Converting an understander into a speaker

I do not understand why one person, a teacher, would impose on another person, the student, the pressure and obligation to do something he does not want to do, and then put him in a position where he will be judged. Let people talk when they want to.

I understand that this is necessary in a classroom, but that is why I do not go to classes to learn languages.

Then what is a teacher for?

I assumed here, from the question, that the student wanted the teacher to help him attain better speaking skills. If not, then there is no point indeed.

@alexandrec: it is kind of scary for a student who already has trouble forming oral sentences. Now he is asked/forced to do an oral presentation in front of the class?

Then what is a teacher for?

To encourage, stimulate, inspire, and incite the learner to become an independent seeker of the language. I would show movies, let people read and listen to texts that interest them. I would speak in the target language and let people chime in when they want and not force anyone to speak.

The only language teachers that I remember were the ones who inspired me. They were very influential, and the really got me to devote my energies to learning. They did not teach me anything.

“I would speak in the target language and let people chime in when they want and not force anyone to speak.”

Yeah, but then there would most probably be some people in any given class who would NEVER speak…

That could be kind of problematic if you (i.e. the teacher) were taking money from a parent/employer/etc…

I would have them on LingQ and as long as their activity index was up there, no problem. I would of course try to engage them but it they did not want to speak, no problem. Most kids graduate unable to understand French in English Canadian schools, so if they manage to understand, they are already well ahead of the pack.

@edwin – I was assiming it was a one-on-one class.

The question was about going from understanding to speaking. Letting someone sit back in class without having to say anything does absolutely nothing to help them.

I don’t see why I would pay to watch movies or listen to someone talk. I can do that for free with Youtube.

@alexandrec: so let’s put this in the context of a 1-on-1 class. For a student who already has problem putting words together into sentences, wouldn’t it be more challenging for him to go home and do this himself?

I wonder if this ‘silent’ method works…

Keep silent, wait for him to open his month, then try to maintain the conversation. Pretend you don’t understand if he attempts to switch language.

I don’t expect this is what a teacher would do, but I expect this from a true mentor. In fact, I suspect a few LingQ tutors pulled this trick on me before.

I cannot imagine a one on one situation where the learner refuses to speak. I cannot imagine a one on one situation where the teacher cannot induce the learner to say something in the target language.

If a student wants to improve his speaking skills, something, somewhere is going to have to be more challenging or nothing will change. Or he could just keep waiting if that’s what he wants.

But it didn’t sound like the OP wanted to keep waiting.

As for the role of a mentor, I would, on the contrary, expect a mentor to push me beyond my comfort zone.

“I cannot imagine a one on one situation where the learner refuses to speak.” - steve.

@Steve: this was a hypothetical scenario Alexandre was describing.

@Alexandre: In the trick I just described, the tutor was playing the role of the mentor to push the student beyond his comfort zone.Yes, by keeping silent. The student has to step out of his comfort zone and speak, or his tuition fee will go down the drain.

If a student is unwilling to speak, making it more challenging would have a negative effect. Right?

If the student is unwilling to speak, why is he in a class? If you are unwilling to learn, you simply won’t.

I must say that sometimes I completely freeze. I want to speak, but the words just won’t come out. As an example, one time I was talking with two tutors, and was asked to explain something technical in the language. I refused to, I just said that I couldn’t. I felt like I wouldn’t be able to explain very well, and the words were a jumble in my brain, so I didn’t say anything. I wanted to be able to talk, but in that situation, I guess I thought that that particular topic was above my level.

But we always have these moments,especially in a classroom or tutor situation. If, however, you were in Spain or wherever, and had a genuine need to ask something, you would communicate somehow or other.

@alexandrec: I thought this was the original scenario you were discussing.

“It’s very difficult to make a reluctant student talk. The impetus to talk must come from the student himself. …” - alexandrec

You suggested giving him an oral presentation in a 1-on-1 class.

My doubt is that if he is already reluctant to talk, would a challenge of an oral presentation help?

Yes, Steve, you are right, if I had to communicate, I would manage to do it somehow. When I was on vacation and had to communicate, I was able to do so, understand and be understood.

I am very curious for an answer to Helen’s question, and I want to hear something other than live in the country for awhile to plug in the holes because I am not going to do that. :frowning: I think the fact that I am studying, and don’t really have an immediate need to learn the language, and not a lot of opportunities to use the language with people around me, I feel like I am stuck (or progressing VERY slowly).

I feel the same way with my Russian but it does not bother me. I enjoy my reading and listening. When I am able to accost an unsuspecting Russian in Russian, I do so, but these opportunities are rare. But the point is that I know that if I go to Russia I will quickly improve. You only need it when you need it, and when you need it you will rise to the occasion.

Meanwhile I have been talking to our Russian and occasionally Portuguese tutors here at LingQ and I am better some days than others. I enjoy these discussions but I cannot spend the day doing them. I can, and do, listen and read in Russian or other languages and just enjoy it.

I have one suggestion on “converting an understander into a speaker”.

I was stuck in the past when I could understand quite an amount of French and Spanish, but couldn’t formulate a single sentence, even when self-talking.

Then I found some Pimsleur CDs from the library. I completed levels II and III for both languages, and I found that it helped me a lot in constructing simple sentences. From this point, I found it easier to develop more complex sentences. Thanks to the hours of listening and reading, I could effortlessly expand my sentences with filler words and other common phrases.

But beware that doing Pimsleur alone is not enough.

I am not sure if your local libraries have Pimsleur, but it worths checking out.