Corrective Feedback And Fluency In Spanish

Next to going to live in a Spanish-speaking country for a year, is there one key thing that you can do to make a big difference in your Spanish speaking skills?

Before we answer that question, let's step back for a minute and analyze the problem. You've been studying Spanish for a while and already know the basics. You can pretty much get the gist of movies, radio and television programs in Spanish. You can hold a basic conversation on simple subjects.

However, you really don't feel comfortable speaking Spanish. Your vocabulary is limited; your grammar shaky and usage of idiomatic expressions non-existent. And if the subject gets a bit technical, things really fall apart.

When we talk about speaking fluently in a language, we are basically talking about four sets of skills.

1. Speaking spontaneously and fluently
2. Good pronunciation
3. Accurate grammar
4. Proper vocabulary including idiomatic expressions

And keep in mind all of this happens in split seconds. As you can see, learning to speak a second language well is a tall order. What key action can I take to get there?

In my experience, the one thing that can make a huge difference is CORRECTIVE FEEDBACK. Indeed, I would add that this is essential for any kind of progress to advanced speaking skills. This corrective feedback can take many shapes. Whether it's in the form of a live or online tutor, a private teacher, a language exchange buddy, a language meetup group or a even very small class, the principle is the same. A live person, preferably a native speaker, interacts with you and corrects your mistakes on the fly. You then incorporate the corrections into your speech and continue on.

There are a number of reasons why corrective feedback is so effective and even essential. First of all, you cannot correct your own mistakes. You may be able do develop good pronunciation just my mimicking recordings, but for grammar and vocabulary there is no way of knowing when you may be saying something that is either ungrammatical or just inappropriate.

Having someone correct your speech can be a bit uncomfortable or embarrassing in the beginning, but keep in mind that it is for your own good. You'll probably never make those mistakes again. In fact, unless you are corrected early enough, you stand the risk of developing bad language habits that will become very difficult to eradicate.

Secondly, as banal as it sounds, the only way to learn to speak a language is to speak it. Nothing can replace actually having to use the language with someone who is there to help you. You can read and listen to Spanish all you want, but it is only when you have to produce meaningful sounds that you will start to get a hang of the language.

Thirdly, a good language coach or tutor will help you expand your speaking skills by showing you how you can say things in a more natural and idiomatic way. What you have just said may be grammatically correct, but there may be a better way of saying the same thing. Or perhaps what you said was not appropriate for the circumstances.

A common mistake here is for learners to use a more formal or literary form in an informal setting. In addition, the tutor will be able to provide vocabulary on the fly when you are speaking and find yourself at a loss for words.

So, instead of the conversation grinding to a halt as you search for words, the conversational flow continues with the proper vocabulary inserted by the tutor. All of these reasons explain why in-country immersion is so effective. In an immersion setting, you the learner are constantly being bombarded by forms of corrective feedback. But even if you don't have access to immersion, some form of corrective feedback will make a huge difference in your spoken Spanish. . (First publishd by articles@ezine )