Recently, I have been using conversational style lesson plans for some of my classes. Many of my students want to learn a very practical style of English that doesn’t require too much from them. The nature of conversational English classes is very practical. It involves examining a sample conversation and finding the key vocabulary. The students practice pronunciation, and then input some of their own information. For example, in a conversation class on finding a new house, students offer information about what sort of house they like, which they then work into the conversation so that they can describe fluently their own thoughts.
The advantage of conversation
In Japanese schools, at least, the type of English that is taught is often quite dry, and very grammar-heavy. I often meet people who have no problem reading English, but who have no ability to actually speak the language. The introduction of ALTs through the JET scheme has helped to change this somewhat, and it is giving more Japanese school children a chance to practice spoken English.
Conversation classes are an ideal way to help students achieve fluency without the intense memorising and brain-aching work of grammatical rules. Conversing is also, for many people, the most enjoyable aspect of learning a foreign language – it gives us a chance to communicate with people of a different culture, with different experiences to our own. And if I were to pick up on every grammatical mistake that even native speakers make (including myself) when conversing, I think I would soon go quite insane!
Have you attended or taught conversation classes? How did you find the experience? Let us know!