We meet students of all levels on the Cambly learning platform and many express the same sentiment. So why is it so? Daily I see children smiling shyly, communicating by drawing on our interactive Kids program; answering correctly but reluctant to speak. Why are they able to comprehend but unable to articulate? Students struggle to keep at a pace with their skill frustratedly trying to express in a multilingual arena. Of course, our work and conversations online expand their vocabulary and ability, but is there a key to overcoming this obstacle?
I believe there is, and it isn’t as cut and dried as one might suspect.
Is it lack of confidence or vocabulary? For many it is the delayed thought process that polyglots experience…thinking in their language and translating before they produce a reply.
Why is this cumbersome? Because most languages do not follow our structure. So word by word translation leads to a jumble. This is why conversational learning one on one with a written guide can combine all elements for success.
Subtitles please! I encourage my students to watch programming with subtitles, I have them watch their own language with english subtitles and switch it up randomly. This tricks the brain into changing lanes smoothly when moving between languages.
Look for the friends! Conversation addresses the ebb and flow of information. When we offer information to non natives we tailor it so they understand us, simple tenses, less idiomatic usage, fewer phrasal verbs and concise sentences. Hanging onto shared words or easily recognized ones (you, me, yes, no) sense memory kicks in and communication swirls around until the message is received. A listener prepares their mindset for information being imparted to them with visual and intellectual clues.
A non-sequitur will almost always be a speed bump in a conversation with a non native speaker. For example, as an articulate (or so I thought) Italian speaker I was flummoxed by a waiters question: “gassato o senza gassato” after I suavely ordered my full meal in perfect Italian. He had simply asked if I wanted carbonated water or flat. Derp. The smallest confusion can stop you in your tracks.
Armed with this information, maybe we can bridge the gaps that learners feel and try to make the leaps of faith we need to take when exploring culture and communication with the world around us.
Author: Wendee P, Cambly Tutor
If you’d like to keep this conversation going with Wendee, give her a call on Cambly or make a reservation with her here: https://www.cambly.com/en/student/tutor/Wendee%20P