When do YOU start speaking?

It seems that every public polyglot has a different recommendation. Benny Lewis says “speak from day one.” Stephen Krashen says speaking comes quite naturally on its own time after massive volumes of comprehensible input and can often take years. Lýdia Machová says to improve speaking one must practice speaking, though she tends to wait until after two months of listening to start. Steve Kaufmann waits until after about eight months of listening.

When does everyone here try speaking when you’re learning a language? Does the time you start change with the kind of language your learning (for example, if it’s very distant do you wait longer, or if the speaking is very different from the writing, do you start right away)? And of experienced polyglots, does your approach to speaking now differ from when you first began learning languages?

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In general, I cannot learn to speak a language if I do not speak. But to speak from day one seems to me more of an inspiration to develop the mindset and attitude towards speaking. It is often satisfying when greeting and thanking people in their language. In daily life there are unfortunately not many opportunities for meaningful conversations from day one. Situations where you can introduce yourselves, explaining the way to tourists or ordering meals in foreign restaurants are not extensive. It is a long way from traveler topics towards real conversation. Especially challenging are countries where people have a good knowledge of your native language (if you are English and you want to learn Dutch). It is a mayor achievement if people stick with your target language. So although I am convinced that I need to speak to learn a language, I have spent with all languages a period of mostly reading and listening. But the process and time is certainly influenced by the environment, what language you learn (language family different from your native language), cultural aspects, personal needs, motivation and real life targets.

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I can only speak from my experience and I don’t have a time frame for speaking. I’m also not a polyglot, yet. I think that is important to at least begin to create the tones of the language in your mouth and out loud as soon as possible. You can do this by mimicking what you hear while doing listening practice. Getting an opportunity to speak in a natural way can be difficult, especially if you’ve chosen an “unpopular” language. I’ve been practicing my languages for about 3 years and I’ve only recently begun to speak any of them in a conversational way. I feel like, depending on your goal, that speaking should come at a time when you’ve had the quantity of input/output that would allow you to feel like you’ve got the basics down. And, of course, you have to define what speaking is for you. Speaking by talking to yourself and practicing vocabulary, speaking by having a lesson with a tutor, speaking by creating content for a vlog(or the like), speaking by conversation with another person, etc. I can’t give a solid answer, because I feel it is personal to each language learner. Although, this is a great question.

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I start speaking early on. When I learned Japanese I was living in country and had no choice but to speak. When I took French in American high school English wasn’t permitted in the classroom. At home I often speak in multiple languages even though my wife and son are monolingual.

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I agree with the the class room language being the target language from early on. During Italki lessons I stick to the target language with my tutor.

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I felt that it was important for me to know enough vocabulary to have a good or basic conversation, so I waited for at least 2-4 months to try speaking the language. The good thing is that I also learn words through practicing because of the other speakers that I’m with, so it helps me know more words and have better conversations. I’m on Steve’s side of the argument, I wait.

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I don’t mind starting early on in a classroom with the teacher, but when it comes to a tandem situation, I’d wait to be able to say more useful things than just “I am… I come from…” although it’s hard, you kinda want to try out what you can do :smiley:

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On the subject of the Netherlands, I found from personal experience that when I spoke in Dutch very badly, I would usually still get a reply in Dutch!
I personally start speaking immediately as I get a thrill from applying knowledge, even if I only know 1 word. And I learn best by “doing”. I also would feel sillier if I just spoke English rather than trying to speak the local language very badly!

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Just one more comment: I like “chatting” online - it is between speaking and writing - still spontaneous like speaking, but you have more time to think through your response, like when writing

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When I was rushing to learn French for a trip I started with a tutor on italki right away. I felt that it helped me get some of the survival down but I felt like I was drowning with every session without a strong vocabulary. Since tutors are the most “expensive” part of the language learning process I have stopped speaking all together. now I can read pretty well but still don’t have a great ear for the language. I think not speaking is hindering my listening.

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For me, whenever I learn a new language, I always start speaking from Day 1. Starting with just a simple “Hello” or “Good Morning” and I gradually expand it to a simple self introduction and as I explore further in the language, the content of what I speak gets deeper. It has worked out really well for me over the years and it really aids not just in speaking but also listening and even reading and writing.

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…but who do you start with? Random native speakers, friends that are native speakers, or a teacher? To me that makes a huge difference in whether I dare to speak early or not.

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For languages that I have friends with native speakers, I will talk to them. But for those that I don’t know any native speakers, I usually turn to language exchange apps. For most of my foreign languages, I have a tutor either face-to-face or online. It helps me to build a strong foundation. But talking to natives is very important so that you can sound more natural and not textbook-like.

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I am all for starting speaking from day 1 myself. This doesn’t mean you have to find native speakers to speak to, and actually native speakers might be a bit unnecessary at this stage. I usually just talk to myself in the new language, starting off with basic things like self intro - who I am, what I do, what hobbies I have… Then once I become a bit more advanced, I thinking about situations in daily life - what would I say to a waiter, how do I buy a train ticket, how can I open a bank account, etc.

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Yes I totally agree that at the beginner stage where you probably know just a few words, talking to yourself is a good way to at least incorporate speaking practice in your target language, I do that very often. However, when you start to have conversations, even simple ones like ordering or asking for directions, then I think having a native speaker to correct and guide you helps a lot.

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I’ve never been too happy with “mainly-input” learning methods. I find that I get really good at reading and listening but it doesn’t necessarily translate to learning how to speak fluently (ie with confidence). Since learning Welsh with SaySomethingInWelsh (which gets you producing the language from day 1 as the primary method of learning) I find that it is a much better method for me. I now generally try to spend 1 month learning the language using an output method (SaySomethingIn, Pimsleur, etc) and then try to get into simple conversations as much as possible. I find that this really helps learning to take off.

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Sounds like a good method. I will try these for the languages that I will be learning! Thanks for the input

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I’m noticing, when I speak Spanish, that old rules (learned studying grammar half a century ago) and a new sense of what “sounds” right (acquired in extensive reading in the past 10 months) are both competing for my attention. And, frankly, I’d like the sense of what “sounds” right to get stronger, and the rules to GO AWAY. It could be that, by speaking, I am keeping those rules somewhat alive… though that seems less likely, now that I’ve convinced my interlocutors that I really don’t want much correction.

I am giving a lot of attention to observing myself learn/acquire, and I’m thinking: when forms that are (mostly) correct start spontaneously offering themselves as a way to express oneself is when to speak. (It’s more complicated when trying to get learned grammar to shut up [my Spanish] or trying to get mis-conceptions of how things are pronounced to die away [my French].)

In other words: I’m looking at certain experiences as a marker of readiness–notably, the experience of forms “presenting themselves” as “obvious”–and not looking at time as a marker of readiness.

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I have always tried speaking asap, though lately have begun doing more reading and writing, listening…

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