How I Learn Languages by Having Conversations

For a very long time I have made the mistake to try to learn languages by studying. I wasted countless hours reading, listening and memorizing vocabulary. Last year I came across Tony Marsh and his methodology for learning languages. He has some great explanations on his blog as well as on his You-Tube-Channel. The basic idea is that you learn a language by speaking it and for speaking you need to have a few structural tools that you can rely on while speaking.

Tools To Use in a Conversation

You learn a language by having conversations. But how can you have a conversation if you don’t know the language? Use a Language Map and Conversation builder!

Language Map

Here is a great explanation of how a language map works: Language Map from Tony Marsh. A Language Map contains the most important grammar all in one sheet and serves as an aid while speaking. As I speak, I can pick from the structures what I need.

I also use it as the tool where I continuously add what I learn about the structure of the language. It’s a wonderful way to get a grasp of grammar visually and spatially.

Conversation Builder

This is basically a personal phrasebook. The Conversation Builder collects all useful chunks I might use in conversations again and again. It grows organically as I explore more and more topics using the target language.

I write it in a question-answer format. This helps me to keep a conversation going by asking questions and I am also prepared to answer the question if it comes back. Using the document structure view in Google Docs or the navigation pane in Microsoft Word, chunks can be found extremely quick and used in the conversation.

Improving Through Conversations

Preparation Before a Conversation

  1. Prepare questions.
  2. Prepare answers.

Practice During a Conversation

  1. Asking precise questions. – Questions are like keys. Each one opens up a door of possibilities and they are especially helpful for keeping a conversation running in the beginning stages. I want my questions to be grammatically correct and to sound confident asking them.
  2. Expressing my ideas clearly. – This will be imperfect and I will improve gradually. I am just shooting for making myself understood, no matter how basic it sounds.
  3. Exploring where people talk about my areas of interest online. – My conversation partner might help me find groups where people actively talk about my interests and help me join the conversation. This will get me even more excited about using the language.

After a Conversation

  1. Enter new grammatical structures into the Language Map.
  2. Enter new topics, verbs and questions into the Conversation Builder.
  3. Create and publish one piece of content on my blog. I want to create and contribute in my target language. And the best time to start is now.

How to Find People to Talk With

If you already know people who speak your target language, great use it with them. Otherwise you can look for language tandems locally or online at such platforms such as such as Italki, which is also a great place to find online language teachers and tutors. I have tested it. The process to book and schedule a lesson is extremely straightforward and smooth. I have found great teachers there.

Now, how about you? Which language would you absolutely love to speak? What topics are you passionate about? Who could you share them with?

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