Sure speaking correctly and understandably is probably more important for someone who’s just beginning their new language acquisition journey, but I’d like to think that everything is equally important.(And I have reasoning to back this up, but you won’t find it here yet.) If you have flawless grammar but speak french with a heavy american accent then, you’ve lost half the battle. I could be wrong, perhaps your goal was to sound like an american speaking French, but then isn’t part of the draw to a new language also the new (sexy)accent?
Many people struggle with this and I know why. Not because I’m all knowing, although I sometimes imagine that I am, but because I’ve gone through it with several languages. Whether or not this will help you in your journey to sound like you’re a native Chinese speaker or whatever language it is that you’re learning, is mostly left up to you, the scientist and experimenter. Here I offer only, the why and some potential how’s to fix this.
1)You’re not listening to the sounds of the new language.
2)You’re trying to say words from another language through your own list of pre-ordered language sounds.
Okay, so what does this all mean and how does one fix it?
1) Stop trying to hear language. There is no language. (Remember the Matrix scene with the little bald boy and the spoon? Well he’s right. “There is no spoon.”) What you think is language is really just an agreed upon series and pattern of sounds, which themselves are nothing but varied vibrations that turn into electrochemical impulses in the brain.
The point of all that is, stop listening for words and stop trying to make sense of things, because then it’s as if you have a wooden box with circular and triangular holes, (these holes represent your native language.) Your new language however is made up of Circles, triangles, squares and hexagons. Excuse the rudimentary example but this serves, hopefully, to highlight what so many of us do wrong. We try to fill in the holes with things that don’t fit.
The solution continued:
2) Pretend that you’re listening to music. In the same way that you usually wouldn’t try to hear English words coming from a violin or a drum, you don’t want to try and hear words in a foreign language. Because they’re not going to be words to you for awhile. Try to only hear sounds. Get good at imitating those sounds or parts of those sounds. And one day when the sounds become words you’ll be better able to speak like a native!
Admittedly, this is more of a teaser article, as I’m deathly sick and can’t talk without coughing, so when I’m better in a few days I’ll probably make a video discussing this in further detail and possibly offering more tips and demonstrations as to how this can work in practice.
As usual feel free to leave electronic words or open a discussion below.