Language learning on tape (so to speak*)

Speak OutSomething that my language teacher tries to make me do, and something that I also try to emphasise with my students, is actually speaking.  It may sound silly, but many students try to learn strictly from books (and sometimes listening to audio or watching videos).  These methods help with understanding, but what will you do when someone actually wants to have a conversation with you?

Repeating words and sentences in your head may help to a certain degree, but there are a lot of reasons that students should open their mouths.  Even if you fully understand a written sentence, you may not be able to say it fluently.  Especially with languages that have very different sounds to your native one, your body will need to become adjusted to making the sounds and putting them all together.  Even though it might be boring and may feel like it’s not doing anything, rote repetition out loud is great for muscle memory as well as reinforcing the language structure in your brain.  The more times you repeat, the more likely it is that you’ll remember how to say the phrase when the time comes.

One way to track your progress is to record yourself doing your repetitions.  I find the most convenient way to record is through my mp3 player or phone, but most computers have a standard voice recorder, or you could use a dictaphone, or even a tape recorder.  Initially it will feel strange, but don’t worry too much about that.

If you have model recordings available, try to repeat after them, following the intonation and flow of the language as closely as possible.  It won’t take long for you to notice an improvement in the speed and fluency of your speech.  If you are learning with a teacher, you can also send him or her your best recordings, and ask for a few extra pointers.  There are a few community-based language websites (like LiveMocha) available too, where you can upload your recordings and get feedback on them from native speakers.

What’s your favourite recording technique?  How do you use recording for language learning?

*Unintentional pun.

Image: chrischuepp via Flickr Creative Commons.