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Real English Conversations
The Bridge Between ESL Classroom Education and Real World Communication
If this is your first time hearing about Real English Conversations, there is something you should know…
Instead of basing our lessons on a structured textbook or curriculum, we base our lessons on real conversations.
We’ve turned ‘English conversations’ into lessons with specific exercises to focus on developing the most important skills for communication: speaking, listening and the vocabulary people use in everyday life.
Everything on this website, all of our courses, and the lessons, have been created to help students bridge the learning gap between traditional ESL classroom education and the ‘real world English’ that they need to make friends, get a job and feel confident communicating in English as an immigrant, for business, or as a traveler.
On this page, we explain common problems that are holding students back from gaining the skills they need to succeed and explain how our lessons can effectively develop those missing skills.
Conversation about Driving
Real English Conversations is the best way to improve my English. When I first started studying English, I was a beginner student. Right now, I consider myself as an advanced student.
The methodology is really great. I can learn the most used words that native speakers use all the time so I can practice my pronunciation, increase my vocabulary, and plus I can practice with native speakers and other members of the community. It’s pretty good!
~ Samuel from Brazil
What is the ‘Learning Gap’?
The ‘learning gap’ starts to become a problem at the intermediate level. You will see it when a student knows quite a lot English (years of learning in some cases) … but they can’t use what they know to speak and understand real people.
Traditional English courses are excellent for helping students learn the basics of the English language. Students need to be taught how to form verb conjugations, proper sentence structure and pronunciation.
Naturally, students think the only way to advance their skills is to study using the same techniques that have taken them to their current level. To this point, it is the only way they know how to learn a language: learn more grammar, memorize more words, do more exercises that are centered around more advanced grammar.
Grading, Testing and Measuring Progress
In the heart of every teacher, there is a genuine desire to see their students succeed and prosper. Even though ESL teachers know about this ‘learning gap’, they often don’t have the tools or time to teach large groups of students how to speak and listen effectively.
Additionally, the education system has always been based on grading, testing and measuring progress. As a result, many activities are designed to be measured (correct or incorrect) instead of being designed to develop skills.
Languages are flexible but ‘grading systems’ are not.
The most effective activities to improve speaking and listening are not ‘measurable’ in the classroom; however, the progress and confidence that the students feel about their communication skills is obvious.
For most students, especially immigrants, their goal is to confidently communicate in everyday life and real situations… not pass to pass a test.
Teaching Students How to Teach Themselves
The final stages of English fluency will be achieved without a teacher guiding the way.
Some students will learn how to analyze the language themselves, self-correct their errors, and use the language the best way they know how. These students will reach their fluency goals. Other students need to be shown how to do this.
Instead of making students struggle through this process of teaching themselves, we start teaching them listening and speaking techniques that can be practiced using lessons or ANYTHING they might be interested in studying.
In the beginning, students (and teachers) can use our activities along with the learning techniques to see the exact skills that are developed. Later, learners can be creative to find different resources they are interested in studying while still developing the skills they want to improve.
English is Flexible, Just Like Our Courses
Our lessons and courses are definitely less structured than a traditional classroom with a specific curriculum, grading and testing process.
This way of learning can seem a bit strange in the beginning. Leaving you questioning whether these techniques actually work as well as they say they do.
Especially for pre-intermediate level students that are going from lessons that are super controlled (only familiar grammar used in the lessons) to real conversations that use the language naturally. Beginner to intermediate is a huge step on it’s own. Changing the way of learning at the same time is a bit overwhelming without good guidance.
Although advanced learners can see it’s different, they quickly recognize that this way of learning is exactly what they need to continue rapidly improving their skills and continue on towards fluency.
Despite the differences in our teaching style, the methods are effective with teaching these necessary concepts:
- Guessing is a skill.
- Mistakes are part of the process.
- English for communication, not perfection.
- Learn to accept your current skills but always strive to improve.
- Build confidence.
These students have kindly written a few words about their experiences using our courses.
Hello. I’m from Russia. I have improved my speaking fluency and I have improved my vocaublary ’cause now I use a lot more phrasal verbs and the words people use everyday… Not the phrases from the books!
Learn Common Vocabulary Faster
Speaking from personal experience, learning the most common words in a language is key.
Knowing the most common words allows you to understand what you hear and read. It also means you will be able to speak about most topics without a problem.
The fastest way to learn the words that real people use is to find them by studying real conversations.
Not only are you able to see them used in context but you can hear them being used in the audio to improve listening. Reviewing new words that you’ve recently learned by listening to audio is much more efficient than studying them in a list.
The true test is USING the new words you learned while speaking. Trying to talk about a topic you have studied is an excellent way to practice using the new vocabulary and discover other words you need to know to speak easily.
