I’m all for hidden gems.
Little coffee shops, bookshops in tiny alleys, a secret beach with emerald waters or a local family bakery that leads you there just by the smell of fresh baked bread.
They all have this one thing in common: Few people know about them because it’s hard to get there.
And to get there, you might assume you need a map, or think you should take the main route, otherwise it’s easy to get lost.
But, hey, do you remember the time you found a beautiful little place, far from crowds and noise?
Well, it wasn’t because you followed the main route.
It was because you were led there by curiosity, excitement and a sense of adventure.
No mistake, hidden gems want to be found this way and they will compensate you with a satisfying sense of accomplishment.
By the way, there is nothing more annoying than the person next to you who holds the map right in front of your nose and anxiously tells you: “nooo, we must go this way, this is the one and only way!”
Let’s take this analogy to language learning - because, why not?
You say to yourself:
“I want to speak Greek! How I wish there was a person sitting next to me right now, so I could practice. How I wish I were at a nice and cozy café happily chatting with a Greek. It’s just so bad I can’t practice what I learn, because I don’t have anyone to talk to”.
Okay I might have added a little Greek drama here.
While I’m sure you’d love to be at a Greek café right now and while I’m sure you do prefer to have someone to talk to in Greek, things don’t look so grim.
It’s true we often think there’s only one way to practice speaking and that is: talking with a native speaker.
Just like the person who stubbornly persists on the one and only way to get to the hidden, beautiful little place (and spoils all the fun), “traditional” learning suggests that there’s no other way around it: in order to improve your speaking, you must speak with a Greek.
What if you could do things a bit differently? What if you could take another, not so obvious way and be a bit brave and adventurous about it?
What if you could speak more Greek, even daily and express your thoughts and ideas, without a Greek speaker?
Taking another route.
A few years ago I was introduced to this idea for practicing speaking: voice recordings.
It’s so simple, really:
You basically record yourself speaking - most phones have now this option (look for “Voice recorder” or “Voice memos”.)
Before helping Greek learners with their speaking by using voice recordings consistently as a weekly practice, I’ve practiced this way too, while learning English and a bit of Dutch.
Here’s what I found:
Recordings are great. They can make an amazing speaking practice.
But only if done right.
I challenge you today to record yourself speaking Greek after you read this guide.
But let me share first a few things I’ve learned along the way. They’ll help you stay focused and keep this activity simple.
As with all learning, consistency is key. Recordings are no exception and you need to use them a few times to include them in your way of studying.
You’ll find that it gets easier as you go and that at the end of the month or the trimester you have a solid amount of recordings, a proof of your progress and learning.
No need for a rigid schedule here. Just remember to record yourself a few times to get used to it and then it will organically become part of your learning.
By staying consistent you’ll actually monitor your progress and identify where you need improvement.
With monitoring in mind, voice recordings can boost your self-confidence.
I bet you’ll find it miraculous how on recording number 1 you stumbled on this and that expression but in recording number 10 you used them without even thinking about them.
It’s gratifying and makes you want to move on. And because it’s like a rehearsal in a quiet studio, it gives you the time to practice and repeat words, expressions and pronunciation you want to get right in an actual discussion.
You might be asking: What should I talk about?
Well, think of this: What do you want to talk about? How can you find the right vocabulary around that topic? Is there a question you‘d like to answer or even a topic for discussion you’d like to analyze a bit?
A mistake I personally made at the beginning with my own recordings - and I don’t want you to make it too - was that I just started talking about whatever came to my mind.
Although this might be okay for some learners, for me it wasn’t motivating.
Choosing one thing or topic helps you stay focused, make more efficient connections between the new or revised words & their meaning and reduces the overwhelm of trying to include everything at once.
#4 Realistic expectations
It’s easy to get excited and say “Oh, recordings! Great idea. Yes, I’ll do this!” and then imagine yourself talking and talking - only to find out later that you can barely speak on the voice recorder for one minute.
One minute is surprisingly a lot, by the way. Instagram videos, for example, are one minute long, yet they fit in so much information.
Start with small steps:
Talk about one specific topic or question and use a certain number of new words or expressions.
#5 Be brave
Now, I’m one of those people who usually panic behind the mic or the camera. It’s just what happens, even when no one’s listening.
What I realized however is that the voice that terrifies me the most, is the voice of my perfectionism.
Recordings are meant to be liberating. But when this little voice creeps in, we freeze and then start the negative self-talk.
If you find yourself in a vicious cycle of hitting “play - stop - delete”, be brave and push a bit more. It’s the exact point where you need to allow yourself accept your mistakes and embrace your imperfections.
And when this happens just between you and the recorder, you know you’re a step closer to your “hidden gem” of speaking in real-life situations.
To recap, remember to:
Be consistent with this new activity
Monitor your progress and gain some precious self-confidence along the way
Focus on just one thing
Be realistic about your expectations
Be brave and move past your perfectionism
Let me know how it went! And if you ‘re ready to speak some more Greek, check out here a 3 - week online speaking program I’ve created that helps you do just that.
Happy Greek speaking,