Should You Start Speaking a Foreign Language Before You’re Ready? - Steve Kaufmann

People often ask me “When should I start speaking? Should I wait until I am ready?”
I’ve learned 20 languages, and one of the most important lessons has been that you shouldn’t wait!
You will NEVER be fully ready to start speaking, and there will always be more to learn. So you might as well start practicing.
The good news is that you can start communicating even with a small vocabulary and shaky grammar.
As you will see in the linked video, I recently did interview for Easy Polish while visiting in Kraków, Poland. I spent a few months learning Polish 8 years ago, but have barely touched the language since. As expected, my Polish was pretty limited.
It was certainly not my smoothest interview. I really struggled to find the right words. Some English, Ukrainian, and Czech slipped in.
But guess what? I was still able to communicate. I was able to (mostly) understand and (mostly) be understood. And THAT is what matters most.
In this video, I go into more detail about why you should not wait to start speaking. And stick around to the end for some clips from my labored Polish interview!



Trying to find your latest reposts of vids. from Steve like before and this is the newest that comes up?!
Zoran’s dedicated postings deserve better.

OTOH, what’s the price for waiting?

To be sure one loses the progress one might have achieved had one started earlier.

However, does that compound into a more serious problem, aside from the lost time?

Olly Richards suggests that the problem with waiting is that speaking can build up into an even more scary problem the longer one waits.

I can take that point though, unless one catastrophizes the prospect, isn’t this just another problem on the way to mastery? The time one doesn’t spend speaking is time spent building other skills.

Currently I’ve put off speaking because I wish to renew contact with my French tutor, but LingQ hasn’t fixed the interface bug so I can reach her again.

So I have been thinking about this problem. If it goes on too long, I’ll make other arrangements. In the meantime I’m not worried that I’m not speaking Right Now Just Yet.

Wasn’t there a Krashen/Kaufmann video where Krashen spoke of some region with several multilingual tribes?

By osmosis people acquired other languages. However, there were two rules;

(1) No one was required to speak before they felt moved to do so.
(2) No one was to correct anyone who started speaking.

It sounded great to me. Though I didn’t do any research behind the claims.

Here’s the Krashen excerpt I mentioned:


One of the biggest anxiety producing things is having to talk before you’re ready in a language class.

Now there’s some interesting anthropological research that backs this up. A guy named Sorenson went to the Amazon Valley and looked at a group of 10,000 people on the border between two countries who spoke like 24 languages, not all related. 10,000 is not that much.

You go to a football game there’re 10,000 people in the stadium. That’s not very much, but, and so this is really not a big number.

They were all pretty good in languages. They picked up mommy’s language, daddy’s language, language of their friends, gradually the language of all the local lingua franca and were heavily monolingual. So Sorenson interviewed them.*

How do you do it? We don’t try to say anything. We don’t force it unless we think we’re ready. We just wait, we just listen. And then it comes.

By the way in that culture, you are forbidden from correcting anybody for doing anything.

Okay. Other studies have found the same thing. We go to another country and we just stay there, be with the people until we can hear the language, which means understand it. They say for them consistent results, it takes a year or two before you’re comfortable.

–Steve Krashen

The whole video is excellent and worth mining for other insights.

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