5 Steps to Help Students Become Conversationally Fluent in the First Year

Whether fluency means being able to read in the target language (TL) without the use of a dictionary or being able to watch a foreign movie without any subtitles, each student’s definition of fluency and fluency goals can differ. Contrary to popular belief a student can become conversationally fluent in a foreign language that they are learning in school. The following are 5 practical steps a student can pursue to become a more efficient and effective communicator in their TL.

Step 1:

Master the Essentials. Simply put, the essentials students’ need to learn are some vocabulary and basic grammar.  There are plenty of resources available to help students master vocabulary - on and offline. Of course, we encourage students to use ClassTracks to efficiently and effectively study vocabulary. For some languages learning the vocabulary in 2 or 3  sequential textbooks can lead to basic conversational fluency. For example, Japanese learners who learn the vocabulary in the textbooks Genki I and Genki II will know around 70% of the spoken Japanese language. Learning the basic grammar will allow a student to use their vocabulary in the proper sentence structure.

Step 2:

Master Conversation Fillers. Every language has sentence fillers such as um, er, so, and like. If a student can master the TL’s fillers it will enable the learner to sound more natural. Also if a student learns conversational fillers it will allow them time to think of words or phrases if they have a mental block.

Step 3:

CommunicationFind a Native Speaker to Communicate with. This is the most important aspect of learning another language. You actually have to speak it. With the internet there’s no excuse why an individual can’t find a language partner or teacher. Teachers can help their students find native speakers and make sure the contact is standards-aligned through sites like penpalschools.com, which provides a platform to connect with students across the world along with standards-aligned curriculum to support the interactions.

Step 4:

Learn to Problem Solve and Find Synonyms. Problem solving in the TL is absolutely vital for a student to learn. What do I mean by problem solve in the TL? Problem solving in the TL means finding ways to work around mental blocks when you forget words or phrases. If you’re talking to a native speaker about your day and can’t remember the word for library, you can refer to it as “the place that lends books out for free”. Finding synonyms is the same concept. If you forget the word short, work around it by saying something isn’t tall.

Step 5:

Forgive Mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, but students learning a foreign language shouldn’t be discouraged by them. Students need to forgive mistakes because they are a natural part of the learning process. If a student can laugh off their mistakes and keep going they are more likely to stick with a foreign language for the long haul.

If a student can master these five steps, then effective communication in TL is achievable in a year.