In order to move forward and off the plateau, we need to be challenging ourselves, literally throwing ourselves into situations where we feel linguistically uncomfortable. You should feel yourself shaking in your boots. You should feel extremely intimidated and that you’d rather do any other activity in place of confronting a particular situation. These are the key features of a learning moment.
I’ve been lucky in that my Italian husband has been cruel to the point of actually being extremely beneficial to my learning Italian. He absolutely refuses to make phone calls for me, he has never made me a restaurant reservation in Italy, nevertheless helped with more complicated telephone calls. If we are together and travelling and a question is directed to me, he will wait for me to answer it. Seems pretty basic right? But if you look at lots of mixed-couples, one person (the person who is the mothertongue speaker) often becomes dominating in interactions while their partner falls back as an observer. My husband will also make me make phone calls that concern both of us, even when he is right beside me, and he will listen to the whole interaction. IT IS INTIMIDATING. BUT EXTREMELY, I REPEAT, EXTREMELY HELPFUL.
So that’s my advice, in your language process, pretend you have a husband like mine who refuses to pick up your linguistic slack. Make yourself speak in situations where you don’t want to or in new situations that you’re not familiar with. These are the only instances where you will learn something because they are what bring to light your weaknesses and the vocabulary that you’re lacking. At the intermediate level, of course you’re able to have a casual conversation with the lady next to you on the bus about the weather, but what about sorting out your cell phone contract renewal as the sales guy is trying to screw you over or telling the doctor about that mysterious rash on your stomach…! Getting yourself into these situations takes guts but take it upon yourself to seek them out.
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