Prompting speaking practice with images for language learning

One of the best ways that get us going in the target #language is #images. Create a story with the help of a series of images about a certain topic.

Use any images or photos that you own or from the free stocks on the Internet. Create a topic that matches your level in the language. If you’re a beginner, the topics for beginners usually include greetings and introductions, family, weather, clothes, and physical description of people.

You might be thinking I am a beginner and my vocabulary is limited, how can I look at some images and speak? If you’re struggling to find words, before starting the practice, create a list of vocabulary to warm you up. Make a minimal list of the main words you would need to speak about that topic. You can prepare the list from a textbook, a dictionary, or from different websites that teach that language. One thing though, avoid using automatic translation. This will be counterproductive, as you will not learn much from inserting words into the translation software and receiving a random translation in the target language. At least, you’ll miss on the correct forms of verbs and nouns and the other explanations that you can find in other resources such as dictionaries and grammar books. If you’re an advanced or an intermediate learner, you may not need to use that vocabulary list.

Image-based speaking practice

What I usually do is think of something that interests me and one I can come up with enough words on my own to speak about. I just browse the Internet or use some of my personal photos for that speaking practice that I do with a language partner.

Here is a simple example. In this one, I wanted to talk about seasons, weather, nature, and outdoor activities.

I usually choose the photos to represent certain ideas that I have in mind and things I’d like to talk about. I tell a story, or I just start talking about whatever each photo inspires me. I use the grammar structures and verb tenses that I am familiar with or know well enough to use because the main purpose of this practice is to put what I know to work, be it vocabulary, grammar, or any other language structures.

The main thing that you need to focus on is to be clear and communicate the message. So, when you choose the images, include things that you like to talk about. You can obviously prompt yourself using photos from your personal albums to talk about yourself and your experiences. For example, you can talk about a trip you made and use that to practice several topics, like telling a story in the past, mentioning dates and times, and talking about shopping and prices. Combine personal storytelling with the chosen topic in a meaningful way. The sky is the limit here.

To benefit best from this practice, it needs to be script-free. When you speak without a script, you push yourself to the limits and you boost your fluency skills. Speak without worrying too much about making mistakes. If you have a tutor, a friend, or a language partner, ask them not to stop you and let the conversation flow. That’s important. If you’re interrupted, your practice is not going to be independent or active. You and your language partner can both agree on a time when to give the feedback if needed.

Create a #language-learning album

I believe in creating one’s own language learning materials. So, if you are planning to do this practice long term, you might want to prep your materials ahead to cover more than one session. Have a prep session, so that you don’t waste time searching what you want to use during your speaking practice or conversation. Put everything in one place or one folder. I use PowerPoint. I find it easy to organize everything in slides. You can also get more creative and create a picture book.

You can incorporate the culture of the target language in this practice. You can create albums about people, music, cinema, literature, etc. and base your speaking practice on them. Or you can do the reverse and present your culture in that album. This would be interesting if you have a language buddy, you can both help each other out in learning each other’s languages and cultures at the same time. You can also have a study partner, where you both study the same foreign language and talk about the cultures that interest you, which might be yours or that of the target language that you’re studying.

Take it to the next level and write

Yes, this practice was all about speaking, but why not take more advantage of your hard-earned work? You have already enjoyed a nice chat with a tutor, a friend, or a language partner. Don’t stop there. The information is still fresh in your mind. Just sit down and write something, a non-fiction piece, a story, a diary entry, a synopsis, or a transcript of the conversation you had with your friend/tutor.

The best thing is to make it meaningful to you and your language learning goals as much as possible. However, no matter what your goals are, when learning a language, always combine different sets of skills as much as possible.

(You can listen to a podcast on the same topic here.)