There are a few techniques used by teachers, salespersons, actors, actresses, news presenters and singers to make their performance interesting to their listeners, viewers or audience. It is the way they give pitch to their voice and intonate their speeches that makes us listen with interest. This technique is called modulating the voice so our spoken language will become fluent. Prior to learning about modulation, please read this post regarding pitching and intonation. Basics To Good Spoken Language:Pitch and Intonate
I had dinner at a Seafood Restaurant last night with 3 foreigners: a Singaporean Chinese, an Australian and a Hawaiian. The Singaporean was making our order from the menu. He spoke in Mandarin. He asked for a dish called ‘Drunken Prawns’. When I heard this word ‘Drunken’, my immediately reaction to that was the dish would contain alcohol. I uttered in Mandarin, “有没有酒的？我不喝酒。” He looked at me inquiringly before turning to the waitress, “我们点蒸虾。” After ordering, he turned to me, complimenting me on my Mandarin, adding that he had only learnt Malay language at school.
From my day to day experience using foreign languages, I discover that it is never how long my sentences or bombastic my vocabulary is, that impressed people. Greetings, asking for directions and saying thank you, are all basic short phrases that should be practised to perfection to improve the cognitive process of language learning. A simple ‘thank you’ with the blending ‘th’ pronounced wrongly might end up sounding like ‘tank you’.
Being able to carry a conversation in a foreign langauge is a totally different learning curve altogether. When one tries too hard to speak the foreign language too quickly without mastering simple modulation processes, what happens is the native accent becomes more obvious.
Here are the techniques you can use to jump start your spoken skills in a foreign language. Remember to keep it simple and interactive.
1. Watch the movement of the mouth, head and eyes as the speaker uses his voice to convey meaning to his spoken words;
2. Listen for upward and downward pitches at different parts of speech: beginning, middle, end or in between syllables.
3. Make use of your motor skills: hands, foot and other parts of the body like your eyes, by involving them when you speak. For example, as you say ‘How are you?’, extend your hand to demonstrate meaning. Or if you say, ‘sleep’, close your eyes. This was how our teachers and parents taught us the meaning of task related words when we were kids.:)
How Does A Bilingual Individual Think?
Studies have shown that bilingual individuals are able to “maintain control over the two languages that they know”. By this it means that they can separate the two languages that they know and in the presence of others who are bilingual in the same languages, they also tend to mix two languages together. If you are in the company of a bilingual person, as how things are said in a foreign language they know. You will notice, as I have always been in that position myself, that there is absolute control over when and how to switch from one language to another.
Some people say this is adaptability; researchers have shown that whilst the first language is already stored in the memory, the new word in a foreign language will be stored in memory as a semantic feature of the concept. One particular research was published on this Education Research Resource Centre. ED192611 – Semantic Facilitation on a Bilingual Lexical Decision Task.
When we teach a foreigner to say ‘cup’ in in Bahasa Indonesia, we can use a picture of a cup or a concrete object ‘cup’ and say ‘cangkir’. The memory stored will then be ‘cup’-’picture of cup’-’cangkir’. The next time he has to say cup in Bahasa Indonesia, he will refer back to the picture in his memory bank and extract the word from that memory.
Another technique is to practise using pairs of words with related concepts and meanings, one word is native and the other foreign. Pairing “cup and botol (bottle)” and “cup and cangkir” helps the individual to practise translating between the two and eventually embedding and committing the correct one to memory.
There was a study which demonstrated that verb categories are best learned by involving the motor system: hand and foot movement. For further reading, you can refer to one of these posts.: