語言交換生存法 2:A guide to survive in any language exchange, part 2

Part I 列出了一些基本的策略,就算還不會說一個語言也能讓你在語言交換的情境中生存下去。第二部分列出一些更明確的方法,可以百分之百成功利用新的語言活下去。

In the first part of this post, we talked about why it’s important to start speaking your target language from day 1. We also gave you a few strategies to use when entering a language environment before you can actually speak. In this second part, we’ll list some specific things you can do to succeed in a 100% target language situation.


Be prepared. We don’t normally advocate memorization, but certain words are so useful, they’re worth making an exception for. If you learn this handful of phrases, you’ll have something to say in any situation.

What? / Can you say that one more time?

Why? / Really?

What does ___ mean? / How do you say ___?

I like ___. / I want ___.



● 什麼? 你可以再說一次嗎?

● 為什麼?真的嗎?

● 請問 ___是什麼意思?請問 ___怎麼說?

● 我喜歡 ___、我想要 ___


Take the lead. An excellent language parent or language partner will lead you through their language so skillfully, learning it will seem effortless. But not everyone is this skillful. Thankfully, you can take the lead too. Here’s an example.

Last week I was at the Thai table at multilingual cafe. We were talking about the weather, and I wanted to ask if it would rain tomorrow. My Thai level is a low A1, and I couldn’t remember how to say “tomorrow.” Instead I asked, in Thai, “Will it rain yesterday?” In many situations, this would have been enough. In this case, however, I was met with a confused stare. This happens sometimes, so I tried a different tactic: “Yesterday,” I repeated, pointing behind me. “Today,” I added, pointing at the ground. Then I moved my hand in a long arc forward, and looked expectantly at the table leader. This time she got it. “Oh! Tomorrow!”

So, why go to all this trouble just for one word? I could have easily asked someone the word for tomorrow in English. This wouldn’t have helped me learn to speak Thai, however. By strengthening the connection between Thai and English in my mind, it would actually have been a step away from thinking in Thai, and thus from speaking it naturally. Instead, I chose to struggle to communicate in 100% Thai. As a result, I now have a story about the word for “tomorrow” imprinted in my memory. I don’t think I’ll forget that word again any time soon.






Be creative. The story about remembering the word “tomorrow” is just one example of how you can learn more by being creative. Here are some other common situations.

● Say you’re talking about getting sick, but you don’t know the word for “doctor.” If you simply say “I was sick, so I went to the…?” it’s more than likely someone will fill in the blank for you. Congrats, you just learned a new word!

● For actions or sports, you can always pantomime the action. Don’t be shy! Most people will be amused by your antics, and it might even turn into a fun guessing game. What about tenses? If you don’t know how to say “I went yesterday,” just say “I go yesterday,” and someone will probably correct you.

● A lot of higher-level words can be described by combining simpler words. For instance, if you forget how to say “rain,” you can just say “sky water.” “Wallet” can just as easily be “money bag.” After all, economics is really just a “money system.” And a challenge is “something hard that someone does.” This is not only a fun game to test your creativity, but four times out of five, the person you’re speaking with will correct you and teach you the word you were actually looking for.



● 譬如你要說生病,但不知道「醫生」這個詞怎麼說,你可以說:「我生病了,所以我去…」通常旁邊人會幫你填空,說出那個你不會的字,你就學到了。

● 和動作或運動相關的都可以用比手畫腳傳達意思,不要覺得不好意思,很多人可能會對你的動作覺得有趣,說不定變成你說我猜的遊戲。如果遇到時態的問題該怎麼呢?假如你不知道怎麼用過去式表達「I went yesterday(我昨天去)」,可以用普通動詞加上昨天,就變成「I go yesterday」,聽懂意思的人也許就會提醒你怎麼講。

● 比較難的字可以用幾個簡單的字拼湊出來,譬如忘記「下雨」?可以用「天空、水」試試看;「皮夾」?試著說「錢、包包」;「經濟」?嘗試說「錢、制度」、「挑戰」可以形容成「一個人做一件很難的事」,這不只可以看看你自己有多少創意,而且跟你說話的人通常有八九成會告訴你正確的說法。


Remember, or don’t. Now imagine you’ve struggled through a session 100% in your target language. It wasn’t easy, but you made yourself understood, and had a real conversation. Congratulations! This is a great achievement. What about remembering all those words you just used and learned? Different methods work for different people.

● If writing things down is your thing, then go ahead and write them down while you still remember them.

● If you prefer, find another person to speak the new words to. Nothing cements your memory like using them again a short while after you first learned them.

● If neither of these sounds like your idea of fun, don’t worry about it. In fact, don’t even try to remember what you just learned. Forgetting is also a part of learning. Important words have a way of appearing everywhere, and you’ll relearn them faster every time. One day, you’ll never forget them.



● 如果你習慣紀錄,可以趁記得的時候寫下。

● 如果你樂意,可以找別人聊天並試著把新字用出來看看,強固記憶最好的方法就是短時間內再度使用它。

● 如果上面兩個方法你都沒興趣,就忘了吧!其實不需要努力記住剛學的東西,忘記也是學習的一部分,重要的字自然會一直出現,你每遇到一次就會更容易記得,多幾次就再也不會忘記了。


Learning a language this way is much more fun than the traditional, “textbook” approach. But it also requires some adjustment. Remember: in the beginning, you’re still a language infant. You might experience some “age shock” as you get used to this fact. Let yourself enjoy the process, and give yourself license to make plenty of mistakes. That’s how you learn. If you keep learning this way, your language ability will soon overtake even those who have spent years and years translating in their heads.



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