Language. Mobility. Environment.

A short guide on how to speak to yourself in a foreign language (and make it look completely OK)

At some point in our lives, we might have engaged ourselves in an imaginary heated conversation on the phone just to avoid someone we vaguely know (or wish didn’t know) so that we can pretend we haven’t actually seen them – just make sure your phone is set on silent mode, or it might get very awkward.

Well, guess what? This anomaly in our social behaviour can be used for better purposes than ignoring acquaintances on the street. Like testing your language skills, for instance.

What in the world am I talking about?

Well, considering that I desperately need to convince my family that I am not a weirdo after all, I just can’t walk around the house speaking to myself in another language just to practice. I used to do that, by my mum has grown very worried about it. To be honest, I myself feel very uncomfortable just talking to no one about random things while wandering in my room. In this tricky circumstance, your phone is the answer.

Sit down and pretend that you have free calls abroad (if only!) and that you can call that friend who’s native speaker of the language you are currently learning. Pretend to be dialling their number, too! But, in reality, you are just opening the voice recorder app to have it ready. Put your phone on your ear (or use headphones, depending on your habits) – say hi to your friend, ask them how they are and go with the flow, with a pinch of creativity: make up a conversation, imagine what your friend would say in reply and answer back. In the meantime, you’ll be recording everything. 5-10 minutes of an inventive conversation is enough (and trust me, you’ll run out of topics after a while).  At the end of it, say bye to your imaginary interlocutor (potential eave-droppers will be reassured that you are actually speaking with someone on the phone) and voilà, you have just completed an excellent practice session of your language skills – and on top of it, you have a file that records it. Listen back to it later, analyse your own pronunciation and compare it, check your grammar, monitor how your vocabulary has grown. Note down major mistakes, think of how you could have said words and phrases differently, look for idioms! Idioms are great and the fact that you use them is a sign you are mastering the language. It’s a perfect method to individually test your oral language skills that you can take up literally anywhere – even walking on the street! Nobody will consider you a nutter, as long as you make sure you are talking on your phone. Don’t be afraid of awkward silences when you don’t know what else to say – they occur in real conversations too, so what’s the deal?

The ability to evaluate your own performance from the recordings you will have collected is a sign of major improvement. Do you have ten minutes to spare, or are you walking alone for a significantly long time? You can dedicate this time to your daily dose of foreign language learning.

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