When you speak, don’t think about grammar rules

Speaking is not about grammar rules. When you write, you have time to think about right or wrong and occasionally you can try finding a phrase using google, use spellcheck and use a dictionary. When you speak you can’t. But there is someone you are speaking to and who can either correct immediately or ask back for your intended meaning or give you feedback later.
I took a long time before I started speaking Russian and I still hesitate before I try it again, mostly because I lack vocabulary to make my meanings clear. I don’t worry so much about grammar while speaking as long as I have enough words to express myself. And I can always ask for a word say in English and then go on.to use it.
I have seen the effect of this in Spanish and Swedish and as you try again and again you get better and better at forming sentences without thinking of them as translations from another language.
I like the experience of “negotiating meaning” (a phrase from Greg Thomson on the sil.org website) with a friendly native speaker who is patient enough to help me out. And this is a different way of learning a language than by reading and listening. It’s real communication. And it shows you what you really are able to use, not just understand, and often you will surprise yourself saying something you wouldn’t have written like that and find that the native speaker understood you.
In daily life communication often relies on shortcuts, that may be a reason why learners of a foreign language may feel inadequate, because you tend to use full sentences, as teachers usually require you to do, instead of using short phrases. That’s where listening to real conversations comes in handy – how to react to questions, how to rephrase and make short statements, that’s a real challenge for beginners.
Of course if you are used to talking in a very lengthy way in English, like me in German, this may strain your partner’s patience, but this shouldn’t prevent you from trying things out. In the end people will recognize your effort to communicate and try to help you. I’m too much of an introvert myself, I think too much instead of just saying something. But I enjoy the experience – probably because I’m hooked on this feeling of communicative success that I had as a twelve-year-old in Birmingham, England, with just two years of English. I could hardly understand people’s dialect, but they understood me. That was the greatest feeling of all and I want to experience it again and again.

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