Speaking earlier or later

I recently came across this post on the internet by Benny Lewis and I was wondering what successful second language learners on lingq thought about it.

The silent period - a comfortable way to waste time » Fluent in 3 Months

I feel no urgency to speak all at the moment mainly because I’m still a beginner and would prefer to be able to read and understand most native material first. According to the article I’m just a procrastinator and wasting my time, but I don’t see the point in talking about useless things like introductions etc/ beginner topics. I would rather wait until I could have a more meaningful conversation.

This isn’t the first post I’ve seen on the subject. I remember another one where the guy basically said if you’re not speaking at least half and hour 3 times a week, your spinning your wheels and not going to progress.

Is this necessary to speak early to make the best progress? Since I’ve never learned another language I would like to hear other successful second language learners weigh in on this subject.

I’m under the impression that most advice about learning languages (and many other things, as well) is phrased in terribly radical terms.
I think a bit of perspective is much needed: there’s more than one way to learn a language.
Here at Lingq we sometimes give a too extreme piece of advice in the opposite direction: Don’t “force yourself” to talk too soon! It’s all about input! …
My own position is more similar to Stephen Kaufman/Lingq’s: tackling comprehension and improving your vocabulary is the bottleneck in the language learning process. But I wouldn’t put it in the extreme terms sometimes found in the forum.

So, definitely, no you’re not a procrastinator for delaying conversation. Stephen Kaufmann has learned quite a few languages doing exactly that. I’m more or less doing the same in my study of Russian and I’m pretty happy with my progress so far.
On the other hand, if you happened to be interested in practicing conversation at an early stage (Benny’s way), it wouldn’t be a disaster, either and it may be the way to go for some people and in some circumstances.

So, find out about different approaches, don’t take any piece of advice at heart (including mine, of course!), find your won way. As long as you expose yourself to the language on a regular basis and stay motivated you’ll be making progresses.

Ich wünsche dir viel Erfolg!

I’ve just read Benny’s post. I still maintain what I wrote before but I do agree with him that “preparing before speaking” will never take away the risk/embarrassment factor, so “getting ready” shouldn’t be take as a reason for postponing the active phase.
Again, speak when you feel like it, don’t postpone it out of fear, don’t rush it out of a sense of duty. You’ll have to get used to making mistakes, even “silly” mistakes, sooner or later, however “well prepared” you may be.

I also agree with this:
“Not being ready is a state of mind…”

For me embarrassment is a none issue. I love talking to any German I come across but can’t really say anything meaningful because of my lack of exposure to the language. Sure I could take a course like assimil and talk a lot and then not understand much of what they say back. Again I would really like to hear from those here on lingQ who successfully learned a second language, as to their method to learning it. Did they use the silent period, listen and read, then maybe write and eventually speak?

I have not learned a second language as an adult, although Im here because I am currently trying.

However I did have to learn a second language while I was at school - Afrikaans. One side of my family spoke it, although my immediate family were English speaking.

I never ended up conversational in it, even though I had lessons in it multiple times per week throughout my school life. We even had to do unprepared speeches in it (just 5 minutes kind of thing) which I absolutely hated. I was borderline failing that class.

However the only thing preventing me from failing was my ability to work through exam questions which did not involve me needing to use the language creatively. I actually could understand and follow casual conversation in the language (even the evening news to a degree, if i concentrated).

So I am not 100% on board with the notion that the ‘output’ is trivially unlocked if one has substantial input. Looking back on things, I’d say that converting that passive vocabulary into active vocabulary requires a substantial amount of practice - and more importantly practice in finding ways to talk around words or concepts you cannot express.

Clearly you can’t speak if you don’t have the input first to know the words/grammar, but nothing tests your accumulated knowledge of the language quite like trying to express your own thoughts with it.

For my Korean study right now I am trying to write a diary entry or two every week - even if its just 2 sentences. I get them corrected. While this is not speaking, I think it is a half-step toward converting that accumulated language knowledge from passive to active.

I too wrote a bit in the language I’m learning but soon quit because it was rather meaningless stuff. I have absolutely no need to speak right now or even write. I’m happy to chug along and pick up words and phrases here and there and get used to the language.

It seems that whom ever is telling people the best way to learn a language is just a reflection on how “they” best learn themselves. The more you know, the more you will be able to say, I know this little bit from experience. I tried doing some experiments on Google translate and answered questions in German that someone asked me in English to test my abilities.

I did pretty good answering some basic questions, and obviously my German pronunciation wasn’t so bad because the Computer was able to pick it up. Bottom line is your Goals. Some people could care less about speaking and only want to read or listen in the language and for them that’s good enough.

If speaking is your main goal with pronouncing the words really well, I would imagine the sooner you start practicing tough sounds in the language the better.

