One of our great needs as language learners are chances to use our language on real live people in real time. This can be difficult especially when you have very little language and because of that you probably know very few native speakers very well. This is why I think you need what I call a conversation generator.
Your conversation generator is your in with the native speaker. And you can start using this even when you are a brand new beginner (see my post on how to start conversing with barely any vocab). This generator needs to be the kind of thing you can use almost anywhere with almost anyone. It needs to be general but have specific enough that you can master its needed vocab easily. I never thought small talk would be so valuable to me.
Here was my first one:
Here in Turkey most people are required to take a class or two in english in order to get their language credit. So most of them have a few words in English and when a big blond foreigner approaches them many of them use this as an oppurtunity to try it out. That or they know how bad English speakers are in general at learning other languages and do not think I will speak any Turkish.
Either is fine with me. It gives me the chance to ask them (in Turkish) ‘Wow do you speak English?’ Most of them say just a little and we talk a little about where they learned it. I always compliment their English and thank them for their help. Somestimes they ask about how I am learning turkish, if I like Turkish or what I am doing here. All in all I ussually have a great little conversation.
For a long while this was the only way I thing I could talk about. And I am slowing building.
So get your own maybe tell them that you started learning spanish in highschool and ask them about their experience. Ask something about the language in the language. Maybe tell them you got interested in hungarian after a trip to budapest. Or you started wanting to learn chinese because or your cool roommate from shanghai.
This conversation could turn into nothing or a friendship. But needless to say these are the kind of little day by day engagements that add up.