Notes from Session #1
In the first session we looked at how and why structuring ideas about a conversation topic can help to practise in a way that results in more efficient and fluent speaking.
This contributes to a focused and efficient practise time. Why is this important?
The habit of practising speaking with structure is an efficient way to pick up more fluency when using standard common expressions in a shorter amount time.
When we are speaking, there are just too many things to coordinate at the same time (content ideas, vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, intonation etc).
It is similar to driving a car. Coordinating the use of pedals, the wheel, the mirrors, the gears etc is a complex task. This becomes second nature after you have been driving for some time. Similarly, the components of speech are largely automated in our mother language, but are harder to do in a foreign language until we get to an advanced level.
Drafting the key elements before your speaking practise helps you to
- set your mind on the topic
- guide your thinking and keep you on track
- help you practise with focus
The result is that whatever topic you talk about, it will be clear to follow, and it will also allow you to feel more relaxed, because you will feel that you are more in control of what and how you are saying.
More self-confidence means less stress, which in turn means more attention capacity for other details of communication.
This is the underlying theory. In real life of course things are more dynamic, and it all works in a more fluent way, but the components are generally the same.
Speed and fluency are a result of practicing the things you need and the right way.
Review the exercise that we talked about in Session#1, explained in this video before you start doing the homework tasks:
SESSION#1 – HOMEWORK
Choose a past travel experience that you want to talk about.
- Think about the details of the trip. Try to bring back memories (as if you were thumbing through a photo album with pictures from the trip).
- As you are thinking, write down on a piece of paper words that represent the things that you remember about this trip. Write nouns like: flight, luggage, hotel, beach, taxi driver, traffic, city centre etc.
These words should be from your real story.
Do NOT write complete sentences at this point, only words. Don’t worry about organization here, only write the words down as the images come. You will get a chance to complete them later.
Once you have the list of nouns, go to your task sheet and start adding the words from your list in the right hand column of the table under KEYWORDS.
For each word, think for a moment what you want to say about it, and put it in the corresponding box. For example, if the word is “restaurant”, you can put it in box 3 where you speak about the place if you simply want to say that there were a lot of restaurant in the city centre.
However, if you want to speak about a restaurant where you had dinner, you would want to put it in box 4, where you speak about the experiences you had.
You can find and download the task sheet here.
(if you cannot access or write in the file please let me know)
For an example, check this sample sheet here.
In this part you will practise speaking using the table that you prepared about your chosen holiday trip.
You should do this practise part on you own. This may feel strange at the beginning (speaking alone).
Think of it as an actor or actress learning a script. The difference is that your text is not written out in a continuous text, but it is placed into boxes in a table. The preparation work is similar to how an actor learns a set of pre-fabricated vocabulary and phrases that we call script, written by the playwright. They must get into a role and learn their dialogue parts by heart.
The difference is that in this case you are both the playwright and the actress or actor in the same person, and you don’t need to memorize anything yet.
All you need it to use your notes in the table to:
- pick the idea you want to talk about (KEYWORDS column)
- find the matching grammar expression (FUNCTIONAL VOCABULARY column)
- joint the two together and say the complete phrase or sentence (fit them together like LEGO pieces).
A typical mistake that learners make at this point is that they do not use their notes, and they start to improvise. This works against the point in the exercise.
Do not improvise at this stage. Focus on your notes that you prepared. Respect your preparation work. You put time and thought into preparing your notes, so the best thing you can do is to actually use them (fit them together like LEGO pieces).
If later you feel that you would like someone to listen, you can ask a family member or friend to be your audience.
Here is an example video to give you an idea how on how to make a coherent and continuous speech using the table prepared:
Be patient. You can achieve a grade of fluency similar to the video with practise. Proceed slowly. Attention is more important at this point than speed.
Remember: fluency is not the same thing as speed. Fluency means connected speaking. It is often fast speaking as well, but the two are not exactly the same thing. We will see more examples of this in later sessions.
Choose a hobby or a favourite pastime activity to talk about.
- Think about the activity and related details.
- As you are thinking, write down on a piece of paper words that represent the things that you are thinking of. Write nouns like dancing, cooking, outdoor sports, music, taking nature photographs etc.
The words should be about your hobby.
Do NOT write complete sentences at this point, only words. Don’t worry about organization here, only write words as you are thinking about the details of the hobby or activity. You will get a chance to complete them later.
You can check this sample table here for examples.
Download this task sheet for adding your ideas and for practising.
In this part you will practise using the table that you prepared to talk about your hobby or favourite pastime activity.
Follow the same steps as in the previous part on talking about your favourite holiday.