by Ritam Dalui
If you are the type of person who prefers working alone over group collaboration, who prides yourself on your powers of observation and are secretly delighted when boisterous outings are cancelled, you may tend towards introversion.
Not that we're labelling anyone ...
Introverts bring substantial gifts to any environment they find themselves in: at work, at home and in social settings. One thing they don't bring is a lot of talking; idle chatter is not in the introvert's repertoire. At least, it's not something they do comfortably, eagerly or excessively.
For all of the deep thoughts you cultivate, don't you think it would be a good idea to express a few of them? Maybe in another language?
Here are a few ways to find the right language to learn and get more comfortable with speaking in groups.
People who tend toward introversion are usually linear communicators. Their narrative goes from start to finish with few, if any detours in between. They might seem terse; downright rude at times because they prefer their narrative to be unvarnished - a true 'Just the facts, Ma'am' type of talker.
That doesn't mean that linear communicators are unfeeling, just that their feelings don't quite fit into their information delivery system.
Contrast that communication style with its opposite: circular communication. Circular talkers tend to sidestep through off-the-topic alleys via wandering, run-on sentences. Their narrative can be laden with descriptors and gushes with emotion. Circular communicators' speech comes across as disorganized and unfocused; a way of talking that some people find hard to follow.
The first step to developing speaking skills is realizing what type of communicator you are. Knowing your preferred communication format will help you speak effectively - in any language.
Understand that neither linear nor circular represent 'right' ways of speaking. Only know that, if you wish to get better at speaking, in your native language or the one you want to learn, you have to know what you're working with. Otherwise, you might soon become frustrated with the language you set out to learn and discouraged at not speaking it better or more comfortably.
If you're not under pressure to learn a new language - you're not assigned this task through work or school; nor have you moved to another country, you have the luxury of choosing which one to study.
No one will debate that some languages are harder to learn than others. Slavic languages, for example, rely on grammatical cases and convoluted phrasing to convey the bulk of their meaning while others, such as Mandarin, do not even use verb tenses. Many introverts rely on logic to feed their learning processes. If you get to choose which language you'll learn, you might consider learning a 'logical' language; one that has straightforward grammar rules with few exceptions. One without too many frills, through which you can express yourself clearly and concisely.
Korean could be a good language for introverts to learn. This tongue has more grammar rules than Mandarin but they are remarkably consistent and, once you master them, you only need to expand your vocabulary to make yourself understood.
Besides hoping your assigned language won't be too frilly, you may start your learning adventure by focusing on syntax and grammar rules and, more specific to speaking, rules for word stress and pronunciation.
Logical, intuitive introverts tend to look for patterns: how plurals and adjectives are formed, for instance, or how words are declinated - especially if the declensions are complex. Once you recognize a pattern, you'll have no difficulty incorporating it into your learning framework, building onto it as new information comes to light.
All of that is great advice learning the nuts and bolts of a new language but how can an introvert improve their speaking skills?
Plenty of public speakers - teachers and those who routinely address the media took lessons to learn how to breathe properly, speak from their diaphragm and modulate their voice. Elocution coaches can teach you everything you need to know about the physical aspects of speaking.
Your coach may know nothing about the language you're learning but s/he can teach you how to trick your mind into 'speaker mode' through changes in your posture so that, come time to talk, you will feel fewer qualms at doing so.
As someone not given to lengthy discourse, training your body to speak will pave the way for you to express yourself in any language with confidence and authority.
Music is an integral part of every culture and, thanks to the internet, we can listen to songs in just about every language spoken in the world.
Song lyrics are much closer to 'real' language - the way native speakers talk than the more formal vocabulary and constructions you might learn in language classes. Just listening to songs in your target language helps train your ear but singing along will help your pronunciation.
If your goal is to speak more fluently using everyday terms, singing in your new language is a stellar way to reach it.
If singing is out of the question, would you practice speaking with a tutor?
Your introverted nature may dread conversing with a total stranger but if you focus on the reasons you're engaging, you won't worry over what to talk about or how draining talking will be.
Language tutors are adept at drawing out even the most cautious speakers. Tutoring sessions tend to be less formal than any classroom setting and the atmosphere is more relaxed, allowing you to pursue any conversational topic that interests you.
Introverts usually prefer one-to-one conversation so speaking in your second language with a private tutor could be just the ticket you need to practise your speaking skills.
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