Like for example some words in German I can pronounce almost perfectly and others are brutal to pronounce, obviously the ones I really need to pay attention to. :wink:

Fair enough. I was careful to word my reply to indicate it is my experience and my reflection on the matter.

It sounds a bit like you’re annoyed with what I said. I thought a bit about what I was answering and decided that perhaps you intended on asking a different question to the one you did.

However it just so happens that I believe some regular output would benefit all language learners regardless of their goal. So if I were to tell everyone the best way to learn a language, I’d say:

95% input - split between reading/listening
5% output - writing/speaking (i dont think it matters which - just trying to put the rules/vocab together from scratch)

So theres something for you to get worked up over now! :stuck_out_tongue:

I’ve learned a few languages as an adult. The method changes. For the first languages it was very mixed, with some formal classes, work on my own, …
Let me explain the first two languages in which I became “fluent”: French and English. I began English at 17 years old at a local language school. A real breakthrough only took place a couple of years later. I did take French at school but the results were lame. I did get some base at the end of high school (17/18 years old) but it was still not impressive by any means.
My jump to a competent level was mostly on my own. And it was very “Ling-like”: I began learning novels. Even getting that material wasn’t easy at the time. I was happy that my fathers own some French book and I lived near Gibraltar so I could buy some in English. Later, I purchased a short-wave radio and listened to French and English broadcasts. I consider that it was this “silent” period that really got me into a real advanced level. During that time, I had no-one to speak with on a regular basis. I sometimes went to classes (some English lessons in summer, I went to the Alliance Française for a year at university, buy my level was already high when I get there) but it was mostly a “silent” period. To sum up: I spent a lot of time mostly reading novels (and some comics) and listening to the radio, with little output. I reached a rather advanced level just by doing that and I didn’t have a lot of trouble talking when I needed it later on, although I did have to work on improving my pronunciation over time.

So, my thoughts on when to speak after my language-learning experiences are the following:
It doesn’t matter (much) when you begin speaking. Speaking early in moderate amounts as +genix79 is not a bad idea at all and it may help in a number of areas, such as helping fix basic vocabulary, improving pronunciation, as a sanity check for your progress and, most important, maintaining motivation (if you enjoy your conversations).
However, it’s also not indispensable and, at any rate, the passage from so-so language competence to real mastery takes place through massive input, at least in my experience. I did have a good background in grammar before my mass-input phase, I found that useful but it’s probably not key, either.
Just as you can use some output activity useful, you can also put it off until after you achieve a good comprehension level. I think Steve’s right when he says that you can achieve fluency very fast once your comprehension’s very good, provided that you’ve worked on pronunciation along the way. (see Steve’s video on 5-day fluency).

So, it’s really your call. You can add some output early in the process if you enjoy it, it’ll help you a bit as I explained; or you can put it off if you don’t have enough time or you just find it unattractive, and catch up later. Just, don’t neglect the input part: it’s really your ticket to real mastery.

Thanks for your input. I’m really in no hurry and like to hear as many stories as possible. Mainly from people who use lingQ as I do, to see how it benefited them.

I wasn’t annoyed with your reply at all. I don’t know why you got that impression.

LOL, ironically as I say I’m in no hurry I noticed that I’m number 1 in the activity leader board for German. I guess I just like lingqing and have some time on my hands.What I really meant is I have no artificial time limit when I plan on being "fluent’, which is kind of a slippery term IMO. Those that sell the fluent in (…) are kind of like used car salesmen. You never stop learning any language including your own. Its a never ending process not a race to a finish line.

I’m surprised the lingqing number that is recommended here is so low. Only absolute beginner lessons have so few lingqs. I guess we all learn differently, I really can’t tolerate spending too much time on a lesson, when I understand it (with the help of lingQ) I just move on.

Before I began trying a heavily input focused learning technique, I did a lot of reading online - looking at various people’s experiences, opinions and the like on language learning.

I’ve had a hard time reconciling some reports with my experiences in language learning (or learning in general for that matter).

The slippery fish of ‘fluency’ used to bother me considerably but now I have read enough genuine accounts of people’s experiences that I kind of disregard it when people claim to be ‘fluent’.

The only thing that bothers me right now is my unbelief that my present language learning will get me to my goal. I cannot envisage my future self being able to understand the spoken language ‘in real time’. I look forward to hopefully experiencing the language beginning to ‘click’.

I don’t like to feel frustrated trying to make people understand me. That’s why I prefer to learn thousand and thousand words and phrases before to get in touch with spoken language.

I’ve had experience with both early speaking practice and late start after more input with various languages, and based on that here would be my rule:

Early and frequent speaking is very useful, and you should do it, BUT it’s not the deal killer that some “experts” make it out to be. Lots of input, listening, reading can give you a great deal of skill and allow you to go into conversation with better comprehension, and higher vocabulary later on, which makes it easier for your conversation partner at least.

