Want To Learn A Language? Argue With Everybody!

I just had this random idea reading a site on the Internet. Isn’t the best way to learn a language discussing in it? Here’re a few reasons why it might be:

The Reasons

  • Discussion motivates you to learn more words so you can have better more elaborate arguments.
  • Discussing makes you want to learn to speak/type better and make less mistakes so that you don’t look *silly* and your arguments are the ones that count (and not the mistakes in them).
  • It keeps you actively engaged where you want to understand the essence of the arguments of others and answer them.

In short, one could say that discussing motivates you to learn the language so you can argue and win.

The Implications

But what are the implications of that? There’s a simple one: discuss more!

Debate more

When we meet foreigners for language practice, we usually tell them “tell me about your family”, “let’s talk about life in your country” and so on. Perhaps we should instead say “hello; the system of enprisonment is wrong because it 1) devalues human freedom 2) makes prison inmates even more likely to commit crimes afterwards 3) wastes taxpayers money; what do you have to say?”.

When you talk to people you have just met to practice the language, you end up agreeing with them most of the time and just telling supportive statements where maybe contradicting them a little more would serve you better.

Admittedly this makes you seem arrogant if you do it with strangers but perhaps not so much with people you know or your language exchange partners. Also, there is always a right way to put it even against strangers. Answering “wow, you are good, language X must be hard” with “thanks! well, it’s not so hard because of X and Y” instead of “thanks! yeah, it’s hard” is more likely to encourage discussion and it’s not that arrogant after all..

Practice by debating

In language practicing sites people just end up writing trivial stuff like letters to imaginary friends or daily blog entries which later get corrected by native speakers. That is okay for simple practice, I guess, but think how much more effective it would be if they started making elaborate arguments instead and native speakers could not only correct them but answer to them and so engage in a discussion.

Then native speakers would actually care more about what the people are writing and would be more likely to read it (and perhaps correct it afterwards since they have read it anyway). They would also be more likely to call people out on their mistakes just to make sure that the points in their arguments are expressed  as accurately as possible so that the native speakers can understand and respond to them.

Playing devil’s advocate

Another part of this is a lot of times you agree with people on things. What do you do then? Well, you play devil’s advocate. Playing devil’s advocate is saying something that you do not believe yourself just to start a discussion.

Is it wrong to do so? I don’t think so! You make people examine their believes (and examine your own) which is always a good thing. Also you learn how to discuss more efficiently, learn both sides of the argument and practice the language more efficiently. I think that arguing a side which you don’t particularly agree with can be just as riveting because you are going for victory in the debate then.

Of course, in all of these examples, you have to be careful not to offend people and not to overdo it, or perhaps sometimes make it explicit that you are arguing just for arguing (and for learning the language).


It seems to me that debating instead of simply speaking can serve as a great strategy which can help you with motivation and with getting more practice (because people usually like to finish the discussions they are involved in no matter how much time it takes) too. So perhaps we should add more discussion to our language learning?

What do you think?

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My Idea For a Trick to Make Absolutely Sure You Learn The Language While In The Country
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  1. I think this is a very good idea, and I do something similar when I get language exchange partners on Skype: I look up a news item from their region before I get online with them (something quite recent) and then come up with some questions and things I want to say for them before I start talking to them. This way you never end up with one of those awkward situations where the conversation just kind of dies because it goes “hows it going…fine…you?…fine…hows the weather?…hot…you?…yeah, hot…ermm…”–you know?

    Just have something INTERESTING to discuss prior to talking to them, makes a huge difference. I’ll do a full-on blog post on this at some point.


  2. Pienso que tienes razon tambien. Solo tener un tema interessante para discutar con la gente es tambien usualmente bastante.

  3. Een goed idee. Alleen ben ik bang, dat ik te weinig woorden ken. Ik ken er veel. Maar ik mis altijd dat ene woord, dat ik nodig heb…

  4. Ik ook. Maar dat maakt niet ouit: we hebben woerdenboeken een anders we kunnen de woorden uitleggen.

  5. ¿Estas un hablante nativo de Español o lo has aprendido a alguna vez?

  6. Definitely you have a strong point here….I will try to use it in my future conversations.

  7. Δεν κάνει τίποτε!!! Θα ήταν πιο ωραία αν δοκίμαζες την μέθοδο που προτείνεις για να μιλήσεις μαζι μου ελληνικά , έτσι δεν είναι;

  8. Φυσικά.

    Και τώρα είναι μια καλή ευκαιρία για να εξηγήσω τα σχέδια μου: εγώ φεύγω σύντομα από την εΕλλάδα (1 σεπτεμβρίου) και σχεδιάζω τώρα να κάνω ένα εκδρομή σε λιγότερο από δυο εβδομάδες από την Αθηνα στη Θεσσαλονίκη και μετά στις Βουλγαρία, Ρουμανια, και Ουγγαρία.

