly like Anna's suggestion. I might have to give it a try some day.

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  • 3 months later...

I've written about this elsewhere I think, but here it is again.

Most linguists/language geeks I know will study their flash cards diligently, but mostly from their L2 to their native language. Well,that helps in listening and reading, but not so much in speaking. Your brain is putting together what it wants to say, then translates it into the L2. 

So...what you should do is flip those flashcards around and study your native language to the L2. Sure that's harder, but it is how your brain is working when you're trying to speak your L2.

Also, and this is important: relax.  I used to worry so much about my Russian. Did I say that in the right case? Did I use the proper motion verb? Finally, I just gave up and spoke. I figured if my interlocutor didn't understand me, they'd ask me to clarify. Sure enough, my speaking improved.

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