Online Communication Group – is it what you need?
How are the languages learnt? We collect vocabulary and structures, we understand some basic messages through listening and reading, and then the time comes to speak and communicate. And here, many of us stumble.
I start teaching online groups to help people learn to communicate in English. Let me explain why it will work for you.
It’s one of the most kept secrets of language learning: don’t wait until you know much, start speaking as soon as possible. If it’s so easy, why is it a secret? I have no answer to that. Somehow, the system of language learning in many places is concentrated around collecting the knowledge but has little to do with communication skills. I have put my main priority in teaching to helping people through the communication barriers which arise when we wait too long (Have you ever said to yourself: ‘Well, not now…I am not ready yet’, yes, it’s about you!) and fail in simple communicative tasks regardless how much of the language they know.
You can find a lot of materials on the Internet to learn grammar or vocabulary, but when the time comes, you need to find the opportunities for the real speaking practice to push your communication and master a range of competencies which include asking and answering questions, starting a conversation, apologising and dealing with problems, being polite, asking for help and so on.
How can you boost your speaking, in particular, English speaking:
Don’t just read, practise!
The primary step is always to prepare yourself for speaking. Never learn ‘quietly’. Always repeat the phrases you want to remember aloud, all of them!
When your eyes just slide along the lines of the text or you are listening to some podcast or news, you don’t develop your productive skills! Even reading some texts aloud will help you much for the future speaking the language. You will notice how hard it is sometimes to write a word or pronounce it – very much more difficult than just recognise it in the text. So, add some speaking to your learning – even if it’s just repeating what you hear or read aloud.
Maybe just to move to another country?
Many people believe in immersion, I mean going to the country of your target language to learn from the real people and real conversations if you can afford it, of course. It works as an emotional driver at the beginner level. When you are forced to understand at least something because it’s frustrating to understand nothing, our brain works very actively to learn and to improve the situation to more comfortable. So, this motivation can make you learn much faster. But it doesn’t work for everybody, I am afraid. There are some people who feel even more frustrated and lose any motivation at all. But generally, it can be productive.
I don’t think immersion is always a good idea. It’s best to learn this way when you know how to speak the language in general and you want to improve your skills, either listening or vocabulary. Then, this approach to native speakers becomes so important and valuable! I’d say somewhere about Intermediate level. You can learn set phrases, social formulas for everyday communication, learn much about the culture of the language you learn (very important for developing fluency) and work with understanding natural speech which is usually much faster than the learning materials.
The magic of Language Learning Apps
What if we can’t travel? Language Exchange Apps are a big hit these days. Well, to tell the truth, I am quite critical about them because it’s quite difficult to find determined people to communicate to on a regular basis.
You need to be really determined to achieve some progress. If you occasionally (once a month or so))) browse through several profiles without any system OR A CLEAR GOAL, it won’t work. From my point of view, the main thing for you is to set a goal for yourself before you start communicating with people. Do you want to make more friends? Do you need consistent language practice on a long-term basis? Do you want to know more about the places you are planning to visit? Be sure to be consistent and know your wished outcome.
Next, discuss your goals with the people you start a conversation with and hear theirs out. Do they have similar goals? If they don’t know what they want, there is a chance they are not as determined as you are. Don’t waste your time and move on until you find a person who is genuinely interesting for you and matches your ambitions. Then, it can grow to fruitful collaboration. Otherwise, you will get stuck with the same ‘Hello, I am Sam’ introductions with numerous people without visible progress in communication. You will end up bored and frustrated more than ever.
What if you need guidance and assistance with your speaking practice?
I hear it a lot: ‘I want to be sure that I say things correctly. I want to know I communicate to people the right way. I don’t want to look strange or rude’. We don’t always know the simple techniques of everyday communication because we mostly concentrate on grammar or learning words. However, if you answer the wrong question or you don’t understand what people want from you, it can ruin the whole impression of you. I have been working with communicative competencies for a while and I can say few of my students knew what it was when we started. They felt awkward because they didn’t know how to organise the conversation in English properly, and it caused frustration, more mistakes and complete loss of self-confidence. Because you can’t communicate if you were not trained to do it. After just several sessions of working with conversation techniques, communication was not a problem anymore. They now know they will figure out the situation very fast and they know how to give the right answers and how to ask the right questions.
Let me explain to you what we were doing exactly
Communicative competences are functional tasks we fulfill in speaking.
The most basic ones are:
- presenting ourselves,
- asking basic questions about other people,
- how to describe things and places,
- describing routines,
- saying about past actions
- talking about plans and so on.
The problem is that starting from routines and past actions, when students (and very often teachers) get stuck in grammar (verb tenses; they really take so much time!), and they don’t proceed with other communicative patterns. They spend more time on making monologues, but not dialogues. As a result, when we find ourselves in some communicative situation, we are mostly trained to make dialogues, and we need to guess how to behave correctly in the course of a conversation.
So, alongside with learning structures of the language, we put focus on social skills.
I have picked the competencies which are most necessary in communication:
- meeting new people;
- saying ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ to the people you know;
- asking questions;
- understanding others and being able to ask;
- expressing your personal opinions and preferences;
- asking for help and saying ‘thank you’;
- agreeing or disagreeing,
- accepting and refusing politely;
- apologising and accepting apologies;
- offering your help;
- making and accepting/refusing invitations;
- telling and receiving news;
- showing interest, surprise, sympathy, and support;
- criticising and showing disapproval;
- talking about emotions
When we go step by step working with one competency after another, my students develop a skill of communication. We make sure they can understand the situation and know how to react. They develop confidence and they collect real-life communication experience which later helps them in their actual practice. I have seen huge improvement in speaking skills and self-confidence. This is how I feel they are ready to communicate. This is how I see them master the language.
So, now I want to extend this practice to the group classes. I am opening communication groups starting from the next year. I see a lot of potential in them because for students it’s a real chance to learn through practice with people from different backgrounds and of different character.
How the group will work
I will be teaching online group classes via Zoom applications. We will have a short series (10 in total) of group meetings on a weekly basis each covering a particular communicative competency and vocabulary practice. You will receive the vocabulary before every meeting to prepare.
During each session, we will be:
- studying model dialogues,
- discussing communicative do’s and dont’s for every type of situation,
- anticipating listening difficulties,
- learning set phrases and then
- practising them extensively.
It will be 20 minutes of study and 70 minutes of speaking practice. After each session, you will be receiving vocabulary and listening homework together with my feedback of your accuracy and tips for improvement.
I expect you to gain full confidence in everyday context communication after the full course of 10 sessions. Talking to other people in the group will be your real life speaking practice, and I will be there for help and support wherever you need me.
I only take 6 people to this group to ensure the optimal balance of my attention to every participant. I will work with Low Intermediate level students because they mostly struggle with communication confidence on their way to fluency in English.
The next group starts in January this year. I am planning to teach several groups throughout the year, so follow the updates for the best dates for you. The group is not free. All dates and prices you will find here.
To make sure everybody benefits from the group at its maximum, I will be testing each participant myself to make sure people are compatible and there will be productive atmosphere in the classes.
If you want to participate, please push the button below to take the free grammar test, and I will get in touch with you to discuss the availability.
I am looking forward to the opportunity to work with everybody in our future group. Every time the miracle happens and my students see the real improvement, I get so inspired to do even more work to help you become fluent in English!
Please register for the free test in the form below.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments or just send me a direct email to email@example.com. Let’s rock your English in the new 2017!