How to maximise this method
I will explain here a method that I’ve already used for several languages, and I’m not the only one to use it. This method is particularly useful and powerful if you’ve already built a good passive knowledge of the language (listening practice). Once you notice that you can hear and understand virtually anything, it’s time to activate your knowledge, thus using the language actively.
When you speak a language, you actually keep using the same recurring phrases and words all the time (see my article). It is thus useful to focus mainly on the 500-1000 most frequent words that you need to use as much as possible. When I use this technique, I simply decide to live in the target language. I only use my mother tongue if it’s necessary. If I have a choice (thinking, going on the internet, writing something down, …), I do it in the target language. Once you’re ok with this language use and you’re using the same vocab effortlessly, it’s time to use the description technique: all the time, wherever you are, describe the place you are as well as the objects, try to say it all in your head (“there is a book on the table”, “the TV is on”, “this food smells good”, …). That way, you’ll get used to using the voc that people use every day.
What do to with grammar?
Regarding grammar, if you’ve built enough passive knowledge (listening and reading), the basic, most important grammar rules that are easy and frequent should be fixed in your mind (I’m not, and never will be, saying that studying grammar is useless. I’m here speaking about fluencly). When I use this technique, I always use podcasts (if you need some, have a look at my articles on language learning resources) that I listen to and where the native speaker keeps using the same phrases and basic grammar rules (make sure to find listening material which you like and which match your level). If you keep listening and understanding them, you’ll be able to activate your knowledge by remembering how the native speaker speaks (I even unconsciously copy the accident even if it’s not standard, therefore I use an accent that my native friends sometimes find weird ^^’ true story with Brazilian Portuguese!). For this reason, it’s useful to listen to the same videos over and over again so that you keep using the same grammar structures. For this reason, spending some time development your passive skills is very important at the beginning. You need to accumulate a lot of passive in order to use the active (although some methods suggest to begin speaking from day 1, which can also work. There is not only one method. I actually use both).
How to get used to it?
This method (home immersion, describing everything) is quite difficult at first, but if you work intensively, you’ll get used to it in no time. During the first hours (or days), you’ll be looking for words all the time, you’ll be with your dictionary (I advise you to use an online or offline dictionary, something that’s quick), you’ll be looking for conjugations, … but after a couple of hours you’ll notice that you’re using the same words over and over again (irregular verbs, same propositions, same names, …). It’s by focusing on these important words that you’ll make them automatically accessible to your memory because the necessary neurons are the same and will be used all the time.
How to deal with an oral exam:
If you have to get prepared for an oral exam, go in front of the mirror and imagine the subjects/themes/questions and vocab associated that your teacher is likely to ask.
Imagine you’re at the exam and try to answer all the questions that your teacher could ask. Write down all the words that you are likely to need and explain de stuff several times: first with the same basic words, and then reformulate to increase your vocab. Do this until some sentences become automatic. This will allow you to:
- Prepare all the vocab you’re likely to have to use, so no surprise in front of the teacher
- Have fluent speaking skills (fluent for the test, not other subjects, but fluent all the same!)
Fluent speaking skills in your everyday life:
If you want to be able to speak fluently and effortlessly in your everyday life, try to make an immersion at home for a longer time. You’ll see that the necessary vocab will be wider because you’ll do it for a longer time. Even after years you’ll keep adding words (although much less frequent) that you’ll have to look up in a dictionary. Even if you’ll still be looking for words, your speaking skills will be quite fluent on a variety of topics. The time needed to achieve that is quite variable. It depends on you and on the level you want to achieve, and on many more variables.
The longer you use this technique, the easier it will be to speak this language. I’ve been using this technique with English for about 7 years and I sometimes prefer to use this language than my native French^^! Who would have thought that 😛