Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Crosstalk - Update

Junk mail or the future of language text books

I started using crosstalk a couple of weeks ago and have clocked up 9 hours so far.

I’m lucky that I’ve found a woman who seems to instinctively know how to ‘crosstalk.’

I always use English. She always uses Dutch.

We have used photos, pictures, the environment and retail brochures (Junk mail the new language textbook!!) to make the Dutch comprehensible. She is also very expressive, with gestures and the use of her voice.

Initial reaction

I’m amazed. I can hold a conversation in Chinese (only sometimes as my Chinese is a bit wobbly) but I don’t think I’ve had such in-depth and continuous conversations with a person speaking another language as I have had with crosstalk. I was really communicating. At first, it felt weird – how can this be? I’m talking English and she’s talking Dutch but we can understand each other and when understanding does break down, she either rephrases what she’s saying or we simply start a new conversation.

I have to add, that it’s not like speaking to someone in your native language. The conversations start from pictures, magazines etc and can develop into opinions and stories. Sometimes the detail is too much and the conversation dies but with additional comprehensible material, the conversation soon restarts.

What does this mean for language learning?

It’s a brilliant tool for adventuring in the language you want to learn. What other method allows you to hold a conversation with someone of your target language with little or no knowledge of the language (note - I’ve had about 330 hours of listening to TV and stories with no translations). The basic content is up to you. You choose your materials and conversations grow out of these.

I have only got nine hours of crosstalk so far and I'm not a linguists but if exposure to a language is a key element of language learning, then 'crosstalk' is an excellent tool.

Also if people have the chance to use crosstalk early in their language learning, I think it’ll be a great motivational tool too.

Using English made it easy to focus on the Dutch.

I found myself focusing on what she said, rather than conversations I have had when I was using Chinese, where some of my attention is focused on whether I’m saying something right, not always on listening. Focusing on my language partner certainly helped me comprehend the conversation better.

No time for analysis the language

There’s no time for the English voice in my head to translate the conversation (something which I get sometimes when watching Dutch TV). There’s also no time for working out the grammar etc. The focus is on the meaning and communicating. Though through repetition you can quickly work out some language.

The future

I believe this is an idea to spread. Crosstalk offers huge potential for language learners, opening up doors that didn’t exist before - watching videos, language classes and listening to podcasts are like floating above the jungle in an hot air balloon, you can get a good sense of the language, but with crosstalk, you’re in the jungle, it’s real and you’re surrounded by the language.

For me, I’ve got another crosstalk session tomorrow morning and then next week, we are going on the streets and shops of Venlo. Crosstalk on the move, now this is something I really want to workout.

If you want to find out more about crosstalk, feel free to email me on or leave a comment.

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