    Μήπως θα μπορούσα να παο και στη Λάρισα αλλα δεν ξέρω ακριβὼς επίσης υπάρχει προβλήματα με αυτή την ιδέα.

    Καταρχάς, δεν έχω πολύ χρόνο γιατί πρέπει να συγυρίσω στη Λιθουανία σύντομα. Πρέπει να παο σε τόσα πολλά μέρη. Μου είπεν ότι δεν είναι και τόσο σημαντική η πόλη αυτή (no-offense) και δεν ξέρω…

    Κατά δεύτερο λόγο, δεν είναι πολύ άνετο για μένα να φτάξω στη Λάρισα. Θα είμαι στις +- δέκα στην αυτή την ημερομηνία στην Αθὴνα για να φύγω και ξέρω ότι υπάρχει ένα νυχτερινό τρένο στη θεσσαλονίκη στης 23:59 που θα είναι παρα πόλη άνετο για μένα και θα ήμουν στο πρωί στη Θεσσαλονίκη. Αλλα στη Λάρισα έτσι δεν είναι, νομίζω κι και αυτό είναι άλλο ένα πρόβλημα.

    Επίσης δεν ξέρω αν θα μπορώ να δω και την λάρισα.

    Τι μπορείς να μου να μου συστήσεις με αυτό το θὲμα; ;)

  9. H ίδια η πόλη δεν είναι τόσο σημαντική, υπάρχουν όμως πολλά μέρη κοντά που θα μπορούσες να επισκεφτείς που είναι πολύ όμορφα, όπως τα Μετέωρα ή ο Όλυμπος ή και τα παράλια του νομού Λάρισας.
    Δεν ξέρω εσύ τι θέλεις να κάνεις; Αυτό εξαρτάται από τα σχέδιά σου. Αν μιλάς για το βράδυ της 1ης Σεπτεμβρίου προς την 2η μπορώ να πω ότι δουλεύω αυτές τις μέρες, αν όμως έρθεις τελικά μπορώ να κανονίσω να πάρω άδεια και να κάνουμε κάποιες εκδρομές πολύ κοντά στην Λάρισα.

    Αν κάτι αλλάξει στα σχέδιά σου πες μου;

  10. Ναι, υπὰρχει Μετὲωρα που είναι πολή ωρέα νομίζω αλλά είναι λίγο δύκολο και ακρυβό να φτάξω εκῖ μόνο για αυτή. Μίπος θα επιστρεψω στην Ελλάδα για να δο ολες τις πολλης αυτἐς μαι αυτοκίνιτο.

    Και αν και εσού δεν θα είναι εκί, νομίζω οτί δεν θα πάω.

    Αλλά θα σου πώ αν θα αλλάξω κάτι.

  11. Εντάξει, έχε μόνον υπόψη ότι στις 30 Αύγουστου θα λείπω από την Λάρισα μέχρι την νύχτα. Την επομένη όμως θα είμαι εκει.

  12.  In my view it is expedient to practise a daily life topic in English in the following order:

    Learners listen to and pronounce (read aloud) each sentence of English
    speech (thematic dialogues and narrative texts with transcripts). Make sure you understand everything clearly in each sentence in terms of pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar.

    Speaking on each conversation topic (imitation of dialogues (role play)
    and narration of texts previously listened to, ready-made thematic
    questions and answers with helpful content for using in daily life,
    narrations/telling stories, talking points and discussions of issues).
    You can write key words and phrases, or main ideas as a plan, or
    questions on that particular dialogue or text you previously listened to
    in order to make easier for you to convey the content in English. It is
    important to compare what you’ve said to the transcript.

    Learning of additional conversation sentences and vocabulary from
    English phrase books, conversation books, websites with thematic
    conversations and thematic vocabulary, and general thematic English
    dictionaries that provide useful usage sentences. Making up one’s own
    sentences with difficult vocabulary for potential use in daily life.

    4. Extensive reading of thematic texts and materials from various sources. Telling the content of thematic texts.
    It is better for learners to write down unknown vocabulary in whole
    sentences to remember word meanings easier. It would be a good speaking
    practice for learners telling the content of the texts that they have
    read. Learners can write key words and phrases, or main ideas as a plan,
    or questions on the text that require long answers to make easier for
    learners to tell the content of the text. I believe it is a good idea to
    read each logical chunk or paragraph of a text and to narrate each
    paragraph separately, and then the whole text.

    5. Writing on real life topics.

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