Terry Thatcher Waltz wrote this a couple years ago about how to get better at speaking the language you teach. I’ve sporadically followed the advice whenever I remember. I think that creating embedded stories (because I have to read so much and think about what constitutes the most basic meaning) and correcting my writing and translations with native speakers has been a lot of what has helped me improve. I’m going to think about doing more translation too.
Subject: [moretprs] Re: OT/ Teacher fluency maintenance
“Number one answer — the Internet. Full of listening opportunities and great reading stuff (i.e., more input!).
Also a great source for finding native or fluent speaking partners for meaningful interactions, via Skype or videoconferencing. You can often post a notice on local Internet groups or bulletin boards and find people willing to help you for free or very little cost (depending on whether you want to ‘exchange’ or not).
You might also consider learning some oral interpretation skills.
Practicing consecutive interpreting (with a partner is best but you can do it alone as well) really gives all your skills a workout. Also, taking notes while listening puts an added handicap on your processing (sort of like swinging two bats in baseball) so that listening seems so much easier when you’re “only” listening afterwards.
[Boring but very helpful:] You could consider some of the traditional interpreter- training exercises, like complete listening and complete reading (which involve having a text or audio source which you read/listen to, then write down precisely what you read/heard sentence by sentence. After you’ve done a paragraph or more, go back and compare precisely. You’ll be able to see the little points that you’re not picking up on when you’re listening. It can also be done using a tape recorder: listen to a sentence, stop that tape, record your repetition on the second recorder, then listen to another sentence…and compare to the transcript at the end. Like gym exercises, it’s extremely boring but really good for you if you’re at a high level already but need to make that final jump up to a professional level. You could probably get some takers if you could hook up with a graduate program in interpretation with a lot of French-A speakers who want to improve their English. Working via the Internet you could have a really high-level exchange with them, while helping them prepare for their professional exams.
Just some thoughts off the top of my head, but I spent a long time trying to get people from a “good” level to a professional level while I trained interpreters in Asia, and these were things that worked pretty well. The easiest, and most effective, thing to do is simply to read more and listen more — as actively as possible, not just as background music. I found that my interpreting performance improved after taking a year off from interpreting and only translating full time — which meant reading a lot of Chinese. Just the written input boosted my oral performance and listening skills.”