I’m listening to Hamasaki Ayumi and wondering why it’s not socially acceptable to speak to yourself. Who is it weird for? People who aren’t in on your kickass conversation? People who don’t get all your inside jokes? Who?
I only say this because, as someone who has been relatively shy and not quite so keen to speak a different language in front of other people, I’m used to having quick convos with myself – nothing too substantial, I promise – in the language I’m learning. I can admit that I’ve sat in my room and explained why I liked this or why I preferred this over that in Japanese, just so I could see what words I still need to learn and what expressions I use a bit too much. I feel like it’s helped me in the long run.
But can this sort of interaction completely replace having a language partner? Can you actually be your own language partner or is that a level of weirdness that is just absolutely unacceptable? Hmm.
I have tried both – having short convos with myself about nothing and having short convos with friends about something – and I will say that they both have their advantages.
Talkin’ 2 myself
Since I was a kid, I’ve been doing this for reasons unknown, but I tend to do it a bit more often now that I’m learning a different language. As I said, while I wouldn’t classify myself as a shy person (I am actually a karaoke champion), I will say that I am a shy language learner. I know I have to speak, but I don’t always want to. I know making mistakes is part of learning, but I always feel like there are those mistakes that are okay to make and then there are those that are not. For example: “Oh, you used the wrong particle there – it’s okay, everyone confuses that, too” versus “Oh, I thought you said candy instead of rain, and then I didn’t know what you were talking about at all”. What do you think?
This is why I’ve always fancied having quick quips with myself for practice. It’s a judgement-free way that I can practice sentences and conversations. I know it’s not perfect, because for all I know, I could very well be saying the wrong thing, but it does help me feel a bit more confident to speak in the first place. And I do believe that’s the whole point: building up the confidence to participate in a conversation.
This is why you have friends
Before, you couldn’t make me say anything in a language class setting. It has always been a place of stress for me, even though I always did fairly well on tests and such. Even though I knew that I had the answer my teacher was looking for, I still didn’t want to speak. But once I began doing one-on-one practice or speaking with friends casually in smaller groups, it became much easier to loosen up. I found that it was easier to learn this way, especially if I said something that was a bit incorrect. Being corrected was no big deal and I really appreciated the instant feedback. It was way less daunting than being in a classroom setting as well.
I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with going over sentences or having brief discussions by yourself, because if anything, it gets you to open up and speak. Would I have felt as comfortable having conversations with friends if I hadn’t first gone through the motions in my head? Probably not. But the time I spent with friends learning is irreplaceable. I learned things faster by speaking with friends than I have on my own.
I don’t believe you can be your own language partner, but I do think the conversations you practice by yourself are important. Everyone’s beginning is different, but eventually, we all end up at the same place. If you find that mumbling to yourself in your target language about the price of lemons helps you later respond well and clearly in conversations with friends, then go for it. Who’s going to disagree? People who aren’t in on your kickass conversation, that’s who.
Do you have experience practising conversations by yourself or have you been doing language exchange since day one? Let me know!