Finding input which will engage English learners.

One of my online Spanish student has an advanced level of English and she wants to practise her speaking skills but she lacks confidence. I have noticed that most language learners often lack confidence when it comes to having a conversation. They can comprehend a lot but they fear of speaking because they think people will not understand them or they will make too many errors.

When I learned Spanish, I didn’t learn it at school, I learned it the “hard” way by living in Spain on my own for half a year. There were only Spanish people around me and I didn’t know any Spanish. For one month, I didn’t speak! I only listened to the people around me. I only got tons of input and then… I couldn’t even explain how it happened but it happened, I started to talk and the people around me were actually quite shocked I could speak that well. The point I want to make here is that you first need a lot of input before being able to provide some output. And you do provide output when you are ready. So there is no need in forcing people to speak another language if they are not ready.

Coming back to my Spanish student: I was looking for ways to improve her fluency on topics which matter to her. At first, I thought that talking about food would be interesting enough. I asked her to watch a video about Thai food:

The goal was to discuss different types of food and the concept of ethnic food. I created a resource with follow-up questions about the video and an exercise to broaden food vocabulary with a link to vocabulary flashcards I created Quizlet (you can also download it for free on Teachers Pay Teachers along with other useful resources!).

It was a good start to our weekly sessions but I found that the student was not really motivated. One day, she told me she had watched a great TEDx Talk about an inspiring guy who talks about how easy life is:

I asked her to re-tell the video to me and we then talked about it. My student was more engaged and I could feel she was happy to share what she had watched. So from now on, I have asked her to watch videos that inspire her and to then talk to me about them. That way, she first gets a lot of input and when she re-tells the video to me, I can check if she has understood it and it is also an excellent exercise to improve fluency.

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