Among Spanish learners who have studied for a while, a common complaint is “I can understand almost everything, but I just can’t speak!” This is typical in the process of Spanish language learning. There is a pre-production stage in which language learners can understand but not produce the target language. Although it is part of the process, language learners still need to work hard to overcome this stage and achieve fluency by practicing and overcoming the fear of producing.
Here are a few suggestions to help you break past the pre-production stage in Spanish
1. Imagine you have a different Spanish language personality:
Some people say that a person’s personality can change depending on the language they’re speaking. Cultural factors of the language may play in and help the person adopt a slightly different personality. Whatever the case, if you’re shy about trying out your new language skills, the power of believing you have the ability to change your personality to be an outgoing Spanish speaker might help you. Imagine you’re successful, bubbly and chatty in Spanish. If you believe it strongly enough you just might be able to overcome your shyness.
2. Put yourself in a situation where you are forced to speak:
There is nothing quite as effective for the shy Spanish-learner as being forced to speak. These are some options to force yourself to produce the language.
Stay with a host family: Although traveling to a Spanish speaking country will force you to speak some Spanish, it might not force you to speak as much Spanish as you’d like. By staying in hotels and eating in restaurants, you’re putting yourself in places where you’re likely to find other foreigners. Even if it’s unintentional, you’ll probably gravitate towards speaking, going out to eat and touring around with them rather than the locals who would assist in improving your Spanish. The alternative is to find a host family program. Many programs allow you to pay by the week and some options might even allow you to spend only a few nights with the family. If you go for this option, you can guarantee that you’ll speak a lot more Spanish and learn a lot more about the culture than if you stayed in a hotel. You’ll form great friendships and get great advice for touring from the family as well.
Take a class: Find university or interest classes offered in the Spanish language. Some universities and colleges have conversation clubs as well. If you enroll in a class, it’s likely that you can also participate in the clubs. With a professor watching and others also practicing, you’ll feel comfortable to speak Spanish as well. By taking the class, you´ll get the extra push you need to start producing. If you don’t have time to go to class, let the class go to your home taking it by Skype.
3. Enlist the help of your friends
Find a friend or two who are also learning Spanish and make a pact to practice together. You can use certain situations to get in the mood of speaking Spanish. Go to a salsa dance club or a restaurant with Spanish or Latin cuisine. For the duration of your time at the club or restaurant, only speak Spanish.