New languages are a tough thing to learn and even harder to become fluent in. That’s because there are numerous cultural differences when it comes to any foreign language, and many of them are quite different from the rules we have in English. More than anything, it takes practice and patience to gain perspective and experience in how to talk to a native speaker in their language. The more time you spend with native speakers, the more opportunities for practice you’ll have. For those learning Spanish, many communities on the west coast of the US will have vibrant LatinX communities where one can practice their Spanish in restaurants or with locals when they happen to be in the area. For those who are traveling periodically, it may take a little bit longer and require more effort to become fluent or gain practice communicating with native speakers.
First and foremost, avoid using words that may be offensive or off putting to those around you. A quick search for pendejo meaning will reveal just one of the many words in Spanish to avoid in polite conversation, whether you’re speaking to natives or not. This word is insulting, and may lead to misunderstandings or upsetting conversations if used. Make yourself aware of these phrases and words to the best of your ability.
To increase your conversational skills, it’s important to listen more than you speak. This piece of advice also applies to any US citizen, particularly men, engaging in any conversation at all. Conversation is about communication, and communication is always a two way street one hundred percent of the time, which means that your language practice depends on listening to and responding to other peoples communications. The way you respond determines how well you understand the language, and many native English speakers struggle with that in their own language let alone a foreign dialect.
Most people default on learning phrases given by textbooks or learning applications, but many times these phrases are impractical for daily use. Practice phrases that relate to you to gain a better understanding of how to express yourself in that language. That could mean learning common phrases you tend to say in your daily life or learning how to talk about subject matter that is interesting to you.
In the same vein, make sure to pay attention to phrases rather than just nouns, verbs, adjectives, and pronouns. Singular elements of sentences will give you some knowledge of the phonetic sounds included in a language, but how they are strung together in a sentence is the key to effective communication. Just like English, some sounds may blur together or flow differently in a sentence than they do as a singular word. Especially in languages like Spanish, French, and Italian. Words are often conjugated in practical use, so make sure to listen to phrases in addition to specific words.
Accents are going to be hard to replicate, but syllable pronunciation is something that you should pay attention to if you are trying to effectively communicate with a native speaker of any language. Vowels in particular have specific sounds in different languages and these are essential to being understood clearly by the person on the receiving end of the conversation. Pay close attention to the syllables that are pronounced in the native alphabet to more closely match the dialect you’re engaging with.
Talking to native speakers in their language can be intimidating. Just like English speakers, native speakers of other languages will likely talk a lot faster than the learner may be comfortable with. That’s understandable, but it’s important not to avoid fast conversations during the learning process. These conversations will help learners understand a language more deeply. At first it’s likely to be a struggle, but with time and practice the learning process will go a lot faster the more of these conversations one exposes themselves to.
Communicating with native speakers of a foreign language is an essential part of learning a language. That’s the ultimate goal; to be able to communicate effectively and fluently with native speakers. First and foremost, make sure you are aware of what words and phrases not to use. It’s easy to be misunderstood early on, and that can lead to some awkward situations if you aren’t aware of words and phrases that might be insulting or vulgar. Practice phrases that relate to you personally and make sure not to avoid fast conversations. This will help you understand the language faster and more deeply.