I’ve been doing a lot of traveling the past few weeks and it got me to thinking, how much interaction are we missing out on because of heavy reliance on smart devices? Also, what impact might that have on language learning? The sad reality is that, with unknown knowledge a single click, or single app away, we spend a lot less time asking others for information.
Don’t know a character on the restaurant menu… look it up. Need directions? Consult GPS. Want to find a good restaurant, check on Yelp. I could go on, but I think you catch my drift. While this behavior is very normal behavior, it really takes you out of the immersion environment when learning a new language. Just think of the possibilities and potential learning opportunities you might be missing out on because you were too engrossed in your device.
By no longer relying on technology and taking the time to interact with people, you are bound to see quick results, especially in the areas of listening and speaking. Talking to others and explaining what you want, or where you want to go is also a great way to improve the ability to circumlocute, or talk around things you don’t know how to say. What’s more, you’ll probably learn a lot more about the places you’re going, and what you might encounter along the way.
If you’re not comfortable having full conversations in Chinese just yet, try relying on wait staff rather than your dictionary when buying food, and be prepared to be a little adventurous in your eating. You can also try asking for directions, especially to places you’ve already visited before. The real benefit to all of this is the ability to receive authentic Chinese in a context you (mostly) understand. The opportunities for discovery and learning are endless!
The next time you find yourself a little lost, or presented with some information you don’t know, try asking the people around you for help first, and using your device as a last resort. I think you’ll be surprised at how much more interesting a trip to the grocery store, or new restaurant might be.
If you have a story of human interaction that you would like to tell, please share it in the comments below. If not, stay tuned for next weeks post and thanks for reading!