Speaking Practice Tips for Working with a Nepali Language Mentor
One of the most important parts of working with a Nepali language mentor is to TRY, TRY, AND TRY AGAIN! Remember to not take yourself too seriously (laughing is a good thing), and bring a pencil and paper with you. Even though your focus is on speaking practice, Nepali is a phonetic language so being able to write down the Devanagari spelling of words can really help you with pronunciation if you are struggling. Here are some tips on what to do before speaking practice with your mentor, during your speaking practice, and afterward.
Go over any vocabulary, verb structures, or material that you would like to focus on before meeting with your mentor. Write down questions you need to be answered or clarified. If you are unprepared, it will make your session less productive. I have learned this the hard way, where I met last minute with my language mentor because he had time open up in his schedule. I was unprepared and figured it would still be good to meet and converse, which it was, but it was much less productive than if I had taken even just 5 minutes beforehand to prepare.
If you are working on pronunciation while speaking, try reciting the Devanagari alphabet as a voice recording and then sending it to your mentor before your session. You can try listening to it together in your session so they can point out specific discrepancies, or even just listening to it on your own beforehand can help you realize what little details you may need to focus on while speaking.
Here are some helpful phrases for clarifying unknown words in Nepali or asking how to say a word in Nepali.
- Don’t understand a word they are using in Nepali? You can ask your mentor this:
____________ भनेको के हो? (________ bhaneko ke ho?)
2. Don’t know how to say a word in Nepali? You can ask your mentor this:
_____________नेपालीमा कसरि भने? ( _____________ Nepali maa kasari bhane?)
If you are having trouble understanding how to pronounce a word in Nepali, see if your language mentor can “spell” it out in syllables. For example, I struggled with pronouncing the word for school bidyalaya बिद्यालय (which for some reason is not copying and pasting accurately from Easy Nepali Typing – there should be the compound spelling of “da+ya”) can be broken down into the following syllables:
बि + दया + ल + य.
बिद्यालय = बि + दया + ल + य.
It can be helpful to see the breakdown of the word to better understand the flow and pronunciation.
Try incorporating some of the new vocabularies you picked up in the films/whatever other material you are using into your discussion. Using the vocabulary in conversation with your language mentor will help you understand how it can be correctly used when speaking- which is the ultimate goal!!
While watching movies, reading, and writing in Nepali are useful strategies for language acquisition, it is important to have your comprehension evaluated by a language partner. Nepali language is full of idioms and non-literal sayings. Additionally, some verbs are used for multiple actions. For example खानु (to eat), is also used for anything that is consumed orally. If someone asks “चुरोट खाने बनि छ |” / churode khane bani chha? The literal translation for someone who is not used to seeing this common verb used in this way is “do you have a habit of eating cigarettes?” The speaker actually means “Do you have a habit of smoking/consuming cigarettes?” Asking questions about how verbs are used practically is critical and time well-spent with your mentor.
Remember not to read too far above or below your level of comprehension. Prepare ahead of your mentoring sessions by choosing passages that you mostly understand, but need clarification. It does not serve your language learning mission to read material which you can only glean a few words out of, or the opposite, is so easy no learning is taking place. It is additionally useful to go back to your English translation and try to translate it back into Nepali.
Take a look at your notes and write down your new vocabulary in Anki flashcard sets. If you feel confident with putting the new words in a sentence, use a Cloze sentence in your Anki flashcards! If you corrected sentences (or other work) with your language mentor, then put these sentences into your Anki sets, removing the words that you need extra practice with!
Record yourself for pronunciation practice for the next time you meet with your mentor, incorporating their feedback into your speaking practice on your own! Listening back to them can help you realize what you may need to work on or help build your fluency by describing something repeatedly.
Take note of certain language structures or vocabulary that you struggled with or were introduced to during your session. Spend time writing these structures/words and practice using them in a practical way. Remember to practice using vocabulary and sentence structures in multiple tenses and pronoun conjugations. Many language study materials have a heavy focus on first person and speaking and writing from first person. Get comfortable (or uncomfortable at first), practicing vocabulary and sentence structures outside of speaking in the first person.
ISP Activities Reflection:
As aligned with my ISP activities, I have used Anki cards as formative assessment measures to prepare for my speaking practice with my mentor, and record more vocabulary I learn from our sessions. I have had a summative assessment from staging “monologues” about the film and also about the education system (more history-focused) and then equality in the education system in Nepal. In the coming weeks, I will work on more formal speaking activities to practice the education and COVID terms with my language mentor, and begin working on creating interview guide questions as well.
As an advanced learner, my ISP focuses heavily on comprehension and using audio/visual tools to guide mentoring sessions. As new vocabulary or sentence structures arise from text or audio, I note them and go over the translations with my mentor. Corrections are made by the mentor as needed and at later mentoring sessions, we will revisit the passages. Keeping track of words/phrases that I did not comprehend correctly is also an important tool for evaluation. Making note of what I did not understand, returning to the passage at a later date, and re-grading my comprehension is a way to drill vocabulary and sentence constructions.