When you get stuck

I've been stuck a few times when learning Japanese and German. Mostly it's because I didn't want to leave my 'comfort zone'. I'm an extreme introvert, so meeting and talking with new people makes me terribly anxious, sometimes even sick to my stomach. Sometimes it has been because I doggedly stuck to one particular book or strategy that … [Read more...]

Written homework is important for conversation classes

You've reached a certain level of ability and confidence, and now want to join a conversation class. Great choice! One conversation class per week is recommended by the local language school. Enrolled! You are nervous at the beginning of the conversation course (who isn't), but muster courage and turn up each week. In class, you speak as … [Read more...]

How to be an independent learner

Have you ever sat through a class, been bored out of your mind, and not remembered anything that was covered? I have, many times! It can be a combination of a dry topic, how the topic is being taught, how the other students in the class are participating, the stuffiness in the room, and even how you are feeling at that particular time. The … [Read more...]

Australian animals – word search

One of the first handouts I made for my Japanese classes in 2010 was a word find puzzle, with a large number of Australian animals. It was probably one of the most popular lessons, as the students raced to be first and receive Australian stickers as prizes. They were surprised at some of the animals that could be found in Australia - camels, … [Read more...]

Motivation and language learning

It's common to hear "this year I'm going to learn ... Spanish, because I'm going to Spain for a holiday at the end of the year." Or, "I desperately want to learn Japanese. It would be cool to be able to watch anime without subtitles." Or, "I want a raise, and to get it I need to improve my English." You get all fired up and motivated at … [Read more...]

30 Travel Idioms

Idioms are used regularly in every-day spoken language. Even beginners are faced with idioms if they travel to an English speaking country for a holiday. That's why it's important to include idioms in all levels of language courses. Plus they are fun, and help with vocabulary learning and recall because they paint bold pictures in our … [Read more...]

50 Travel conversation prompts

The most requested topics in a conversation class with my older students is travel. I usually schedule two classes per conversation course on this topic, focusing on different tenses or grammar. Making the second or third lesson in a course about travel helps the students feel more comfortable with each other and improves speaking … [Read more...]

Dealing with language learning burnout

Does working through that textbook seem like an awful drag? Or perhaps a conversation class fills you with dread? Do you prioritize cleaning the toilet or do other unappealing tasks above cracking open your flash cards and drilling? Do you want to throw the towel in on your language learning journey and just give up? If you said yes, … [Read more...]

How to massively improve speaking confidence in conversation classes

What's the one thing most students are afraid of? Making mistakes. Looking silly in front of the other students. Being corrected a lot by the teacher, or by the other students. This drains their speaking confidence and can ruin a conversation class. I was that student, deathly afraid of speaking When I was in high school, I would … [Read more...]

Choosing conversation topics

Conversation language courses are considered difficult to plan for - there is no textbook to follow, no grammar that must be covered, no vocabulary list that must be learned. Apart from the focus of each class to improve speaking and listening skills, the possibilities for topics, lesson progression, grammar, and vocabulary are endless. So … [Read more...]