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Conversational English Lessons

- 15 February 2014, 06:02

Most conversational English classes are offered to intermediate and advanced level English learners. However, in my experience there are people who can be brilliant at reading and writing; but terrible at speaking and listening.

What does this mean? What should you do?

If you are categorised as advanced or intermediate at English; then try to ask how you got to that category. Most English placement tests have listening, speaking, reading and writing components. To save paying native English speakers to give placement tests, many English teaching organisations will get someone from their country (who speaks your mother tongue) to conduct the test. This means that they are more likely to speak in a way that you understand. This can make placement tests, and other formal tests unreliable indicators of English levels. Also, there can be pressure on administration to “prove” that their teachers and English school is the best. This can mean that tests are made easier to keep students as paying “customers”. This, in my opinion is unethical and only slowing the progress of GOOD ESL speakers.

Therefore, you need to be honest with yourself. Just because you are placed at a certain level, and want to be in a higher level class for prestige/ status… you may actually learn more by asking to be put in a lower level where the pace of the lessons are slower and you can learn more thoroughly.

* What opportunities do you have to speak English outside of paid lessons?

English conversational lessons are great for people who are shy to speak to native English speakers. English conversation lessons can also help people understand Western culture if the lessons are conducted by a native English speaker. If the conversational lessons are conducted by someone who speaks your mother tongue; then you may be paying for something that you don’t need to pay for. Getting good at speaking ANY language is done through practicing in REAL SITUATIONS. Practicing in real situations is possible for anyone at intermediate level and above once the foundations of English have been learnt in a formal learning setting.

Even if you have a friend who speaks the same mother tongue as you, ASK them to speak English with you for 10 minutes. Like an actor you need to forget that you can speak your own language. Because when you meet a native English speaker; chances are they won’t understand your mother tongue and you will NEED to learn to explain things in English. Native English speakers aren’t so interested in pronunciation. As long as you can communicate your ideas effectively and they understand what you’re saying… if you speak with an accent native English speakers don’t care. Therefore, don’t just get English Conversational Lessons to improve your accent unless you have spare time and money.

* How do you learn?

Some people simply don’t learn through just listening and speaking. This is a problem with the TESOL teaching methodology. Native English teachers like myself are required to emphasise listening and speaking in their lessons. However, the psychology of learning states that people learn differently. For instance, I learn best by reading and writing and seeing new words on a page BEFORE I speak and listen to them. If someone just tells me a new word in another language; I cannot learn so well. Also, I need to practice by doing writing exercises before I am confident to participate in conversations.

* What do you need to use English for?

The English Learning Industry is about MAKING MONEY. Unfortunately, this means that English Teaching Centres both offline and online encourage students to enroll in as many lessons as possible. The high demand for English lessons results in multiple courses in English being offered which are often things that students could learn and practice without paying an English Language School for. Also, teachers who are hired may not be very experienced or qualified because many Language Schools are more interested in making profits over quality.

* Who is your teacher? What organisation are you learning from? Who are the other students?

Ask yourself about your teacher. Don’t be afraid to enquire about their qualifications and experience. Also, give your new teacher a chance for about 1-2 months. If you don’t like your teacher; then ask to change to another teacher.

Investigate the organisation that you are learning from. Do they have successful graduates? Also, try to see what teachers they hire, the textbooks and learning the materials that they use. It will help to consider the other learners who may be in your classroom. If there is a disparity between learning levels, then you will be disadvantaged. Private conversational lessons can be better than group conversational lessons.

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