Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to learn a foreign language and the language exchanges just don’t cut it for you? Are you exhausted from all the endless small talk and introductions that ultimately lead nowhere? Do you also get the feeling”I would like to be challenged, even taken slightly out of my comfort zone? Do you feel that even though you love the languages you are learning you are simply “not an open channel” or are “naturally resistant” to all the small talk?
If the answer is such a profound yes then I might just have stumbled across a workaround for this, a life hack if you will.
I myself am an Introvert and can profoundly answer yes to all of those questions. The question how do I go about solving this problem has been floating around in my mind one way or another for the best part of six months. I’m pleased it has been as the key to Pandora’s box is…..
These are brilliant because like many people on the introvert spectrum I do not enjoy opening up to people I do not know over the internet or endless amounts of small talk. Introverts usually have a naturally reserved quality about them. A role play comes in well as a substitute as you are effectively playing a character for the purpose of learning a language (both yours and theirs) while not actually having to open up to someone you do not know well enough to open up to or want to open up to.
Bonus points for the fact a Role Play has a creative and amateur dramatic element to it.
I remember a time when I had to do one in an unemployement seminar years ago. I quite liked it.
I have tried it recently in a language exchange and I noticed my “resistance to the experience” disappeared. It was slightly annoying that it was only in English with no Spanish at all but the key point is my usual feeling of “resistance to language exchange” was nowhere to be seen.
I’d suggest that should this sound like something you would like to try or do that you state this abjectly and upfront before the exchange. Should you need to have an all or nothing proposition regarding this subject. While this may initially sound harsh I can assure you its not because I’m in the belief that it’s for the betterment that both people should be relatively compatible and neither should feel obliged to language exchange with someone who they are grossly incompatible with. So honesty truly is the best policy all around in this circumstance.
In return the partner can request that you do things a certain way for them. I remember I was asked to explain the workings of the London Underground Oyster card and the Zonal System. This could have been role played but even without a role play element there’s no inner and profound feeling of “resistance” due to the fact that it’s an external subject and is not “small talk”, introductions nor is it asking me to “open up” when I do not feel ready.
I’d also like to state that even though there’s a “serious” and “stay on task” element involved due to the creative and amateur dramatic nature it can be an enjoyable pursuit with relative ease.
The only reasonable limits are your and your partners linguistic understanding. So there’s no point saying you are “one of the lead designers of the Ariane 5 space station” if either you or your language partner simply isn’t at that level. There is no doubt that so long as neither of you go over the top both of you will receive new vocabulary and grammatical understandings in your respective languages.
One thing I have noticed as well is some other language exchangers wish to form a friendship and start meeting people face to face really early on. Should you feel this is too much for you openly say something along the lines of “For the time being I am not looking for friendship or to meet face to face at this stage but may be open to it at a later stage, the language alone is my focus for now”. This means that should you feel a spark with this person you shall be able to pursue it at a later stage should you so wish.
If any of the concepts mentioned here have proved to be a help to anyone (other than myself) then I see this article as nothing less than an outstounding success.
I am a learner of Spanish, Italian and French and one day shall write articles when the time is right for me to do so.
La Reina Razonable (Queen Reasonable)