You’ve probably had the experience of asking people to correct you as you’re learning a new language only to regret it. Why? Because people either don’t correct you at all or they overburden you with so many corrections you find your head spinning instead of absorbing the lessons.
How to over come this?
Guide the corrections that you receive.
For example, let’s say that you’re struggling with memorizing the articles in your target language. Ask the people you are speaking with to correct you only on that issue.
Then, if you’re using mnemonics (highly recommended), you can quickly “label” the words with the article using exaggerated imagery.
To take German as an example, I love to use boxing gloves for masculine, a skirt for feminine and fire for neutral. When someone corrects me that it’s der Himmel instead of die Himmel, it’s easy to see God wearing boxing gloves and pummelling clouds in the sky. Better yet, I can compound the power of this by seeing the clouds wearing skirts to memorize that it’s die Wolke.
Asking people to focus on just one kind of correction is quick, easy and one of the most powerful language learning hacks you can add to your game, especially if you toss mnemonics into the mix.
To take this practice to the next level, ask for only a certain number of corrections per day. Instead of saying, “correct me on everything!” request that you receive only one correction an hour, or three corrections a day. You’ll have to experiment to find the best possible number, and it might be a different number every day. You can roll dice if you want to randomize things on a daily basis and leave the number to fate.
Setting a limit to the amount of corrections you receive gives you time to absorb them and will reduce the frustration of receiving too many corrections.
This is especially important when you’re using a romantic partner to help you pick up a new language. Nothing can be more destructive than letting the frustration of bumbling through a new language leak into your love. A lot of people find that it’s impossible to study with their boyfriend or girlfriend, but it’s almost always the lack of consciously determined borders that is the culprit, not the activity itself.
One way to fit language learning into your love life in a way that works is to see a film together in the target language and then talk about it afterwards in the language with the guidelines you’ve set in mind, i.e. work only on a particular area of improvement and limit the number of corrections you want to receive.
In sum, it’s up to you to guide the corrections you receive. We cannot leave that responsibility to the people we rely upon to take our language learning experience to the next level. It only takes a bit of forethought from you with respect to what you want to focus on and a second to set the guidelines. You’ll learn a lot more and the people you’re asking for help from will appreciate that you’ve lifted the burden from their shoulders.
The 2 Steps to Maximize Conversation Practice
- Focus on one type of mistake – Tell your conversation partner to tell you only when you make the mistake you’re trying to correct. For example, any time you say “a” when you should say “the”, using English as the target language.
- Set a limit on number of corrections – Choose a number for how many times in one day you’d like your partner to correct you. Once you reach that number, you can both relax and take it easy!