A natural approach to language learning: guided conversation

Speaking Spanish

Once a certain level of fluency has been reached in learning a language, one of the most natural ways to practice and continue learning is through conversation. However, not everyone has the gift of knowing how to lead a conversation or knows how to listen while making it a learning experience. Finding the perfect conversation partner is not easy – when it comes to practicing in a productive way. A good conversation partner should have an excellent command of the language, but that is not enough – he or she should also have other qualities: the ability know how to listen and do so with respect and patience, allowing the student to take the time he or she needs to think and organize her sentences, and even ask questions. In addition, ideally that conversation partner should be able to direct the conversation so that it flows as spontaneously as possible, but without losing control of the learning situation. And finally, she should have enough experience and creative capacity to be able to introduce explanations and illustrative examples into the conversation in a dynamic and fresh way.

Is it possible to learn a second language in a natural way?

Language acquisition is a natural, largely unconscious process that requires nothing more than continuous exposure to meaningful and understandable input. This process is similar to that of all human beings when they learn their mother tongue in their childhood.

What is understandable information input?

It is the process by which we receive a piece of language that is intuitively understood by listening to it or reading it. What allows you to understand it intuitively is that this fragment is so close to your level of understanding or knowledge that you do not need to make an excessive effort to understand it – even if you are not able to understand absolutely everything.

How can you find the right level of language to understand it?

Well, that’s where the teacher comes in – she’ll be the one who adapts the language level to your level of understanding.

A good teacher will be able to create conversation sessions for learning purposes taking into account the following points:

 

The teacher will use a level of language proficiency appropriate for you in terms of vocabulary and grammatical structures, taking into account that you can understand it but that it is still rich enough to give your level a boost and help you continue learning.

 

The teacher will ensure that the content is relevant to you, the student. This does not mean that the content does not matter, but simply that you feel that the communication has a value, that you find useful, not as a lesson, but as a situation where you will have the opportunity to use it in real communication..

 

The teacher will focus on the student’s ability to communicate in a useful way. For example, if the student is telling or retelling a story, is he or she managing to effectively convey his or her main ideas? Does he or she use idioms in the same way as native speakers do? Does his or her speech sound natural and correct? These are the issues that will be in the teacher’s hands in this type of session.

 

The teacher will make thoughtful and reasonable decisions as to when and how to correct the student’s mistakes, because nobody likes to feel that the person they are talking to is more interested in criticizing than in listening. The teacher must be the one to determine how to provide correction in each particular instance; when to make a correction and how to do it, as well as the type of errors that are worth correcting, according to the student’s level of understanding, learning style and goals at any given time.

 

The teacher will offer a series of challenges that are reasonable and interesting for each specific student. This could mean, for example, asking a question in which he or she uses some colloquialism. Then, she will listen carefully to the student’s answer to determine if the colloquialism has been understood; Or it might mean introducing a word that is difficult (but related to the student’s interests) in a context where the student is likely to understand and remember it, thus creating an opportunity to enrich his or her vocabulary.

These are the elements you should expect in a conversation involving learning Spanish as a second language. And, in that way, you will be able to continue nurturing what is most valuable in that learning process, what makes you keep wanting to learn: your motivation.
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About the author:

Jackie’s educational background in Linguistics and Psychoanalysis, along with her experience as an English/Spanish Translator has given her a solid base from which to approach English teaching.
Jackie understands each students’ learning style, gained through her specific combination of education, work experience and creativity.
Thanks to her experience working in business environments Jackie is in her element when she helps business executives, scientists and professionals improve their English or Spanish language skills.