Learning to speak a new language in a classroom

It is hard to imagine that you can improve your conversational skills in a classroom with a fixed teacher or tutor. If you want to improve your listening and speaking skills, you should be practicing with different people, and one a one-to-one basis.

There are several reasons for this:

  1. In a classroom environment, it is generally not possible to engage in a dialogue. You end up taking turns to say something. This is not how conversation take place in a real life environment.
  2. You learn to increase your listening tolerance (the bandwidth of your listening) by speaking with different people. Different people speak differently, even if they share the same nationality or racial background. When I was first posted to the Philippines as a country manager for a multinational company, on one occasion, I asked my staff, “When are you going to get back to me?” They could not understand me even when I repeated this several times. The reason is that as a Malaysian I’m used to pronouncing back as beg. When I was pushed to re-emphasise, I pronounced it as beck. However, the Filipinos are used to hearing back as bark.
  3. You need to build your confidence in using your newly acquired language with people you have not met before. If you have only been speaking with your teachers in class, this will not help to overcome your intimidation and nervousness when you need to talk to someone that you have not met before. Practicing with different people is particularly useful in a language test situation because your assessor will definitely be someone you have never met before and you do not know how he/she will speak.


For information about our online English learning services, visit www.epiclanguage.com, and for our online Chinese language  learning services, visit www.mandarin-espeak.com.

Чехунов Денис Николаевичциклевка

5 thoughts on “Learning to speak a new language in a classroom”


    In response to this article, I totally agree that for a student to improve his conversational skills in a classroom, he should be practicing speaking with different people either on a one-to-one basis or in a group. To improve in his speaking skills, he needs not just confine himself in the classroom to speaking or interacting with his teacher alone. Whenever a teacher steps into the classroom, teaching and learning is going to be very formal. At the same time, the teacher may have to rush through to complete the syllabus and exams formats. He may not have time to further interact with his students other than completing his task as according to the lesson planned for that day. Thus it is not possible for him to engage in a dialogue especially an informal one. The students in the class mostly take turns to speak or answer the questions. Even then, some students may not be called to answer any questions at all because teacher may not have the time to call all the students to respond.
    As for the teaching and learning environment in Malaysia, most of the rural schools students only get to hear and speak English during the English period in the class. Once outside the class, they choose to interact in their own mother tongue. There is no English speaking environment in such school. There is also very little initiative taken by students to create such environment- the fact is they are more comfortable speaking in their own mother tongue.
    In addition, students should learn to speak English with different people from different nationality or racial background. Different people speak differently especially when there is an influence in the different slang or accent used. I remember there was once when I was touring Australia. The driver of the coach tried his best to entertain us with some jokes. It was so hard for us Asians to understand what he was saying. He was talking about an “Irish man” but what I heard was an “Orange man”. When he said “later” I thought he meant “Lighter”. In another situation, a European man said “Start Smoking”, when in actual fact he meant “Stop Smoking”. It took me quite a while to figure out what he said. I realise that as Asians it is hard for us to understand what the Europeans are saying and as for them it seems we speak too fast and it is difficult for them to understand us instead. I may be proficient in English but I always feel intimidated when talking to any European because of their slangs. Therefore, I strongly believe that students should speak English with different people from different nationality.
    Furthermore, building confidence in the newly acquired language with people you have not met before is also another appropriate approach to speaking a new language. Students have been speaking with their teachers in class all this while. They are very familiar with their own English teachers. They don’t feel intimidated nor nervous when speaking with their own English teachers. In fact, they feel comfortable talking to them. Thus the real test is when students have to speak to newly acquainted friends, associates, or even to strangers and that is the time when they lack of confidence in speaking the language. The situation becomes worst when these students are assessed in their speaking exams where by students need to interact in English within stipulated time with total strangers or assessors from other schools.

    Written by:
    Cheah Chai Kim

  2. Learning to speak a new language in a classroom
    Improving conversational skills in the classroom sounds difficult, however, it is not impossible even if the learners are to work with only one particular teacher or tutor for considerable time in the classroom. Interacting with other people who share the same target language is absolutely recommended to get speaking skill better.
    Based on the experience acquired, language learners will benefit and interesting , active and communicative classroom environment as long as the instructor is creative by understanding student’s needs and designing proportionate activities which are to the point and direct the pupils to their aim. Some teaching strategies are applicable to teach various parts of a language such as grammar , reading and etc with the emphasis on speaking skills, therefore, student do not have to read silently but do it more actively involving in pairs or group works.
    Listening is generally thought to be hard to master within the class due to the listening to only one fixed teacher with limited vocabulary usage range or the tone of voice. It is should be mentioned that learners are not exposed only to the teacher speaking and voice but there are numerous sources for listening as there are audio materials where speakers from different counties with various dialects and accents are communicating their ideas. Therefore, engaging students in the classroom does not seem to be hard if careful steps are taken to plan the lessons meaningfully rather than merely covering the course books sections.

    21/06/ 2018

  3. I agree with you that for students to improve his listening and speaking skills, he should commit to practicing often and with as many different people as possible. I remember during my school days; I was very sick and tired of not finding the correct words when trying to have a conversation in English. It’s frustrating, not remembering the right words to express myself during recitation. The lack of knowledge of the English language and being fluent, always kept me back from participating in our classroom. There were times also when I felt unworthy and I had a very low self-esteem. But I learned that I must concur my fear and believe more in myself. It is true that learning to speak a new language requires not only learning a new word, but also to have the necessary confidence to dare to speak. And when we learn a lot of new words and grammar, the hardest part of learning is understanding what others say to you. That’s why it’s very important also that you hear lots of different voices when you are learning the language and work on improving your listening comprehension.

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