By Luciana Patri
Don’t be too scared to attempt conversation
In order to get started, someone has to break the ice. Luckily, conversation is one of those things that will become easier with time –the more you practice it, the more confident you become about starting a conversation with someone. To be able to develop this confidence, keep it easy the first couple of times: talk about topics you are interested in and use expressions you are familiar with. Once you have introduced yourself as an international student or visitor, expect questions about your origins, your travel and studies, so make sure you know how to explain all these things.
Don’t be offended if people find it hard to understand you
It doesn’t necessarily mean you are saying it wrong: remember that everyone has an accent –you have your foreign accent as well as native speakers have theirs. For example, a British person may find it hard to understand a Scottish or even an American accent. So, despair not! As long as you practice, your accent will gradually improve and you will get used to the harder pronunciations. Also, ask for an explanation if you say something wrong –this way you’ll turn your mistakes into something new to learn.
Don’t get frustrated with yourself
Results will not be visible overnight. Make sure you keep track of your progress by writing down new words you learn and don’t forget to update and revise your list regularly. Moreover, practice your English with the people you feel most comfortable with –the more you enjoy it, the faster you learn! If you are struggling to find conversation partners, consider expanding your search through the use of worldwide social networks, promoting international meetings and language exchanges. Most of these are thematic, so you will have the chance to meet people who share your interests.
Don’t worry about making mistakes
What really matters when you talk to someone is making yourself understood. Unless your friends are very picky –no one is going to check your spelling and grammar while you are speaking, so don’t be afraid! If they want to understand you, they will. If you don’t mind being reminded of your mistakes, you could also ask a trusted (and patient) friend to correct you every time you say something wrong. Books and teachers are important, but learning from our own mistakes is the best practical way to learn.
Don’t compare yourself to other English Speakers
What you see is just the result, but you don’t know what they have been through: some might have worked harder or longer than you have, whereas some are just more inclined to learning languages. Instead of feeling discouraged by other English speakers, try to discuss your learning experience with them: they are most likely going through the same difficulties as you or did in the past, and they might be able to give you some good advice. Since learning a foreign language is an ongoing process, it is much more useful to be supportive than competitive.