I have a question regarding speaking ability

So basically I’ve been studying Italian for more than a year and despite my words read and hours listened count on Lingq being pretty low (200k, take into account that I have done a lot of stuff regarding Comprehensible input outside of Lingq) and despite being able to understand 90% of any given media I consume, I just can’t produce the language at all, and it’s driving me crazy. Has this happened to anyone else? And if so, How did you fix it?


Lots of passive listening, coupled with repetition and shadowing exercises of upper beginner courses such as “Who is she” or Assimil lessons.

And of course actual speaking. You can’t do this without eventually moving to speaking practice.

A note on shadowing and repetition: This is best to do with short upper beginner / lower intermediate lessons. What you need first and foremost for speaking is to be very much at ease with the basic stuff, so that you can easily slide into the small talk phase of a conversation. If you can do that with ease AND you have a big passive vocabulary from reading and you have good listening comprehension, more complex conversations will be relatively easy to get to.


Hi, alejomorichetti!

Yes, this happened to me with French (as one of my first languages): After about 800 hours of reading French newspapers/magazines (without listening/speaking much, except at school), I was a “fluency disaster on two legs” :slight_smile:

Here´s my personal take on how to deal with this problem (from this LingQ discussion in April 2021: What are the Pros and Cons of Books(with Audiobooks) vs TV Shows/Youtube Videos (with transcripts)? - Open Forum - LingQ Language Forums):

*** quote ***
Can you achieve this level of fluency without living in a foreign country where your target language is spoken?

Definitely, esp. with all the media we have at our disposal nowadays!
So, what could you do?

  1. At your level (B1-B2 / B2 or above), you can still follow @t_harangi’s advice to read contemporary popular fiction (e.g. crime novels),with lots of dialog (if you haven’t done so far). However, you should use audiobooks or audio dramas to complement your reading. But this isn’t enough if you want to achieve oral fluency in everyday interactions.
  2. Listening a lot (!) to fast-paced everyday conversations between two or more native speakers is key, in my opinion. This can mean listening to talk radio, interviews, podcasts / (Youtube) videos with guests, or contemporary and realistic TV series (soap operas, sitcoms / comedies, dating shows, etc.). However, you should avoid media formats that aren’t contemporary / realistic (e.g., “The Witcher”, “Vikings”, “The Last Kingdom”, etc. and their Russian pendants) or have low word-density (like many movies). News is also not so helpful in this context as it usually contains too little everyday interaction (but it’s also an ok choice at the beginning when soap operas / sitcoms, etc. are still to difficult to understand).
  3. It’s best to import the transcripts / subtitles of the episodes into LingQ and start with assisted listening. For example: reading first, then listening 3-5 times unassisted. Or: reading and listening simultaneously, then listening 3-5 times unassisted. Or: reading first, doing some SRS exercises, then listening 3-5 times without help, etc.
  4. You can combine points 1-3 with some active speaking and writing exercises by making an oral/written summary of each episode / book chapter. You could then use these summaries both in speaking sessions with your tutors and in other writing forums.
  5. You should talk to your tutors about 1-2 times a week. But the most important thing is what you do outside of these sessions (= points 1-4)! This includes:It’s a good idea to be prepared in these sessions (almost) all the time, at least in the beginning!
    I could write much more about these topics, but I think you get the idea.

When will you see a big improvement in oral fluency? It’s hard to say and it depends on several factors (e.g., the target language, the topics, your prior knowledge, etc.), but from my personal experience I’d say after about 400-500 h of listening and about 100-150 h of speaking with your tutors or other native speakers. Note: It doesn’t have to be “active” (fully focused) listening all the time. An active and active / passive listening “mix” should be enough. For example as follows:

  • Session 1: Comedy XY, episode 1: reading + active listening using LingQ (with / without SRS).
  • Sessions 2 and 3 (or more): Just active-passive listening while doing some mindless activity and using a dedicated device like a “dumb” MP3 player that you can use “everywhere”.
    *** unquote ***

Esp. points 4 and 5 should be of interest to you.