The Reality of Poor Listening Skills
When asked we asked our students in a survey which skill they had the most problems with… Nearly 2 out of 5 said listening was their biggest problem.
I also struggled with my listening skills learning another language but I didn’t realize it was a problem until I was already an upper-intermediate student.
In the classroom, it’s quite hard to teach students how to listen better. Usually, there are only listening tests to see if they can understand something that is played through a stereo at the front of the classroom… In many cases, this is the first time being exposed to how the words sound.
Students first need to be taught how to recognize, understand and comprehend what they hear. If they can’t hear something, further listening training techniques need to be used to determine the obstacles that are stopping them from achieving a high level of listening comprehension.
- Are they trying to hear every word?
- Are they shutting down when there’s a new word they don’t know.?
- Is it a particular English sound they aren’t hearing?
- Or is the audio too fast for them to comprehend everything correctly?
Our Real Conversation Lessons have detailed instructions that help students identify their listening weaknesses and do recommended activities to rapidly improve.
A few months ago, I got a new job that involves a lot of business trips to the United States. At that time my English was terrible. I had to quickly catch up to speak fluent English. I spent a lot of time learning from textbooks but they have turned out to be useless to reach fluency.
I came across the Real English Conversations website. Through their techniques, in two months, I’ve improved my English from beginner to upper-intermediate level.
I tried different courses but this site is my favorite. Over the time I’ve come up with my own way of learning which suits me best based on techniques I learned from Amy and Curtis.
A further advantage of this site is a very low subscription cost compared to other courses.
Thinking and Speaking in English
Speaking is the most neglected skill for language learners.
Somewhere along the way, they have been told that the best way to reach fluency is to practice with other people. That advice has been interpreted as the ONLY time they need to practice speaking and that practicing alone is not effective.
The truth is that speaking in a real conversation is a high-pressure situation that is more like a performance than practice. Although it is essential to speak in a spontaneous way with a real person, it is not a great atmosphere for saying new words for the first time, taking extra time to think and explaining your ideas in full detail.
With the right activities, speaking can be practiced without needing a practice partner. The key is providing a topic that makes them think in English by giving their opinion, telling a story or explaining something in a lot of detail.
Next, it’s up to the student to identify the words they are missing and to try to figure out how to express these thoughts exactly how they want to say them.
Identifying ‘missing vocabulary’ is a huge part of our speaking course and the activities. It is much faster for a person to learn the words they are missing while trying to speak than it is to memorize a list of words that they may or may not use in their communication.
This video explains the difference very effectively:
What about the Grammar?
By the intermediate level, most students are overloaded with grammar knowledge. They know the rules if they are used in a particular exercise…
But they struggle to remember and use the grammar while they speak.
It is important that students learn to observe and analyze ‘why’ things are happening that they are seeing. Looking for patterns and learning how to make sense of something.
This teaches them to see the things they have learned already – being used in real life – and they also learn things that they will probably never learn from a textbook.
Speaking activities help them to USE the grammar the already know. Finally making a connection between the ‘knowledge’ they have learned and the actual process of using it to explain a unique thought that they have created and want to explain.
The Bridge to Real Life English
Instead of trying to duplicate the existing ESL learning systems… we’ve decided to look at what skills people need help with the most and to develop and build our resources around that.
Being different isn’t always easy. Not everyone accepts our ways.
But we know that thousands of students are finding our lessons helpful and that’s enough to keep us moving forward to continually develop the lessons in this way.
Amy and Curtis have been together for 14 years and they have also moved abroad to a country that does not speak their native language.
Last year, they sold their house and followed their dreams to live in another country and start a new life. They know exactly what their students are experiencing while they adjust to a new culture, try to make new friends and struggle using a language that they don’t speak as fluently as their native language.
Amy explains about her experience learning a language as an adult:
I taught myself Spanish as an adult and I have experienced every learning problem and emotion that a person can experience while learning a new language. Embarrassment, low-confidence, shame, isolation… Poor listening comprehension and poor speaking fluency.
Textbooks and traditional ‘language classes’ kept me at a beginner level for over 14 years and caused a lot of the problems I had communicating with confidence. What I was studying and how I was practicing were the problem.
The day I decided to move to Mexico, I knew I had to overcome my ‘learning problems’ and advance my skills fast.
I started using real conversations as the base of my studies. It helped me to understand native speakers, learn the most common words and be able to speak using the similar vocabulary.
My life in Canada was busy, I didn’t always have time to practice with other people. To continue improving as fast as possible, I developed speaking and listening techniques that allowed me to practice alone.
Now, Amy has created a speaking course that uses all the techniques that worked the best to improve her speaking and listening skills. The courses connect the most effective techniques with suggested activities that are interesting and make your brain think in the way you will need for real communication.