The training pitch is for learning and experimentation: testing out new techniques or formations, discovering your limits and learning how to deal with the emotions and physical pain. On matchday, there’s no time to think. You’ve simply got to go with what you have and try your best. If somehow you enjoy it and are prepared to learn about your weaknesses, you know you’re in the right place. Just listen to Ian Thorpe as he talks us through his experiences at Sydney 2000 (from 48:57 onwards).
This is similar to how I feel about speaking in a foreign language. If you’re worrying about verb conjugations or grammar rules or pronunciation, it’s very difficult to perform. Maybe choose one or two things you’re working on to be mindful of but other than that, the focus has to be on communicating. If you forget a word, find another way to express what you’re thinking.
Today was the speaking component of my DELE. I think it went alright. I could have prepared better in terms of exam technique (hint: email them with questions beforehand) but I managed to speak fairly well and coherently. On a number of occasions I had that light-bulb moment where you’re reaching for what you want to say, then suddenly you realise you learned that word just the other day when you were reading that fascinating article about Kowloon. That always makes you feel pretty good! Afterwards, the teacher just told me to “go home, relax, get ready for the written tomorrow, you’ll be fine… are you reading between the lines?”. Good feels.
Speaking is something I don’t practice nearly enough but I did make it out to one Meetup in the lead-up to my DELE exam. Meetups are great for getting you out of your comfort zone and onto the ‘battlefield’ – especially if you’re not used to group situations. One difficulty I’ve faced is that the native speakers who attend often don’t really want to talk to me because, well, they’re older men interested in chatting to Australianas, but yesterday worked well for me. I spent most of the time talking to an Australian girl who had really good Spanish after a year and a half of exchange in Bogotá, Colombia!
On top of my usual listening and reading, I wrote a lot in Spanish in the final weeks of my 5-week challenge. I made notes and wrote short explanations of articles or podcast episodes I found particularly interesting. Also, a big thank you to Natasha and Nikki, txting you in Spanish was really helpful – I made many mistakes trying to write off the cuff and learned a lot about what I was naturally getting wrong! I also wrote a piece which I got corrected on italki, and wrote a lot by hand. Finally, I continued going through the grammar explanations in my text book. This reinforces the things I already do right (knowing you’re right is good peace of mind), and helps me notice the things I have problems with when I’m listening and reading.
Thanks for reading! Wish me luck for my exam tomorrow in the comments below, tweet to me at @TimSpricht or contact me at email@example.com. You can also “Follow” at the top right of the page and share this article using the options below.
In the meantime, here is Steve Kaufmann with his thoughts on speaking in a foreign language: