The key to language recall is repetition. It doesn't have to be boring if you mix up the scenarios and ways that you practice with yourself.
Of course, the best way to practice is with a native speaker. But if you can't or don't feel confident yet, then work with what you've got.
Here are three steps you can take in improving your recall in your target language.
1. Repetition is your friend
Repeating one conversation over and over will quickly improve your recall. Try having a conversation in your head and repeat that several times until you feel confident.
In my first year of learning Spanish, I'd find myself repeating convos in my head. I often imagined what I'd say to someone I knew.
These imaginary conversations in my head could be just greeting them casually using some expressions I had heard and wanted to feel more confident using in real life.
Constant repetition of basic convos helped me gain a lot of confidence in going to the next step.
2. Switch up the scenario
When you feel confident about that conversation, change the scene. Instead of imagining talking with the waiter, imagine having the same conversation with the cashier at the grocery store instead.
For instance, I'd practice over and over what I needed to say before walking into a bodega. Then I'd do the same before going into a restaurant. Or the laundromat. Or the bank. Or the salon.
Basically, whatever I needed to do that day I'd go over in my head first what I needed to ask.
This constant repetition helped me not stumble over my words so much. And it would also prepare me for things they may ask me about my order or request. While I couldn't anticipate everything they'd ask me, at least I had the basics down and knew I could do things by myself without relying on someone to constantly interpret for me.
3. Listen to yourself
You can also record yourself and listen back to catch your mistakes.
I started recording myself on my laptop or phone so I could playback and pick out my grammar and pronunciation mistakes.
But don't forget to pat yourself on the back for all the times you get the lines correct.
But I'm not the only one who these tips work for. They helped one of our students, India. She's often told me she has trouble with recall.
But working with her Italian teacher Elena to prepare for her trip to Italy. With Elena, she practiced basic convos over and over in one scenario. And then she moved to mixing up those convos in different scenarios.
It was wonderful getting messages from India on her trip about how confident she felt speaking with the waiters in Italy and chatting it up with other native speakers.
She had the time of her life on that trip. She felt like she could put herself out there in Italian for the first time ever.
She's actually going back in a few months and is excited to have even more conversations with native Italian speakers. And she wants to help out her family members by interpreting for them when they go to restaurants and stores.
This is what I wish for you, too. When you're ready to feel more confident, follow the steps I outlined above. And then message me to go to the next level with a native speaker who will make you feel wonderful about learning Spanish, Italian, or English.
Jackie Donaldson is the owner and director of Amidon Studios Language Studies. She started Amidon Studios in 2017 after managing a language institute in Lima, Peru. She's taught students from all over the world while living in Peru, Mexico, and the U.S. When she's not working or studying, you'll find her gardening, playing with her cat Frankie, swimming, baking, and exploring the globe.
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