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Hector de Isidro

Hector de Isidro

Hector de Isidro

Hector de Isidro

21 days ago

Why can't you speak English fluently even though you understand it?

Many of us have struggled for years to master a second language (in my case, English). Because (at least in my situation) we've always used an input-based system or method.

I'll explain in detail, but briefly: We can understand some conversations or sentences (since we've trained), but we can't give sophisticated answers or speak fluently (because we have NOT trained at all).

What exactly is input-based learning?

Reading, listening, writing, and speaking are key language abilities (if you look closely at that list, it seems that people tend to order them in this way: inadvertently giving more priority to the first ones than to the last ones).

These talents fall under two learning styles:

  • Reading and listening are input-based activities (sometimes referred to as receptive skills or passive learning).

  • Writing and speaking are output-based tasks (also known as the productive skills and/or active learning).

by Anson Wong

What's the best learning style? To learn a language, we must master four interconnected skills. The difficulty is how much time and effort we give each.

According to Shion Kabasawa's books The Power of Input: How to Maximize Learning and The Power of Output: How to Change Learning to Outcome (available only in Japanese), we spend 7:3 more time on Input Based skills than Output Based skills when we should be doing the opposite, leaning more towards Output (Input: Output->3:7).

I can't tell you how he got those numbers, but I think he's not far off because, for example, think of how many people say they're learning a second language and are satisfied bragging about it by only watching TV, series, or movies in VO (and/or reading a book or whatever) their Input is: 7:0 output!

You can't be good at a sport by watching TikTok videos about it; you must play.

“being pushed to produce language puts learners in a better position to notice the ‘gaps’ in their language knowledge”, encouraging them to ‘upgrade’ their existing interlanguage system. And, as they are pushed to produce language in real time and thereby forced to automate low-level operations by incorporating them into higher-level routines, it may also contribute to the development of fluency. — Scott Thornbury (P is for Push)

How may I practice output-based learning more?

I know that listening or reading is easy and convenient because we can do it on our own in a wide range of situations, even during another activity (although, as you know, it's not ideal), writing can be tedious/boring (it's funny that we almost always excuse ourselves in the lack of ideas), and speaking requires an interlocutor. But we must leave our comfort zone and modify our thinking to go from 3:7 to 7:3. (or at least balance it better to something closer). Gradually.

“You don’t have to do a lot every day, but you have to do something. Something. Every day.” — Callie Oettinger (Do this every day)

We can practice speaking like boxers shadow box.

Speaking out loud strengthens the mind-mouth link (otherwise, you will still speak fluently in your mind but you will choke when speaking out loud). This doesn't mean we should talk to ourselves on the way to work, while strolling, or on public transportation. We should try to do it without disturbing others, such as explaining what we've heard, read, or seen (the list is endless: you can TALK about what happened yesterday, your bedtime book, stories you heard at the office, that new kitten video you saw on Instagram, an experience you had, some new fact, that new boring episode you watched on Netflix, what you ate, what you're going to do next, your upcoming vacation, what’s trending, the news of the day)

Who will correct my grammar, vocabulary, or pronunciation with an imagined friend? We can't have everything, but tools and services can help [1].

Lack of bravery

Fear of speaking a language different than one's mother tongue in front of native speakers is global. It's easier said than done, because strangers, not your friends, will always make fun of your accent or faults. Accept it and try again. Karma will prevail.

Perfectionism is a trap. Stop self-sabotaging. Communication is key (and for that you have to practice the Output too ).

“Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the process.” — Ruri Ohama

[1] Grammarly, Deepl, Google Translate, etc.