Once I thought immersion was an effective way of enhancing my language proficiency. But later I found I was altogether wrong. Benny Lewis, the blogger of “Fluent in 3 Months”, recounted how he first learnt Spanish. Despite his attempt to study Spanish in Spain for long, his competence of the language, he confessed, did not improve. I thus came up with a conclusion: the mastery of a language does not depend on whether you study abroad, but depends on the strength of your determination.
In my case, I cannot afford abundant time and money to live in different countries just for the sake of language learning. In order to create a favorable linguistic environment, I tried instead to swap the system language of my smartphone from Chinese to Japanese, and to gain as much access to Japanese as possible. In spite of my endeavors, it seemed to me I could not get the gist of learning.
But then I experimented with finding a Japanese pen-pal and exchanging emails/messages with him in my target language. To my amazement, my vocabulary has increased in no time, and I found it easier and more comfortable to express myself. In the meantime, my language partner also wanted to brush up his target language, which means we practiced speaking our native and target languages alternately. My experience tells me that it does work, although there are something you may need to consider when looking for a language exchange partner.
The importance of common interest(s)
It is essential that you and your buddy share common interests with one another so that both of you can get on with the conversation. For instance, if both are maniac of Japanese anime, you will naturally have a lot to share with, and in order to get your message across, I bet you will spare no pains to fumble for the right expression.
Certain tolerance of grammatical errors
Even though it sounds contradictory and even ridiculous to advise not to let your language partner correct your grammatical mistakes, overemphasis of the utterance of error proof sentences nonetheless hinders you from making quicker progress. The more you speak with the native, the more readily capable you will be of rectifying the mistakes yourself.
Use of various social networking platforms
As we have entered into the age of Internet, face-to-face communication through video chat has become easily available. You can have regular conversation exchange with your buddy, or, in case your schedule does not match with his/hers, smartphone applications such as skype, line and kakao talk allows you to enjoy the service of instant messaging – a user-friendly platform for you to develop friendship and to foster your language skills simultaneously.
Bridging the gap of cultural understanding
As language and culture are inextricably linked, an enhancement of your language skills also promises a deepening in the understanding of its culture, too. Through getting along with a native, you do not only establish long-standing friendship with him/her, you can also get a peek into their custom and history.
I hope the above advice can help you succeed in mastering the language(s) you want to.
[Featured image taken by James on 4th April, 2016 at Kyoto, Japan]