Don't Speak in Your Target Language
Of course, we want to speak the language eventually and we want to speak well, however, there's no need to be anxious about how we're doing now. Hi there, Steve Kaufmann here. Today I want to talk about something that I've been thinking about recently, and that is the importance of not speaking the language we're learning.
Don't speak the language we're, learning a little bit provocative and I'll explain what I mean. Meanwhile, if you enjoy these videos, please subscribe. Uh, I click on that bell for notifications. If you are listening to this on a podcast service, please leave a review. Um, I hope my sound is better. There have been some complaints now,.What do I mean by don't speak?
All right. I'll tell you my, my sort of reasoning on this. Um, recently I decided that in my Arabic, I was going to move over to Egyptian Arabic because I wanted to try to understand Egyptian movies better. Egypt is a country of 90 or more million people and they have a language with its own culture, humor, expressions, uh, which I can connect to in some way.
Uh, that's not true of standard Arabic. There is no country where the local language is standard Arabic. And so it's a little bit of an artificial language. It's like Latin or something. Not quite, it is spoken by many Arabs. It's spoken in official situations by politicians. Uh, the written material on the internet is mostly in standard Arabic, but in terms of getting that sort of resonance that you get from a real life country, it doesn't have that.
So I started doing, um, you know, Egyptian Arabic and I found that a couple of things that were very interesting. One, my Arabic is now ruined, my standard Arabic, my Egyptian Arabic. I have trouble saying anything. I struggle to say it. On the other hand, my spoken, uh, Persian, Farsi has improved without me putting anything into it.
All of a sudden I have my online discussions with Sahra and, and she agrees I'm doing better than ever. So it's like I left my Persian alone. I still have, you know, twice a week sessions with Sahra, uh, but leaving Persian alone and even leaving Standard Arabic and stimulating my brain with this exposure to Egyptian Arabic, with all of its idiosyncrasies seems to have improved.
My Persian sounds a bit strange. I have experienced this before that if you work very hard at language A then leave language A and go to language B, come back to language A and you understand it better and you can speak better. Why that is? I don't know. I have called that sort of the period of benign neglect. It may be a function of leaving it.
It may be a function of trying very hard to learn something else which is stimulating for the brain. Then coming back to something familiar and all of a sudden you're better able to recall words in that language. I don't know why. However, I had a session this morning in Egyptian Arabic. I mean, I couldn't say anything, not in Egyptian Arabic not in Standard Arabic, but I enjoy it.
I enjoyed it. And I enjoy listening to the material that I have in Egyptian Arabic. I enjoy discovering Egyptian Arabic. I'm looking forward to being better at Egyptian Arabic, but I'm not concerned about my inability to speak right now. Um, I enjoy these sessions with Adel Samy my new tutor in Alexandria, because he's funny.
And he keeps me going and we have almost philosophical discussions where he has to give me the words and he writes the words out on the screen before I'm actually able to say them. But that's fine. I certainly couldn't carry on a conversation, but it's extremely enjoyable. And so the sort of passive, you know, discovering the language I find enjoyable.
If I were genuinely concerned about how weak I am in speaking the language, I would feel, you know, distraught. And that's why I kind of reminded myself that, you know, very often people identify learning a language with being able to speak the language. And what can I say now? And of course we want to speak the language eventually and we want to speak well, however, there's no need to be anxious about how we're doing now or at the beginning, or even a fair way along in the language, as long as we are enjoying the language.
And so, uh, I think very often in the sort of standard classroom, there's a tremendous emphasis placed on producing the language, speaking the language, which is fine because that's what people want to do. But what I think is more important is what will I be able to do with them, the language in a year from now?
And from that perspective, I'm not tremendously motivated to speak. Now I have this a couple of sessions a week just to maintain that human contact with, with someone who speaks the language, but it doesn't bother me that I can't speak well. No, I fully appreciate that there are situations where we need to learn to speak the language because we have immigrated to our country.
And, and when you're in that situation, of course, you're getting a lot of input, a lot of input you're listening and reading all the time. And you're trying to speak wherever you can. And so you have this urgency to speak, which is fine, but even there, you shouldn't be concerned about short-term difficulties in using the language because it's been my experience.
I mean, I can remember when I was learning Czech, for example, I was six months at, at listening to stuff on Czech history, fascinating stuff about the the Austro-Hungarian empire or Prague, and, uh, you know, under, um, Charles you know, king Charles back in the 14th century. And I, I went to this body shop where the person there spoke Czech.
And I couldn't say a thing. I couldn't say a thing, but now, and when I went to, first of all, now I can understand so much Czech. I can understand, you know, what people say and little clips that I find on Twitter. Uh, and when I was in the Czech Republic, I was communicating just fine. So the point is, again, I guess it's a common theme that I have is don't put too much pressure on yourself.
Uh, obviously, if you're in a situation where you, you need to speak better quickly, even there fastest path to that is lots of input activities. And speaking wherever you have the chance, but if you are on a, as I am in the case of Arabic, I have no immediate urgency to speak the language I achieve what I achieve. Twice a week.
I speak sometimes better, sometimes worse. I focus on input. I'm enjoying it. Good enough. And there could be some surprises. Maybe if I move on to Turkish and then I come back to Arabic, all of a sudden my Arabic speaking ability will improve as was the case with my Persian speaking ability after this period of benign neglect.
So don't be too fast. I shouldn't say don't speak, but it needn't be, you know, the objective number one in the early stages of learning the language, it's more a matter of what you feel like doing and what your needs. So thank you for listening. Bye for now.