Adding more structure at LingQ, some ideas. What are your views?

a) Pattern review with tutors:

It is useful to review the patterns of the language we are learning, whether structural patterns, vocabulary usage, or pronunciation. This can help us notice things that we sometimes just do not notice in our listening and reading.

Tagged lists in our Vocab section are a great basis of material to review problem areas identified by our learners. It could go this way.

Learner submits a vocabulary list to a tutor by email or skype
This will usually be a Tagged list or some other list from the Vocabulary section.
The learner indicates whether the goal is structure, vocabulary, or pronunciation.
The tutor will drill the learner based on the list, asking questions using the words and captured example phrases in the list as a base.
Unlike in free discussion, all mistakes will be immediately corrected.
Ideally the lesson is recorded for later review by the learner.

b) Tutors evaluate the learners.

If the learner wants, the tutor can provide a rating of the learner’s proficiency level.

Tutor would rate learner after one or every "one on one" session.
Ratings are made subjectively by the tutor and based on the  LingQ 6 level rating scale.
Ratings would be cumulative and become more accurate over time.
Ratings would be an indicator of progress, although progress will be uneven.
Learner can choose to be rated or not.
Learner can choose to display rating or not.

What do you think?

I think it would be a great idea to save phrases in a separate area to words, as phrases are what enable someone to speak the language well. So every time someone clicks more than one word to save, they get an option to save it to a special phrases list instead. Then they can review them without having to filter them out in the vocab list.

I assume you cannot do anything similar already?

As to Steve’s questions, both approaches would be of no interest to me. Neither as a learner nor as a tutor would I want to work with something that reminds me of school.

I understand, though, that some people might be very happy to be offered such structure and if a tutor were happy to rate learners, then it might be a way to motivate people who find LingQ too flexible / confusing at the moment.

(a) is a great suggestion!
(b) is not so important (for me). And it may be difficult to rate a student after 15 minutes.

What I always hated in the current 1-to-1 discussions: I have to speak nearly all the time, because most of my tutors tried to avoid to speak a lot. My French is not so good that I am able to speak about a variety of topics in a kind of monologue. I would have preferred a more guided session about a specific topic (defined in advance) with questions and answers, immediate corrections. I don’t like these student monologues!

The current group discussions are only for advanced students, who are able to discuss and follow advanced topics. One can see this in French, where e.g. environmental and economical questions are being discussed.

@guitario For the time being, you can tag all your phrases. I don’t think there is a separate area for phrases.

I tag phrases and words for cases in Russian and I find reviewing them useful. I also review the captured phrases, often editing them and occasionally replacing with other examples. So there are many ways already to focus on phrases.

I hear you Sanne, but I am going to try to review a vocabulary list with my Russian tutor. I think that this kind of structured review has its place, as long as it does not become the dominant activity. But to each her own.

Oh, this is virtually language learning at school, only the tables are turned: the student creates the syllabus, the tutor/teacher follows suit, then grades/rates the student’s work.

I agree with Sanne. I love free discussions but I avoid everything that reminds me of school.

@Hape: I never have the feeling that conversations are a monologue. Probably it depends on the tutor? Have you ever tried to discuss this with your tutor? When I speak with students, I try to encourage them to speak but I like to have real conversations as well. It depends on the level of the student.

I feel skeptical… I have to agree with the others where it has the regular school format. To me the first idea is just gives the student/tutor something to focus on (and as Yvette said, the student creates the syllabus). The second idea with rating the student just seems like an extra feature that might generate mild interest.

Everybody here seems to love “free discussions”. But in order to discuss freely, you need to have quite a high level of proficiency in the language. As a beginner or intermediate you can talk only about “easy” topics with simple words and structures. Then you need some guidance, or am I wrong?

@Vera - It all depends on the tutor. And one cannot expect too much, as tutors are no experts in didactics. But I often ask myself: What would the tutor do if a student has even more difficulties to speak?

Maybe it’s also my “fault” as I am not a very extrovert person.

@Hape - I am not an extrovert either, I tend to do better when I define a topic in advance, although sometimes I am too lazy to do that. Several times in past conversations, I have come prepared to discuss a particular lesson (letting the tutor know also), and I feel that I speak more fluently when I do prepare. I agree with you, I think that you do have to have a high level to be able to have a free discussion. I am sure that your tutor would discuss with you whatever you want, as long as you know what you want to talk about.

