Conversational ability

Has anyone had the experience of working towards a conversational level of fluency in a short period of time ? From everything I’ve read, from Steve, from Krashan, input seems to be the most important factor. I want to have a good converstional level of French by October. Right now I’m very pleased with how much I understand of French radio broadcasts, and I’m addicted to the Chère Journal series of books for pre-teens, where my comprehension is very good. But with a language exchange partner, my brain seems empty ! I understand her probably 95%, but I struggle to express myseIf. I tell myself that magic will happen at some point and my spoken French will happen…but I have a target date that the magic must occur!

Any advice welcome!

There is a big difference between understanding and speaking.
For understanding it’s enough to know words passively, but for speaking we have to know words actively, they must be at the tip of your tongue.
Sometimes it helps if you prepare the list of the words which you want to use in the conversation before the discussion with the native speaker.


You need to start talking, as much as possible. You have enough of a base. But don’t neglect your input activities. Good luck.

Listening is more of a passive exercise, so that explains why it seems you can understand more than you can speak.

From anecdotal experience, my brain gets lazy when I listen. It’s a passive exercise, so there are times I auto pilot and my brain tries to take the easy way out when trying to understand the message, so I don’t pay attention the whole time.

More active exercises like speaking require more attentiveness and more quick thinking.

Start to listen more. Perhaps there are things you’re not fully getting while listening to lessons. I found the more I listen, the more in depth I can decipher inside my brain rather than doing the minimal “oh, I understand the message, that’s all I need” and I found these words I can’t get out of my head! Therefore, I can say these words on command. Basically, the more I listen, there is some pay out for gaining active vocabulary I feel.


Darn !
…but just maybe Plautus is right…

I’ve been quite excited and surprised, actually, when I hear a word on the radio that I learned from reading it once! And I agree, I can certainly listen more attentively…

How is your conversational ability in your native language?
I can hear a lot of gaps when I speak my native tongue. That’s why I am not very disappointed when I face them when I speak other languages.
When I try to talk to oneself it seems everything’s fine and I can find the words quickly. But when I try to make audio recordings it is obvious how much work should be done to sound smoother.
I would recommend to make some audio recordings just to have more practice.

what a fabulous idea; I know it will be painful to listen to…but what the heck, nobody else has to hear it. This will be especially useful using the vocabulary I need, and I can practice for my language exchange meetings.
my conversational ability in my L1, English, is fine and pain-free.