3A: Start Writing
In Stage 0, we explained that immersion is how you acquire an instinct for language. This instinct allows you to self-correct and navigate the language by feeling.
This instinct doesn't fully mature until you have level 6 comprehension across many domains. You may be tempted to wait until you've fully developed this instinct before outputting, but that would be the slower route to fluency.
At level 5 comprehension, you have already developed a partial instinct for the language. By practicing output at this level, you force yourself to test this instinct against reality. Combined with input, the feedback you get from outputting and correction helps this instinct fully mature faster than input alone.
Because your instinct hasn’t fully developed yet, writing and speaking will probably feel uncomfortable. For Stage 3A, the purpose of output is to get used to this discomfort and overcome any anxiety you may feel. Don't worry about correction until you move on to Stage 3B.
Some people can easily convert their acquired language into output. They may even feel an urge to write and speak. After months or years of immersion, their brain figures out the language and they start speaking.
Other learners never experience this, even if they have the same number of immersion hours. No matter how much input they get, they never feel ready to output.
Based on anecdotes from our community, it seems that extroverts tend to be able to output much more easily than introverts. Introverts already deal with some social anxiety in their native language and adding a second language on top produces even more anxiety.
The key to resolving this anxiety is to stop worrying about making mistakes. One of the major concerns that learners have is that mistakes will solidify into bad habits. This is true for new learners of a language, but you're not a new learner. You’ve spent hundreds or thousands of hours immersing in your TL. Your instinct is strong enough to avoid most of the mistakes that new learners make.
You will definitely still make mistakes, but you don't need to worry about correcting these mistakes until Stages 3B and 3C. The goal in Stage 3A is just to overcome the initial barrier to output. Once you overcome this barrier, output becomes a lot easier. You'll be surprised by how quickly you improve.
We recommend starting output with writing instead of speaking. Speaking is more difficult because it's four subskills mixed together:
- Listening to your conversation partner
- Thinking of what to say
- Quickly converting thoughts into words
- Physically moving your mouth to make the sounds
By starting with writing, you can ignore #1 and #4. Writing doesn't have the same time pressure as speaking and doesn't require you to pronounce the words. With writing, you can focus all your effort and attention on thinking about what you want to say and how you want to say it.
If the idea of texting with a stranger makes you feel anxious or uncomfortable, then you can start by writing alone for practice. You can write journal entries about your day or summarize interesting immersion content you've consumed. You can even write grocery lists and personal notes for yourself.
Don't worry about trying to impress people with big words or complicated sentences. For now, keep your language simple and use words and phrases that you feel confident in.
If you are a perfectionist, you may be tempted to check every sentence you write to make sure it's correct. This breaks the flow of conversation and makes output feel like work. Remember, the goal at this stage is to overcome your anxiety. Give yourself permission to make mistakes.
Don't worry, you'll be surprised at how good you are after a little practice.