I’ve been reading Learning Russian Marathon: How to Speak Russian in 10 Years and the author has an excellent suggestion (among many):
When speaking, we use language chunks. We don’t speak in separate words, sounds, syllables, or sentences, and especially not paragraphs.
As I read this, I thought of my (extremely problematic) efforts to learn Mandarin. I studied Mandarin many years before swearing never to study it again, a vow I’ve never quite kept. My Mandarin comes and goes, but one thing that stays with me is the phrases I learned from Pimsleur Mandarin I, and whenever I pull out one of these phrases, I get a compliment on my tones. The truth is that my tones are awful and my ability to pronounce Mandarin word by word is null. But if you give me a phrase to “sing along” with, I can do that. This, I think, is why programs like Vocabulearn never work for me. Better to do something like the Learn in Your Car programs where they make you repeat sentence after sentence.
As we approach the New Year when people take another try at languages, keep this in mind: Whether buying gifts for others or a program for yourself, don’t worry about how many words it has. Your focus should be on whether it makes you repeat whole phrases and sentences, that way your speaking will come naturally and sound natural.
And whether you’re learning Russian or another language (I’m working on my Latin again), I recommend Learning Russian Marathon for a lot of great advice on getting to grips with difficult languages.