Say what you will but the truth is: speaking is the key. While grammar can build strong foundations for your learning, speaking is still the winner. I know many people who have a great deal of grammar knowledge but can’t speak, and when they do, they mess up all the grammar that they have been working so hard to learn. Essentially you need both, in fact, there are many other aspects of learning a new language that need to be applied in order to reach fluency. However today we are going to talk about: conversational classes and why some people feel like they are not developing their skills.
Especially if you live in a non-English household, you know that you will have to switch on your brain to English, so how about a quick warm-up?
- Read – A quick read of a news article before you start your class can really help you to set the environment up. If you don’t know what to read, come back here and read our blog posts.
- Listen to something – maybe a song, maybe the traditional old radio, whatever it is, listening to something can get you get in the mood.
- Write – Writing down things that you would like to talk about in class, can take all that pressure off. Besides, we all suffer a bit with our memories right?! I know it can be hard to remember what you did on the weekend when you can barely remember what you had for breakfast on that very same day.
What is communication? According to the Oxford dictionary, communication is the exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium. Do you understand what it means? It means that in a normal, standard conversation all people involved must speak in order to express an opinion or even feelings. Bear in mind that if you want to have conversational classes you have to follow some communication rules:
- Be polite– Politeness is one of the main elements of the English language, which means you cannot consider yourself fluent if you don’t apply it to your speech. You must consider listening to native speakers to realise how politeness is part of their speech.
-Good evening, how are you today?
-I’m fine, thanks and you?
You might not be interested in that person’s wellbeing, but it’s still the correct way to respond, otherwise, you will sound rude and it can interfere with your ability to interact with people.
– Hi, how are you?
-I am fine!
- Be honest with yourself – We all have bad days. Sometimes we don’t feel like talking and that’s ok! If you are having one of those days tell your teacher that you would like to do some grammar activities, play a game, do a reading, etc. I have been sending material to my students with articles that we can discuss in class, but most of the time we don’t talk about them as sometimes the conversation just flows in other directions. This is completely fine, nevertheless they know that we have a backup plan. With that said, remember that, yes, you need to force your brain to learn, but it doesn’t have to be painful (always) – So next time you don’t feel very talkative read an article and ask your teacher to go through it with you. Your teacher will be happier knowing that you are doing what you can to keep up with your learning even when you have the blues.
- Be positive: If you are having conversational classes you should congratulate yourself every single day. Having a full conversation requires so many words and you are proving that you know lots of them and this is commendable! Every time you sit on your chair to have your class you are a winner! You are forcing your brain to understand things even when you cannot understand the literal meaning of each individual word. How awesome is that? So, don’t be upset if you don’t know all the words to express yourself sometimes. In fact, as a non-native speaker, I often have a dictionary next to me and I don’t feel obliged to know everything just because I’m a teacher so you shouldn’t do either.
Ask questions during your classes. Remember: conversational classes are supposed to prepare you for any type of conversation in the outside world, and if you are not a robot, I am sure you will have lots of them to ask as you go through life, am I wrong?
Don’t be afraid:
I always tell my students, if there is a place where they can make mistakes that would definitely be during their English Class. You decided to learn it was because you didn’t know right? And what happens when we don’t know something? We make mistakes! Lots of them to be fair and that’s part of the learning process. So feel free to make mistakes in your classes as well because I am sure your teacher will correct you.
On that note, I don’t correct my students all the time, especially in Conversational Classes. I know it’s crazy, isn’t it? But it’s true. Even though as a teacher I have the right to do so, I don’t, or to be fair, I do! But subtly. More or less like this:
Student: I go to the restaurant with my girlfriend last week.
The teacher (me): Ah nice, you went to a restaurant with your girlfriend last week. What did you eat there?
Can you spot the correction? I repeated his sentence with the correction 🙂
By doing this I don’t interfere with the student’s story and they don’t feel embarrassed.
The purpose of Conversational classes goes far beyond building your English, it also builds your confidence. Many people can get distracted by being corrected. The student’s confidence is always more important than any grammar mistake and that’s what I prioritise and I’m sure that many other teachers do too. After all, I know so many native speakers who make many grammar mistakes, and that’s a good thing- It means that we are all humans with the beautiful ability to make mistakes and quite often correct and learn from them.