Finding people to help you
Whether it’s attendance at a language fair or a cup of coffee with a language partner, other people can help to keep you motivated and make the language learning experience more fun and more real. You can read and listen to things on your own, but when it comes to improving your speaking skills, you need someone with whom you can practice. There’s only so much your dog or cat can do – even though I’ve found that dogs make really good listeners if you need to practise a presentation!
Enlisting the help of others is a good idea because they can:
- Help you to practise the vocabulary that you have learned.
- Give you listening practise.
- Answer your questions (if they are a native speaker or a more advanced learner).
- Give you the chance to use the language in real, rather than theoretical situations.
- Expose you to language that people really use, rather than language that was written specifically for learners.
- Help you to learn about a country’s culture as well as its language.
- Encourage you on days when you feel disheartened or unmotivated.
- Help you to build your confidence in a relaxed atmosphere.
- Widen your circle of friends with similar interests.
- Introduce you to new learning resources.
Those are just 10 things that they can do. There are plenty more.
Your task is to identify two or three people who can help you with your English this year. They could be teachers, native speakers or other learners. It’s important not to rely on one person for everything, because we all have busy lives and if that person suddenly has no time for you, it’s less of a problem if you have some other people in your network.
Think about the kind of person that you are and the kind of things that you enjoy. Some people love big gatherings of language learners. Some people don’t. Some people prefer chatting to people online, because this means you aren’t limited to people in your local area. Some people only want to meet face to face. Some people love meeting new people. Others hate talking to strangers, in which case it can help to get to know people more slowly on a one-to-one basis.
Once you’ve identified your three or more people, think about how, when and why you will contact them to work on your language skills.
How = by telephone/by email/by Facebook etc.
Why = to set up a language exchange meeting/to do an activity together.
If you can’t think of specific people, think about activities that you could do in order to find people – going on a language tandem site such as Conversation exchange, or joining a Facebook group for language learners.
If you’re interested in starting a language tandem, in which you help someone to learn your native language and they help you to learn theirs, here are some tips about getting the best out of language exchanges.
If you are interested in building a network of people who can help you to learn, otherwise known as a personal learning network, you can read about the idea here.
Check out this article if you want to know about the advantages of using Facebook groups for language learning.
More from English with Kirsty
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