Tuesday, September 05, 2006


The other day, Polyglottery had a nice discussion about self-talk, or having conversations in your head to get used to a language. The best thing about self-talk is that unlike flashcards, dictionaries and all the rest, all you have to bring along is your head! While I've gotten better about keeping track of what I'm bringing along for the language I plan to work on in my spare time, what lacks is the spare time. On the other hand, if you think about waiting for a phone call or wanting to go get a glass of water in Spanish or Mandarin, instead of English, you can strengthen your mental connections and get used to using your new language with just a few core phrases.

Some phrases that I learn for self-talk, so that I know I'll have a little practice every day:
Today I want to eat...
Today I want to drink...
There are many people.
There are few people.
I am eating...
I am drinking...
(That's six phrases at lunchtime!)
I will have a glass of water.
I am talking (on the phone).
I am busy.
(There's three at work.)
The trees are green/brown.
It is hot/cold today.
It is raining.
(For going to and from work.)
I am going to buy...
How much is it?
(For the supermarket.)
Hello and goodbye

That is around 20 things to say where by learning a few forms you can get more comfortable about using your language. At the start, fill in the ... in your native tongue. Then, in spare moments, or if you've got a pocket phrasebook with you, look up what fills in the blanks. After a while these around 20 phrases can turn into 30, then 40 as you add things with which to fill in the blanks. And because you're starting with a base of phrases that are in most phrase books, you can build your vocabulary and usage with a minimum of effort.

By the way, where grammar is concerned, try for halfway proper syntax - word order - and accidence - word endings. But bear in mind that just as a child makes mistakes in the learning process, you will too. Self-talk, when working on a new language, like talking when building for conversationality, is better done often and imperfectly than perfectly but rarely.

One last note: and a small issue with Pimsleur, which I otherwise love - in your self-talk, it's a good idea to not get too hung up on the "I don't speak..." phrase. You don't want your most fluent phrase - and default conversation opener - to be that the conversation won't be going anywhere!


Blogger Kelsey said...

I just found your blog today- very nice! (yo misma, estoy estudiando el japónes y el español hoy en día) I do self-talk a lot myself. Many times I find myself doing it out loud, though, which could be weird for those around me. But I think it's definitely worth it- language is a lot of repetition, but you can make it fun and creative!

9:57 PM  

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