So, speak early and often if you can, or just read and listen and have fun.

+nateg, I also like moving on soon. In the beginning, I did revisit lessons but now I almost never do. I just keep on reading.

Since you want stories of Lingq use, I’ll tell you that I’ve been learning only Russian here (I do dabble a bit in other languages at times but nothing reallyworth mentioning). My experience with Russian is as follows:
I began getting interested in the language about two years ago (I’m not sure about the exact dates). I began reading about the language here and there, just dabbling. I got a couple of introductory books and so on. Later, I decided to take it more seriously and I followed each one of the daily lessons of the Assimil method. That took about 3 months. I did get some working knowledge and a good understanding of the grammar, complementing Assimil with other sources but my vocabulary, and consequently my skill and confidence in the use of the language, was severly lacking.
The problem tends to be the same every time: words simply won’t stick. I kept on forgetting vocabulary, mistaking words, …
Based on my previous experience (which I explained above) I knew that I had to tackle demanding material if I ever wanted to make it to the next level. But I knew that would be very hard. It always is and with a language so far removed from the languages I knew, it would be even worse. I needed a lot of hours to go through the first pages of my first English novel, for example.
There’s a large gap between the level you obtain from introductory texts and the point at which I got hold of some bilingual books to try to fill that gap (following Dr. Arguelles’ recommendations) but I was moving very slow and my motivation was faltering. I’d say I spent the equivalent of 6 months of daily work between the Assimil and the later texts.

Then I discovered Lingq.
For me Lingq is about filling in that gap. It allows you to come to terms with a material far beyond your current level reducing (not eliminating, of course) the strain and effort that that entails. I’ve been in Lingq for a little under a year now. Now I am at what Lingq considers “advanced I” level. In Russian that corresponds with the 200000-word mark, which I suppose is about 5000 “word-families” for a language such as Russian. I began reading and listening to lessons at different levels. Once I became more confident (after a few months), I changed to a different strategy, which I have described in another thread: essentially I alternate between Lingq lessons and realistic, challenging material that I import. Mos novels, again. I change between several but I mostly concentrate on M. Bulgakov’s “Master and Margarita”. I just read on and don’t review almost anything. I listen to lessons now and then but I also watch videos I find interesting trying to pick up sentences, not worrying if I understand everything. I’ve been doing this for a few months.
During all my Russian learning so far, I have spoken very little. I sometimes chat in Russian, in written format, but I haven’t devoted a lot of time or effort to that either.

Now, words do stick much more easily and I feel much more confident. I plan to move to an active phase soon. I’ll follow Stephe’s suggestion about getting immersed in the language for some time (about 4 weeks). I expect that immersion to help me attain some degree of “fluency” (which is a very tricky term as +genix79 has pointed out).

My intention is to learn Russian really well, on par with my strongest foreign languages. I still have a long way to go and I expect to keep on working in Lingq on a daily basis for a couple of years (mostly reading ineresting, challenging material), listening and watching more advanced material (I’ll try movies and TV series soon) and going through further immersion phases after this first one when the occasion arises.

The whole “converse early” versus “don’t speak at all for a decade” crowd doesn’t really have a middle ground at all it seems.

I’m not a fan of a lot of Benny’s methods. They’re too “Life of the party” and full of “fluff”. It seems if you’re not extroverted, and willing to drop everything and go overseas, you’re wasting your time. This is speaking from an introvert (INTJ) that spends a lot of time learning by reading. That being said, a venturing out of your comfort zone is how we learn and would be good for anyone. But I digress.

I hardly struggle while reading out loud. I can contribute this to lots of reading and listening as well as speaking in the comfort in my own home. So, when conversing, the only struggle I have is thinking of what to say. I can physically say the words and have lots of words in my passive vocabulary.

Basically, I feel there are benefits to Benny’s methods even though I don’t agree with many of them. There has to be some period where you have to get out and start experiencing life outside the LingQ screen. I’ve found it more rewarding speaking a few words with other speakers than understanding a lesson.

Steve and Benny’s philosophies aren’t wrong I feel, it’s just the timing that they disagree on.

This subject is covered in many of Steve’s videos on Youtube. For example:

I think that all the methods do not allow to succeed to SPEAK immediately.

The question is to know to which moment we are going to be able understand and speak at the same time because if we do not understand we cannot speak and thus we cannot manage to speak fluently.

I want to determine which are the personal and external factors (what I read and listen , how I read and listen it and… why I read it and listen it …et cetera and so on).

Perhaps it’s very basic . It is necessary to begin with something

I think it’s the firt step for improve and how to improve the diferent steps. At the moment, I observe my way learning a language to manage to speak in a faster time with a language that I will learn for example in six months.