When learning a new language with the goal of speaking, input is important, but output is what leads to you mastering the material you've learned.
What do I mean by output?
In terms of language learning, this is writing and speaking.
Because my ultimate plan was to speak Hungarian with my co-workers in Budapest*, speaking as my output practice was key to my success.
As you can see in each of my update videos, I practiced speaking by saying each of the words I learned aloud as they appear in the app. I was off to a great start familiarizing my speaking muscles with the language. But to get to my final goal, it wasn't enough.
That's why the next milestone on my list was to find someone to practice Hungarian with.
* Is this the first post in this series that you're reading? Follow this link to learn more about my Hungarian language challenge.
After reaching my first milestone and learning more than 50 words in Hungarian, the second milestone I wanted to reach was to find someone with whom I could practice Hungarian and set up a time with them to chat.
As I mentioned in my introduction to this challenge, getting a chat on the calendar is an important way I keep myself accountable and on track with my language learning. When there's a date on the calendar, it gives me something specific to work towards. Plus, when I've made a commitment, especially involving another person, I stick to it.
At Fluent in 3 Months, I happened to have a friend who is a native Hungarian speaker and he was kind enough to schedule a face-to-face call with me.
Watch my first Hungarian practice session in the video below:
At the beginning, we spent some time working on my pronunciation. I was still struggling with the 'gy' sound in particular, and he helped me isolate the sound and work on it. After that, we practiced a basic exchange, pretending we had never met and were getting to know one another for the first time.
Because this chat happened on day eight of my Hungarian project, it ended up not being my first exchange in the language. Prior to that call, I also connected with someone a friend recommended to me as a great exchange partner.
This person and I began chatting via text on day three of the project, and it offered me an excellent push. It motivated me to learn even faster than I already was because I wanted to make sure I knew the words I needed to communicate with someone else.
It also helped me figure out what I needed to add to my script and get practice with my self-introduction in Hungarian (more on that in the next post!).
As you can see from the video, my first exchange was really basic. I made a lot of mistakes, both in pronunciation and in grammar (though I wasn't too worried about the latter because I hadn't spent any time learning it up until that point).
Thankfully, my exchange partner was extraordinarily patient (as any good language exchange partner should be!) and corrected anything that was incorrect enough to hinder communication. I took notes, added the correct phrases to my study sheet, and was extremely grateful for the help.
During the exchange, I definitely relied on my notes and the short script I prepared. I wasn't confident saying anything beyond "szia!" on my own, not because I didn't know it, but because I hadn't done it before. At least, not in Hungarian.
But the good news is, I can no longer use "I've never done this before" as an excuse. After having done a language exchange in Hungarian, I had a better idea of the kinds of things I needed to know, understand, and have the ability to say going forward.
By day eight, I:
At this stage, I was still doing about twenty minutes a day with almost all of my energy going into learning vocabulary. Hungarian is my tenth language (if you don't count the languages I'm no longer studying), and if there's anything that my experience has taught me, it's that words matter significantly.
I know I mentioned this in the last post, but it's important so I hope you don't mind me saying it again. Because I know keywords, even if I make mistakes like the wrong case ending or form, the person that I'm chatting with is still going to understand what I'm saying.
Take this video for instance:
That particular video is my Day 30 video for the Add1Challenge. In it, I introduce myself and share a few of my interests. And I made a number of mistakes.
But it doesn't matter. Why? Because I'm still a beginner and because what I wanted to say was still understood. I got my point across, and that's an incredible point to reach in your learning. At this stage, you can start to communicate and in doing so, you get to build connections with people that wouldn't be possible otherwise. It's incredibly motivating and it always inspires me to keep putting in the work.
My first language exchange wasn't life-changing. It wasn't even amazing in terms of my "performance". But it was informative. I have a much better sense of what I need to work on and what my challenges will be when it comes time to face a spontaneous conversation head-on.
I was also made aware of some of the challenges ahead with my pronunciation. And while I still need to fix my pronunciation, awareness is a great beginning. Before that, I was just guessing at whether I was saying things close to the audio I was hearing in Drops. Though, filming my study sessions was a huge help - watching them to edit and share helped me notice mistakes I was making that I missed in the moment. For example, the Hungarian word for "maybe", talán. I was pronouncing it like tah-lun when it should sound more like toh-lan.
One hundred words may not seem like a lot, but it's impressive just how much you can do with those words. It doesn't work with any 100 hundred words, so you need to be strategic in your selection, but with the right words, you can go a long way.
How do you know which words are the right words?
The right words are usually you-centric vocabulary. For now, if you're learning with Drops I recommend the following word topics:
I'll talk more about how to find you-centric vocabulary and phrases in the next post in this series, so be sure to follow along!
What do you first learn when you begin studying a language? Any words or phrases you've found to be particularly helpful? Share them in the comments below!
Drops: the new way to easily learn a language that combines engaging and fun word games with beautiful design. Learn more than 41 languages with fun, visual games. Try the fastest-growing language app in the world for free on iOS or Android.