I spent last weekend salsa dancing with my friends in Blackpool at the biggest salsa party in the UK. IT WAS FAN-FREAKIN’-TASTIC!
I’ve been dancing salsa and other Latin dances for a few years now and love it very much.
I must it admit, though. At the beginning, dancing was pretty much like…learning another language.
The steps, the routines and following someone else’s lead are all things I’ve learned little by little and with lots of practice.
I’d do the steps slowly, first. And, then, increasingly quicker. Until I’d internalise them.
And after I’d make those steps mine, I’d be able to build up on them and start learn another routine, with more complex steps.
Surprisingly enough (or perhaps not so much!), my best learning or a-ha moments never came during the actual dancing lessons, but when I was getting my “feet dirty” on the dance floor.
As you can imagine, when dancing with a partner on the dance floor, things don’t always go according to plans (aka the dancing routine).
So, we gotta improvise a bit.
We get over the initial awkwardness, embrace creativity and just dance our way through (using any step available in our repertoire) .
Those moments, filled with goofiness, uncertainty and a nervous laugh or two, are the most helpful to develop our dancing “fluency”.
They put us on the spot and make us become resilient.
We are pushed to use our dancing skills creatively, until doing the steps become second nature.
That’s pretty much how learning a language works too.
You learn a certain set of items to discuss a specific topic.
You start to use them in short sentences. You’d say them slowly first, really thinking about every single word you are using.
You’d practice until you can use those words more naturally.
After you’d master those language items, you’d be ready to learn more complex items and extend your sentences.
Then, you’d have your first conversation.
You’d finally use those words in a real life situation.
You start off speaking pretty well, but then your foreign friend asks you a question you didn’t quite expect.
And you don’t really know the exact words to use.
You’ve got to improvise now.
You’d get over your initial discomfort and appeal to your creativity.
You’d communicate, using any word available in your repertoire (and anything else you’ve got available too, including body language! )
These are the moments that help you build up your fluency.
Don’t avoid them. Rather, celebrate them!
You gotta put yourself on the spot and speak.
Try again, again and again, until using the language becomes second nature to you.
This is how your brain get used to that language and makes new connections.
This is how we develop resilience and creativity too throughout the learning process.
And, that’s why, once we succeed in communicating, the feeling of satisfaction that will follow will be amazing.
The truth is there’s no secret method to learn a language, except practising it.
Practice makes a language perfect. That’s it.
So, now here’s my challenge for you. Get out there and find a way to practise the language you’re learning.
Ditch any excuse (especially the “ I’m not ready yet!” one). Just go for it.
Get your hands dirty. Or, rather, get your tongue dirty.
Eventually, practice will make it perfect.
And after, you can celebrate with a massive dance party (I definitely would!).
Because you’ll be gliding over the dance floor of your language learning.
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2 thoughts on “The “secret” to fluency”
Great post! Our improvisation skills have gone way up since we’ve moved to Cuenca- you’re dead on about unexpected questions. Thanks for sharing!
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Thanks for your comment! I’d love to hear more about what happened to you over there! 😀 Any anectode you’d like to share?