See also this YT video for some other strategies to improve your speaking (alone):

Hope that helps / good luck


Speaking and listening are two separate skills. You might want to look up a technique called “shadowing” on youtube.

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Reading and listening are good ways to input content (words, expressions, grammar) into your head but they remain passive. In my experience, unless I actively USE the language, I will not come up with the content spontaneously in a conversation nor will I develop good pronunciation and intonation. To speak, you need to practice speaking, a LOT, beginning on your own. Don’t expect to be able to speak at the level that you read or listen to podcasts. I can only talk about and use the expressions that I know really well. There are several techniques that help to move passive knowledge to active usage. I suggest doing several if not all of them since each helps in various ways. Inasmuch as they are harder to do than passive learning, start with only a few minutes and then do something different. The goal is to create a good association/feeling about each activity because then you are more likely to repeat it. If something is too hard, break it down into smaller pieces and do it for LESS amount of time.
1. Start with easier content (e.g., a LingQ lesson) than you have been listening to and repeat one sentence at a time (no reading since presumably you already understand it). Pause the audio and repeat it out loud from memory. At first do short sentences, then gradually do longer ones as you are able. (You may have thought you understood the sentence, but when forced to repeat it from memory, it is not so easy, depending on its length.) Work with material that is spoken by someone in a conversational manner, preferably using expressions that you yourself might use.
2. Shadowing is similar but involves repeating what the other person is saying while they are saying it; that is, you are a second or two behind them. This requires greater understanding of the content because in essence you have to anticipate what is being said. Shadowing is good for easier material or for that which you already know.
3. Integrate the language in your life. Write a list of things that you want to do every day. (Look up any words you don’t know.) When you’ve completed the items, write that you completed them. This enables you to talk about your activities in various tenses: the imperative (do X!), the future (I will do X) and past tenses (I did X). After you’ve written each sentence, say it out loud from memory several times until you are not stumbling over it. It is excellent if you write the same tasks for several days in a row because you will learn to talk about them effortlessly and in slightly different ways. Add new vocabulary or grammatical patterns as you learn them from other content. When you know how to say that you made yourself coffee really well, for example, add something different or comment about anything that is pertinent to YOU at that moment: friends, politics, health, whatever. Make it real as it will be easier to learn and remember.
4. Read out loud content that you were previously just reading silently. Flag expressions that you yourself want to use in conversation and make up a few new sentences with them, the content of which --again - is relevant to YOU at that moment. BTW, learning common expressions by heart will help move your conversations along without your trying to piece together each and every word.
5. As you go about your day, narrate (preferably out loud when you are alone), what you are doing.
You can also do this walking someplace that is deserted (in a park, on the beach, on quiet city streets, etc.).
6. When your are able to talk about several simple topics to yourself for several minutes and in several ways, book regular lessons with a tutor (through LingQ or iTalki). Start for short periods (30 minutes). Everyone is very nervous at first and feel they have forgotten much of what they thought they knew. I recommend writing about a topic that you yourself want to talk about at first and PRACTICE it out loud before your lesson. You won’t remember everything but at least you won’t feel (so much) like a deer in the headlights. You will make lots of mistakes. Everyone does. Good luck!


By practicing speaking!
If you understand 90% of the media you consume, you ought to seize the opportunity to practice speaking.

As your passive understanding of Italian is under your belt at your level, the best way to get better at speaking is to practice speaking. Why not speak with a tutor - or if you want to speak for free - find native Italians you can speak with.

As you currently “can’t produce the language at all”, prepare for the conversation in advance. Write down key vocabulary - what you do professionally or what you study if you are a student or a teenager, your hobbies, your family situation, your plans for the future - and practice on your own in front of the mirror first. Then introduce yourself in conversation with a native Italian speaker. As you’ve already prepared, it’ll be easier to produce the words, and you can also ask that person about themselves.

Conversing with a native Italian speaker - once you feel prepared - will boost your confidence and you may want to do it again and again, gradually transitioning from prepared conversation to a more spontaneous manner.

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