I think it would be fair to say that speaking is the main problem area of my language learning attempts.
Whilst I’ve had some success picking up individual words, and have decent reading skills in Spanish, speaking aloud is my big weakness. My biggest fear is getting words wrong – I dislike being incorrect. This fear is very unhelpful in language acquisition, as you learn from your mistakes!
And as a recent study shows, conversing is essential to language development. A UCLA study found that activities that got children talking were more conducive to language acquisition than other methods.
Each day, children hear an average of some 13,000 words spoken to them by adults and participate in about 400 conversational turns with adults. More conversations mean more opportunities for mistakes and therefore more opportunities for valuable corrections. Furthermore, they also provide an opportunity for children to practice new vocabulary. (Source: Eurekalert.org)
Whilst the study focused on language acquisition in children, I think the findings can be applied to all language learning. Make the most of any opportunity you have to converse in your chosen language – and don’t be scared to make mistakes! I’ll be trying to speak up more in class, why don’t you give it a try at some Spanish lessons in Miami?