Improving one’s ability to have a dialogue in a foreign language requires two different skills – comprehension and articulation – to hear and to speak. In order for a conversation to go well, it is necessary to not only focus on what you want to say, but also to understand what the other person is saying.
By making mistakes, we learn
The first piece of advice we want to give applies to learning a language in general. To learn a language, it is essential not to be afraid of making mistakes. While talking to other people, we should not worry too much about making mistakes; no one will notice if we communicate in a foreign language; on the contrary, people will often appreciate our efforts. We must always remember that speaking a language other than our own is not an exam where others are strict teachers ready to judge us. Instead, it is a fantastic opportunity to meet and communicate with new people whom we could not have met by speaking only our own language.
Moreover, no one can speak a language perfectly without going through the stage where proficiency in that language is not perfect. Of course, all this brings a feeling of discomfort. When speaking in a native language, we can speak easily and with the nuances we want. With a language we are learning, we are limited..
Exercise your ear
To avoid misunderstandings while talking to other people, it is important to understand what they are saying to us. For this, it is necessary not only to improve our vocabulary but to exercise our ears so that we can understand the pronunciation of words.
Thanks to technology, there are many activities we can engage in like watching videos, listening to podcasts, playing video-games, watching movies, etc. All in a language we are trying to learn. Of course, the best way to sharpen our ears is to converse with people that are fluent in their language.
The more you talk, the better you talk!
Take every opportunity you have to communicate with people who speak the language you want to learn; practice is the best key to success! The best way to learn a new language is definitely to stay in a foreign country and immerse yourself in the new idiom 24 hours a day. However, you can improve even without traveling and even when you are alone, such as by reading, repeating sentences aloud, or singing your favorite songs in Italian.
Thanks to technology, it is also possible to find people interested in long-distance language exchange on online platforms. Another piece of advice is not to focus too much on grammar when speaking. A native speaker can understand you even if you do not speak perfectly. Conversely, he or she may have difficulty if we have an uncertain way of speaking or poor pronunciation.
Learn some rules of phonetics
As mentioned earlier, pronunciation is of considerable importance both in the comprehension stage and in the production stage. For this reason, it is important not to underestimate phonetics when learning a foreign language otherwise it will happen more than once that in the oral phase people will not understand words we know or, on the contrary, other people will not understand what we say. Listening to audio texts and watching videos in the original language will certainly help you, a great way to improve one’s pronunciation is also to record yourself when you speak. By listening to yourself again, you can easily understand the mistakes you make and work on them.
idioms are important
The minimum structure of meaning in a language is not a single word but a sentence. That is why it is useful, if not essential, to learn idioms, phrasal verbs, idiomatic verbs, and chunks. Idioms are phrases with a meaning that deviates from the literal meaning by acquiring a figurative one.
Some examples are:
- idioms like “Acqua in bocca!” (“Water in your mouth!”) which does not literally mean to put water in your mouth but rather “to keep a secret”;
- phrasal verbs like “Mandare giù” which does not only mean “to swallow” but also “to bear”. Phrasal verbs, when combined with specific words, change their original meaning;
- idiomatic verbs like “avercela“, for example, which does not mean “to have something” but “to be angry”. Idiomatic verbs are verbs that, when attached to a pronoun, change their original meaning;
- Chunks, words that are frequently together and acquire a definite meaning, such as “usually” or “sometimes.”
Learning these expressions will greatly improve your ability to understand and express yourself in a foreign language; in other words, it will improve your ability to converse.