lunedì 3 febbraio 2014

The Power Of Language Exchanges

Learning English in a non-English speaking country gives students fewer chances to practice in real life what they learn in the classroom. However, I am sure that even in the smallest town of the world there are a few native English speakers. Find them! Why? Read the post and you will understand!

A Language Exchange is considered a method of language learning based on mutual language practicing by learning partners who are speakers of different languages (ideally each learner is a native speaker in the language the proponent wants to learn). It is also called Tandem Language learning because there are usually two partners. They can meet in person, exchange e-mails, talk on the phone or today use social networks. It usually consists of an informal conversation which lasts about an hour, half the time is dedicated to one person and their language, the other half to the other person. In most cases the condition to take part to a self-directed tandem is to have a lower intermediate level.

When I set up my language studio besides teaching English, I gave Italian classes to the staff of the American ship and their families who settled down in my hometown. Once one of my Italian students ran into one of my American students during a break. They did not know how to communicate, whether in Italian or English. At that very moment I got the brilliant idea of holding a meeting in which my American and Italian students could practice their linguistic skills. I have been holding language exchanges since then. In order to allow all the students to take part to the event despite their levels I always plan carefully the activities.

Our language exchanges can be divided in two different kinds: CONVERSATION GAMES and BOARD GAMES. I'd like to share with you one example for each type.

Conversation Game: Speed dating
This is the first activity I did during a language exchange so as you can imagine it can be considered an ice-breaker. I got the idea from the speed dating taking place in bars to find a soulmate.  Students were matched in pairs (if the number of people speaking the two different languages is even it is much better). They were given the worksheet in the picture below which helped them to start the conversation. They started speaking in Italian but after five minutes I rang a bell and they had to talk  in English. Every five minutes I rang the bell and they swop the languages.
I recreated the relaxed atmosphere of the bar by offering them soft drinks, tea and coffee. They had so much fun as you can see in this picture.

Board Game: Visual Game
This is a team game. The aim of Visual Game is guessing what the member of your team has drawn. There are five  categories you can choose: house tools, risk, verbs and places, hobbies and sports, sayings and famous quotes. In the game we played I kept the categories but I wrote my own words, phrases and statements. It was a chance to review some vocabulary and learn some new expressions. My students did not use the notebook from the box but small whiteboards.  Italians had to guess what was drawn in English and the Americans in Italian.

In my opinion, learners get a lot of benefit from the language exchange. In this diagram you will find five reasons why language exchanges are great.
To sum up,  language exchanges cannot replace the teacher's lessons but they are a chance to practice what students learnt in the classroom and they let learners get closer to the culture of the language they are studying.

"The language exchange is a better way to learn and compare yourself with other people. You can listen to different pronunciations and accents", Silvia (upper-intermediate student)

4 commenti:

  1. Practice make perfect. it's great work and success ways in Teaching english :)

  2. Brilliant idea to engage your students this way! You were lucky you had the opportunity of having both groups of students at hand and brilliant to take advantage of it!

    1. Hello Gina,
      thank you for reading my post! If you like the idea but you don't have English native speakers in your classes you can put an ad in town I'm sure someone will tun up!

      All the best,