Tip 4. Let native speakers help you. When you are with speakers of your new language, either in a foreign country or in a non-English community group, ask people for help. Point to something and ask how to say it. Ask questions. Most people are friendly and willing to help you out. Don’t be shy….take a few leaps of faith..
I was buying flowers in a florist in Kazan. I knew I was speaking Russian correctly but the florist wasn’t giving me what I wanted. She obviously wasn’t used to talking with a non-native Russian and I didn’t understand what she was trying to tell me. It was a very challenging few minutes. Another customer interrupted and she explained that it was bad luck to give a dozen roses in Kazan– I needed to give 11 or 13… Easy when you understand!
When I am in Russia, I often sit in a coffee shop by myself and start to talk to the shop assistants or other customers (if they look friendly and it’s not too busy). It is a good way to practise and I meet lots of people. I remember how many times I help people with their English!
No matter how good you are in your new language, you’re not likely to have a complete grasp over the shades of meaning and intuitive differences between words, phrases or idioms that a native speaker does without living in the country for years. I have a rule that when a misunderstanding occurs, before getting mad or discouraged, check – if it is a cultural or language misunderstanding – take a deep breath and keep going.
- Another student started playing soccer with a Russian team;
- Another student went to Italian church every Sunday.
- Another student took up Latin American dancing to practise her Spanish;
- Be creative!!
Tip 8. Plan your next holiday. But plan to go outside the tourist regions. In this way, you will meet ‘real’ people – yes they won’t speak much English, but you will have a great time practising your new language.