How practising with others improves your language skills, and my group idea for learners of English

I often talk about language exchanges, but there’s another way that you can improve your language skills outside of official language lessons.

I’m starting a new project with some of my customers, and I thought I’d write about it here too. Firstly so that I can find out if any of my blog readers who are learning English would be interested in groups like this, and secondly to talk more generally about the benefits of learning with others.

How can learning with others help you?

Most of my students book one-to-one lessons with me. This means that I can make the lessons really specific to that person’s needs, language difficulties, questions or to the things that they need to get done in English. This is great, but the learners who make the most progress are those who also use their English outside the classroom, whether that’s by reading books, watching films, practicing what they’ve been learning, or talking to others.

Whilst other learners may not be able to teach you in the same way that a teacher can, practicing your language skills with other learners can help you because:

  • If you’re speaking or writing to them, you get the chance to practise making sentences, interacting, and using the language that you have learned.
  • It keeps the language as a regular part of your day. You’ll find it much easier to think in English if you do it regularly in a group or chat than if you only think in English when it’s time for your lesson, or when you have to use it at work.
  • You can also benefit from the questions that other people ask.
  • It’s sometimes less daunting than communicating with native speakers. You’re all learning, so everyone will make mistakes at some point.
  • Being part of a group with other learners helps to keep your motivation up, particularly on days when you don’t feel like doing language practice!
  • You might think that you don’t have much time, but it’s much easier to respond quickly to a message than it is to find half an hour to sit down with an English book.
  • If you’re working with a smaller group, it’s not as loud or overwhelming as it would be in a big class or language conference.
  • Often the best tips about resources come from other learners. Knowing other people who are learning too means that you can give and receive tips about good websites/books/podcasts etc.

What am I doing with my learners?

We are going to have a WhatsApp club that will be divided into two groups – one for beginners to lower intermediate learners, and one for upper intermediate to advanced learners.

We will be using the group chat facility in WhatsApp to build learning support groups for people who want to practise their English with other learners.

I will be there to lead the groups, get conversations going, help with questions, give corrections, and generally make sure that everyone’s ok. But the main advantage of these groups is that learners can make contact with other learners, and use WhatsApp messages, either text or voice messages, to develop and improve their English by taking part in conversations in the group.

Each group will have a maximum of five learners, so that learners can get to know the other people in their group and it doesn’t become too chaotic with hundreds of messages from different people.

Rather than trying to find a mutually convenient time to bring everyone together, which is often difficult when people have busy schedules, having the WhatsApp group means that people can take part, start conversations, or respond to messages whenever they have time.

Similarly, working this way means that the learners don’t have to be in the same geographical area as other group members. In fact in my first group, we are based in three different countries.

There is a small charge for monthly membership because although I won’t be teaching lessons in the group, I’ll be helping or answering questions about the topics or grammar points that come up. I’m also bringing people together and providing a space for them to learn with like-minded people.

There are plenty of free resources out there, but often these groups have a high percentage of members who never participate. This is one way to learn, but the idea with the groups is that they will build a level of trust between up to five learners, and everyone will feel confident enough to get involved and play an active role.

The focus of the club is really on conversation – general small talk, topics to discuss, and practicing speaking or writing skills. It is not a lesson, and it’s not a way to try and get cheaper training! It’s a way to provide real-life opportunities to practice language skills, because a lot of my students tell me that they don’t have anyone with whom they can speak or write in English.

Would you be interested in joining a group like this? At the moment, my pilot project is only running with current learners, but if there is wider interest in these groups, I will consider starting more.

You can use the contact form to let me know or to ask me any questions.

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Kirsty working with students

Author: Kirsty Wolf

I am an English teacher and a language enthusiast who also speaks German and Romanian. I help motivated professionals to improve their English so that they can communicate confidently and authentically.

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