Being able to speak in Spanish is not on my list when I started learning the language. Towards the end of February, I shifted my attention to the weakest skill of all. It wasn’t until mid-March I started practicing speaking with natives after signing up at Conversation Exchange.
The site is surprisingly good. After a few weeks, my weekdays (Monday to Thursday) are already full. I speak with 3-4 natives for an hour or two. It’s always done in the morning. Now, it’s been a year and I want to share with you my experience so far.
I’m fully aware my understanding skill is much better than the rest. Though it does help me a bit speaking itself is still an everyday struggle. Through it, I realized and learned a few things.
If you’ve been learning passively like me, you’ll struggle. A lot. You might know a bunch of words but they mean nothing. I just can’t recall them most of the time. Those basic grammar rules, common words I know, etc are out of the window. Heck, I even use the wrong conjugated verb.
It’s too much for my brain to handle. Me being nervous also contribute to that.
I go through a rollercoaster of emotions every day. Some days the practice ended with a negative feeling and that was due to the difficult topics being discussed. I found out the words I initially thought I didn’t need, turn out to be important in some topics. I ignored them thinking since it’s not a topic I’m interested in why bother learning. Wrong!
I feel like I’m learning Spanish from scratch and it’s kind of true because I’m literally a newbie when it comes to speaking. This negativity eats me up and you know what happens next. Procrastination. Even though I’ve expected this to happen and honestly, it’s not a big deal yet it bothers me.
One of the advantages of speaking with many natives is you can experiment with them. When you start out you probably just want to talk about random things, hobbies and whatnot but I assure you it won’t last long.
You’ll be doing this for a while so ask them what they prefer. If they aren’t open to the idea of trying things don’t push them. Remember, the practice is not a one-way conversation.
In my case, there are speakers that make me feel at ease and one that keep me on my toes. Usually, I prepare a few questions either related to Spanish, language learning or randomly before talking in case my exchange partners show up unprepared. You have to keep the momentum going.
Without a doubt, they have helped me a lot but also led me to my first ever embarrassing moment. I just innocently guessed a word I didn’t know based on its similarity and turned out to have a totally different meaning. Of all words, it just had to be that one and of all people, it just had to be that person.
When I said the word I instantly frowned thinking why would he suddenly ask but when he told me the meaning, I felt guilty. Damn you, false friends!
There was a point where I was mentally exhausted because we had this plan where I spoke only in Spanish for an hour and the next time will be their turn to speak in English. Then, we changed that to 30 minutes each. It’s still difficult and I decided to switch between the languages because I prefer that way.
Rather than forcing myself, I prefer the transition to be natural. Meaning, I will speak completely in Spanish again when I’m ready. Forcing it, while it’s good, will only procrastinate me further. Since I’m comfortable with this pace I can feel myself trying to speak more willingly.
All these problems and difficulties are only in the beginning. I’m not saying they don’t exist anymore but I’d like to think that I get better at handling them now. Of course, there will be times I forget things I already know and it’s okay. I’ll learn how to fix my own procrastination eventually.
As a mental note for you and myself, try not to focus on small mistakes. Those small progress will become bigger and bigger and that’s what you should look at.
I’d love to know your own experiences. Share with us below.