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Dialogue Practice as “Thinking”: Foreign Language Learning Through Inner Speech (Practice)

text: Kikuchi Haruka

Previously, in the theory section I explained what inner speech is, and in the preparation section I introduced the points you need to know before practice.

In this article, I will introduce a practice method along with a practical example. Try practicing along with me, using material you select yourself.

1. Material preparation

For this example, I have chosen a scene from the TV show Sex and the City in which the heroine, Carrie, is talking on the phone with her best friend Miranda. Carrie tells Miranda that she’s decided to go and meet her onetime lover, Big, but Miranda is against the idea, and they have a fight. Afterward, Carrie calls Miranda to apologize, saying “I’m still going to see him,” and Miranda agrees to respect that.

2. Choose just one line

Here, I chose the line where Carrie says,

“But if I’m totally wrong and it is a huge mistake, I need to know you’ll be there for me.”

3. Grasp the meaning

If there are any unfamiliar expressions, look them up in a dictionary, etc., for a general idea of their meaning. This line basically means “If I am doing something stupid and making a big mistake, I want to know that you (Miranda) will be at my side.” As long as you get a general idea of the meaning, you don’t need to translate it directly.

4. Hear it

This is where inner speech comes in. Repeat the line from Step 2 in your mind. To hear it, you have to actively “speak” it in your mind. You can hear it in Carrie’s voice or in your own voice, whichever feels more natural to you. In your mind, hear the words,

”but if I’m totally wrong and…”

The first few times through, repeat the line clearly and accurately, without skimming over any words. Gradually add intonation and accent as you increase the speed. While you may feel embarrassed, try adding emotion as well.

”but if I’m totally wrong and…” ”but if I’m totally wrong and…”

Keep on doing this until you can naturally hear the meaning even without translating.

5. Create the next line

When you get comfortable with step 4, continue the conversation with another line. If the source material includes a line that comes next, you can use that; you can also make something up yourself. Naturally, the show does include the next line, but I decided to make one up.

”Of course, I promise I’ll be there for you.”

6. Hear it

Return to step 4 with the new line.

By repeating this process, you can create a short sample conversation of about 20 seconds. When you can hear the whole sample conversation smoothly, without a guide, that means you have made it yours and will be able to use it in real communication. Use your time alone to mumble the lines to yourself and test out the results.


How’d it go, everyone? Were you able to hear your inner speech?

If you are able to make active use of inner speech and imagine a variety of conversation scenarios, when you have a chance to speak in real life you will find yourself naturally able to respond and express yourself without getting nervous. I hope you will find it useful in real communication!

Kikuchi Haruka

Born and raised in Osaka. Osaka University Graduate School of Language and Culture Master’s Course 1st Year. I study second-language acquisition theory while working as a teacher of English conversation for children. As an undergraduate, I used to study English while listening to CDs of my beloved Broadway musicals.