Steve, I like the first idea. In Spanish, for example, Albert has had a few conversations dealing with telling stories in the past (to work on imperfect / preterite) and “What would you do if …” (to work on the conditional / subjunctive). It wasn’t so structured, like a lesson, but he posed questions that would give us a chance to practice those structures. I think that I liked it because it wasn’t like a lesson. As far as ratings are concerned, I am concerned about my level in the language, since I want to pass the DELE this year, so I am interested to see how tutors would rate me. I have asked tutors to rate my level, and I have spoken with the same tutors for quite a while, so I feel they know my level pretty well (even though I think they are being nice).

I do have to say, though, that your suggestions do seem to be more geared toward the learners that don’t really trust the principles you espouse, and would rather be in a classroom, concerned with grammar and exams.

Hape, I engage in free and group discussions and I do not have a high proficiency in French! I just go for it and let the mistakes fall where they may. Besides, I have awesome tutors, so they help me when I’m tripping all over myself. And I’m making progress even though I continue to make the same mistakes. The good news is that now I’m aware of those constant mistakes and can sometimes correct myself before I slip up. It is only through free discussions that I find that I’m understanding the language better. Free discussions are just that free, flexible, non-structured, or on point with a topic on the table. They are so much fun too!

Group discussions are excellent for picking up vocabulary. When you listen in, your mind kind of narrows-in on certain turns of phrases and key words that your are later able to use yourself. I find group discussions a tremendous active vocab boost, because if I’m at a loss for words, the ones I previously heard are often the words I need to grab hold of in certain instances.

I like the idea of suggested topics for conversation, organized approximately by level, as is done on this site ( Spanish Proficiency Exercises: Site Index ). For example, a beginner might choose to talk about her family (I am married, I have 2 siblings, etc.), an intermediate learner may talk about a favorite movie, and an advanced learner may want to discuss what she would do as president and why.

Another website discussing language tasks by level (in a little less detail): http://www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/departments/post-secondary_education_training_and_labour/post-secondary_education/content/apprenticeship_andcertification/language_tasks_androleplayexamples.html (http://bitURL.net/bqyj)

What if there were a list of possible discussion topics (I’m thinking for group conversations)? Students could then mark those subjects that interest them, and tutors could look at the list to see which discussions they might like to offer. Perhaps students could indicate the times that they are generally available. Then the tutor could pick a time that was convenient for the biggest number of people.

Now, if a tutor posts a conversation and no one signs up, s/he doesn’t know the reason. Are people not interested in that topic or does the time not suit?

I have a list of past EIKEN test questions that someone sent me, and if a student asks me to pick a topic I pick one of them. They are the “current issues” type questions that examiners seem to love.

I like Evgueny’s technique for intermediate group conversations. He picks a topic (usually telling you in advance what it will be) and asks each student direct questions on the topic. The question is usually fairly predictable from the answer the student before has just given, giving you time to think up your answer and look up a word or two in advance. He helps students to formulate their answer if they need it, saying the correct sentence once or twice and also writing it in the chat box so you can look words up and then try to practise them within the same discussion.

He allows more advanced students to talk amongst themselves, but for lower intermediate and intermediate students it’s difficult to think up questions and responses fast enough for an unstructured discussion.

@Yvette, when you said you weren’t very “proficient” in French what do you mean… You known word count is very high and you have listened for over 100 hours, would you consider yourself fluent yet?

Good question, Aston. Well, when I say I am not proficient in French, I mean that I cannot write in French nor speak in French without too many gaps showing up in my knowledge. I have no trouble making sense of the language on the page, as it were. And I can understand 90% of what I hear in articulated speech, but when it comes to writing and speaking I have difficulty putting the language together in a coherent way.

When I need to call upon my passive knowledge (known vocabulary) in real time, this is nearly an impossible feat. My active use of the language does not parallel my passive knowledge of the language. Because my weaknesses in the language outweigh my strengths, I do not consider myself proficient. When the tables turn, and they will soon, I will be a happy bilingual American. And then the joke won’t be on me! (cf. Serge’s “favorite phrase” post.)

I don’t know what does "proficient " mean, but being able to understand 90 % of what is said in articulated speech is great! Yvette is far too modest since she is able to get her ideas across, whatever the topic is. Yvette’s known word acount is high, it’s why she is doing very well. Making grammar mistakes is not serious at all, as far as one is capable of expressing what they mean with accurate words arranged together in a more or less comprehensible sentence. You have no idea how many mistakes French native speakers make in standard conversations.

I’m willing to suggest tailor-made conversations for everyone. Just ask what you’d like to talk about.