How to avoid to draw blanks when you speak Luxembourgish

Today I will answer a question of one of my student who has been learning Luxembourgish by himself for one year now and he asked me :

“My mind gets blank when I try to speak in Luxembourgish to someone. So how can I improve my Luxembourgish to avoid hesitation and drawing blanks?”

HESITATION . . . everybody hesitates and it is completely normal and it happens for . . .

2 REASONS

The first possibility is that you don’t have the vocabulary you need to say what you want to say.

The second possibility is that you don’t know:

a) how to express something using either the grammar of the language you are learning, or

b) the native idiomatic way of expressing something.

So, it’s either not having words or it’s not knowing how to express something, how to put the words together and in what order.

Now it can be for other reasons, that you could be nervous or you might be unsure about your own thoughts for example. But linguistically speaking it’s because of those two things. Now it happens to everybody and the basic answer is that: You hesitate less over time because the more words you learn the more familiar you are with how to express things in Luxembourgish:

The way we start sentences;
The way we convey ideas;
The way we express an opinion
The way that we react to people; and
Agree and disagree

The more familiar you are with these things the less you hesitate because you just know how to say something instinctively and you don’t have to stop and think about it. Hesitation is just buying time. You are stopping to think about something. But like anything it gets quicker the more you do it.

My tips for you

1 –   Speak more

Practice Luxembourgish more. If you are studying hard at home or in a group class but you are only speaking Luxembourgish once a week or a few times a month, it is simply not enough. Going face to face with someone having to put into practice what you have learnt and recall all of those words when you need them all without panicking.

So, there is a big distinction in language learning between the study and the actual practice of speaking. Now the good thing about speaking more with people is that you learn at the same time. So, by spending  time speaking not only do you just get more confident and better at speaking in general but through trying to speak you learn the words that you need. When you have, trouble saying something the other person might tell you a word that you need. You might listen to them speaking to you, so you might learn things from them.

So, speaking with people especially when having already a good knowledge of the language, it is just a matter of becoming more confident more fluid. So by speaking regularly you are going to quickly improve and start to hesitate less. But at the same time, I know that it is not easy to find in Luxembourg native speakers who take the time to speak to you in Luxembourgish or to meet native speakers. But you can as well avoid  hesitations by

2- Increasing your vocabulary quickly

The only reason that you are hesitating is because you are not quite sure what the correct word or expression is. So, you have got to systematically increase your vocabulary. Which means as you have your speaking sessions or your lessons or as you’re studying with your textbook you need to make notes of the vocabulary that you come across and then sit down and commit them to memory. You have to spend time actually learning vocabulary.

3- Focus on full sentences.

So, don’t just write down and try and learn single words. To draw blank is when you try to think of a word but it just disappears from your mind. You can’t think about it, it is drawing a blank.

But instead of writing down in your notebook one single word try writing down the full sentence.

Examples:

Ech stinn op.
Ech sti moies ëmmer um 6 Auer op.

Dat hänkt of.
Dat hänkt natierlech vum Wieder of.

And then memorise these sentences. Because what you are doing then is you are always practicing speaking in full sentences. Which means that is going to help you get over the habit of hesitating. Because you are just used to speaking in longer sentences. If you practice single words, then you will always be thinking in single words.

It will force you to think a full sentence and speak more fluently and that reduces hesitation.

Also, make sure that you are spending more time with the whole language. Now the whole language means not just doing grammar and vocabulary exercises in your text book but actually spending time reading and listening to real Luxembourgish. Now I am aware that this is not easy in Luxembourg.

When you are a beginner you have to do exercises and tests and things like that. But when you are at an intermediate level the only way you can become more fluent is by spending time with the whole language reading and listening to natural spoken Luxembourgish.

The other thing you can do to help with hesitation and to improve your fluency is

4 – start to learn and memorise longer pieces of language

So, try learning a monologue or a speech. The next time you do that one way to potentially practice that would be to write out your question and have someone check it so that you know that the Luxembourgish is correct and then rehearse it and practice it lots of times.

Because when you learn something and you practice it you get these glimpses of mastery. You get to feel what it is like to speak in fluent perfect Luxembourgish because you have memorised rehearsed and practiced it. I sometimes do this with much longer things. I might for example learn a long self-introduction or I might talk about a particular story in another language and I will write it down, I will memorise it. And that really then helps me to just have this experience on speaking more fluently and hesitating less.

Also, try

5- Shadowing

Now this is not something that I like very much, I find it really boring. But some people love it. Shadowing is where you play an audio recording and then you read aloud from the transcription at the same time. You can play the audio and look at the transcript and try and read along at the same time at the same speed.

Shadowing is a way to keep you speaking. It gets you speaking a real speed without hesitating. It is a slightly different skill but some people really enjoy that.

So, those are lots of ideas for you there to try. I think  it is just about speaking as much as possible multiple times a week. Growing your vocabulary so you have the words that you need and then also spending more time with the whole language so that you just get more used to the way Luxembourgish works.

I hope that was helpful. If you would like to practise your oral expression on a regular basis check out My Conversation Courses


If your Sproochentest is coming up, remember that I offer private lessons for those of you who are soon going to take the language test to acquire Luxembourgish nationality. In these lessons we are going to focus on the oral expression. You will acquire the necessary vocabulary so to be able to talk with confidence about the most frequently asked topics of the Sproochentest.