Someone begins speaking to you in your target language and you freeze up. You know, or once knew, the right words to say and you absolutely want to put your knowledge to use, but your mind comes to a screeching halt. You begin to panic, and you stare blankly at the person across from you.
The Fake Dialogue Method is one of my favorite methods when it comes to gaining “flexibility” in a new language. When I first started learning Portuguese, this was something I often did to help solidify my mental ties with the language.
Get your notebook, a little motivation and a dictionary. It’s time to get started.
Think of different situations that you might find yourself in when speaking your target language, such as ordering a coffee, asking for directions or simply introducing yourself, and pick one. Let’s go with introducing yourself.
In your notebook, make a fake dialogue in your target language using the vocabulary and key knowledge that you want to recall when you meet someone new. It should look a little something like this. (Examples of key phrases will be marked in italics.)
Me: Hello, my name is ___ . What’s your name?
Stranger: My name is ___. Nice to meet you!
Me: It’s nice to meet you too. Where are you from?
Stranger: I am from_. What about you?
Me: I am from _. How old are you?
Things to Keep in Mind
Try to familiarize yourself with both the questions and the responses. If you know what to say but can’t understand what’s being said, the conversation won’t get very far! If you don’t know the phrases to ask to begin with, phrases like these are readily available throughout the internet, usually marked under the name making introductions.
Read these dialogues over and over aloud, and practice them with native speakers to help solidify the new knowledge.
At first, your dialogues may sound a bit robotic. This is completely okay. As you get more comfortable and flexible with the language, you can make the dialogues sound more organic and real.
Conversations are spontaneous and unscripted. This method will just help you feel comfortable in not-so-comfortable situations.
Now, when you find yourself making introductions with a native speaker, you’ll have the conversation scripted in your head and you won’t freeze up. You can predict what they will say and you’ll be ready for it!