- Skill of conversing
- Proper order
- Role of anxiety
When you are fluent in a language, you're able to converse rapidly, easily and fluidly. This is not difficult to achieve once you are skilled at understanding native speakers in all situations and you are skilled at speaking the language. And, of course, you will become more skilled at conversing the more you 'practice' it.
You can also practice conversing with native Spanish speakers before you're skilled at understanding and speaking. And such practice is always good. But you can't expect to converse 'rapidly, easily and fluidly' yet simply because you may not understand something the other person just said, or because you want to express a thought in Spanish, but you can't find the vocabulary to do so.
In other words, practice conversing with others whenever you can, but give top priority to reaching a high level of skill at understanding native speakers.
Think about you or any child learning their native language. The first skill you developed was the ability to hear and understand the sounds of speech of those around you. Based on recent research, this phase starts while you are in the womb.
Next, babies start making sounds right after birth and, roughly by a year of age, they start making sounds that can be recognized as speech (i.e. words). It takes a while longer before they can master the speech sounds of their native language and use them to communicate.
The third phase of language development is improving their ability to communicate - back and forth - with the adults and children around them. We call this the skill of conversing.
These three phases overlap, but they must proceed in this order. And this is the ideal order for learning another language as an adult.
To the degree that you can understand and speak Spanish - to that degree you're able to practice conversing.
Learning the skill of understanding others is easy - under the right circumstances - because its practice does not arouse anxiety. This is important because anxiety is the enemy of learning.
The skill of speaking is simply the skill of using your mouth and vocal cords to make the sounds of words that you already understand. You can easily practice this skill on your own where it won't arouse anxiety.
The skill of conversing, unlike the two skills it depends on, requires that you practice with another person or persons - which can arouse anxiety (i.e. performance anxiety). So there are two ways to effectively deal with this anxiety:
1. Create a safe environment for practicing conversing. This is what we do in the Foundation Course, for example.
2. Become highly skilled at understanding and speaking by completing the Growth Phase. Then conversing with others will be easy and arouse little or no anxiety.