What do you do when you want to practice speaking a new language but others take over the conversation?
Learning a new language can open up a whole new world of cultures and subcultures when you are an expat, but finding the time to practice can be challenging. Furthermore, it can be even more difficult to take what you study into the real world when you have to compete for speaking time with others and, even worse, your own ego. Yup, that’s right it’s not just other people that are taking over the conversation that are the problem, it’s you!
While others may dominate the conversation, you are the one letting them. You have chosen to not interrupt, to keep interactions superficial, to default to your native language, or, even worse, you have moved abroad to not meet new people. Stop listening to your ego and let yourself make mistakes, interrupt and perhaps risk being a little rude. Start random conversations with people on the streets about when the bus will arrive, directions, what the name of something is, or whatever else is going on around you. Even if you already know the answer, even if you are just asking how do you say something, just do it.
The repetition and practice will boost your confidence and ability and you might find yourself surprised at how nice people can be, even when asked a basic “wh- question” (who, what, why, where, etc…) Maybe you won’t understand everything or you’ll make a mistake, but it will help you focus on what you need to learn and practice. So, make the best of each interaction, keep a handy dandy notebook by your side and start writing new situations and vocabulary. Then, everyone’s favorite parts, study and practice.
Another idea for practice:
Put on your discourse analysis hat and create a dialogue of an interaction you might have. Write it down and read it aloud to help you become more familiar with what to say and possible responses. See how accurate you were by going out and making the conversation real. Use your notebook to note differences and things to practice. To add complexity: add more than two people and or different questions and answers to your dialogue.