How much time do your learners spend speaking English in your classroom?

Speaking in your second, third (or even fourth!) language can, at times, be intimidating, don't you agree?

Where you are, how prepared you are and how comfortable you feel with the people around you, can all affect how well you speak at any given moment. This is as true for our students as it is for us.

How would it feel to have better rapport with your students, so you can help your learners, of all ages, feel safe enough and prepared enough to practise speaking more English, both inside, and outside of, your classroom?

If this sounds like what you are looking for, then here are a few tips for you on how you can help your students find the motivation to start talking more in English.

First things first, we have to give our students a reason to talk. Show your learners that you are taking an interest in what they have to say. For example, when you ask them a question, show an interest in their response and come back to that information in future conversations or lessons. So maybe they have told you that they are interested in a specific game or TV series or that they have a pet at home. You can show an interest by asking about their favourite character or the name of their pet. Come back to this information as part of future lesson plans when you're talking about animals, or ask them how they're getting on in their game when you ask the class what they did over the weekend. In turn, they will take an interest in you and this will give them a reason to talk to you.

Secondly, demonstrating to our students that English is a real language, that it is useful for them now, and it will be useful for them in the future, is key. Its usage in gaming, technology, science, tourism, international business and more, means it is going to be essential for most of our learners, as it is likely to be the lingua franca in many situations they encounter in their lives. If they want to travel somewhere, or even if they do not want to travel anywhere, but your area is somewhere where tourists come to, then this can be a real motivation to encourage them to speak English. Or if they do a lot of online gaming, then English is often the most common language and is used in a lot of the online chat rooms too. Once they realise it can be helpful to them outside the classroom, they're likely to be more motivated in the classroom.

In order for students to feel comfortable talking in English, they need to feel safe. So we need to create a relaxed environment for the best learning environment. This also includes allowing mistakes, when students are too scared to talk, because they're worried about making a mistake, this doesn't encourage learning and progress. Helping our students understand that we can learn from our mistakes is essential. And rather than punishing those mistakes, using them as a way of learning to grow and develop our language skills, can encourage our learners to speak more confidently and more fluently. This can even start with you owning up to your own mistakes, and showing your learners how you deal with them. We are only human, we all make mistakes and having a safe environment within the classroom where we can learn from our mistakes can be a great start to building resilience, determination and conscientiousness.

And finally, let's give our students the language that they need in order to communicate with us. This could be as simple as having a few posters that you take with you, to put up in your classroom or something that you do at the beginning of each year, which the students put in the front of their books, so that they can refer back to it when needed. Classroom language could include vocabulary for stationary, common questions they might want to ask, as well as requests or instructions you are likely use. As well as your students being able to use the language, they need to be able to understand what you are asking of them. When your learners have the language they need in order to communicate you can encourage its use when they slip into their mother tongue, which is likely to happen on occasion.

Setting up the right environment in our classrooms is essential to getting the best out of our students. Once we have all the right elements our lessons go much more smoothly and we and our students can enjoy the learning process and become English language speakers.

If you have any other tips to encourage your students to talk and to help lessen the intimidation of the language, please let me know; I would love to hear them.

If you would like more tips like this as well as regular resources and conversation starters, please sign up to my weekly wonders, which are sent out each Tuesday.