The Role of Communication; I suggest that you will acquire language best when you study in such a way that you 1) listen to large amounts of comprehensible input, 2) have opportunities to use the target language to communicate with others, and 3) support your learning with some grammatical learning (focused on making input comprehensible and developing awareness).

Here are explained; Understand the Role of Communication.

Listening to English will help everything. Listening will build your vocabulary, improve your grammar, and even help your speaking. In fact, there are some who believe that listening to comprehensible input alone is sufficient to develop complete oral proficiency, as mentioned before.

However, though that may be possible, I do not think it is likely. On the contrary, I believe that using the target language (English) to communicate with another person greatly helps students acquire the English language. This belief is confirmed by the results of my survey.

Question: In an average WEEK of study, how much time did you spend using English to communicate with a NATIVE SPEAKER OF ENGLISH (For  example; A foreign teacher or friend) 1 hour or less More than 1 hour
Successful Learners; 39.39 % 60.61 %
Non-successful Learners; 84.85 % 12.12 %

The results of the survey show that a student is more likely to be successful if he or she spends at least 1 hour or more each week using English to communicate with a native speaker of English.

However, this information is not new for most Chinese EFL learners. They are aware that communicating with a native English speaker will benefit their English acquisition. The problem with most students is that they either 1) do not have opportunities to communicate with a native English speaker or 2) do not have the confidence to do so. I will address these issues later.

Why is Communication Helpful?

Many scholars believe that interaction, the act of communicating with another person, plays a significant part in second language learning. First, Michael Long believes comprehensible input is of great value but believes it is best received through interaction. This is because when a fluent speaker and a less fluent speaker interact, they enter into a negotiation of meaning.

As they use the situational context, repetitions, and clarifications to maximize comprehension, the more likely the learner will receive input just beyond his present competency, the I + 1 input (Ellis 1997, 47; Mitchell 1998, 128-129). This process is also described in terms of Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal.

Development. The learner collaborates with the fluent speaker to scaffold (utilize discourse, context, or comprehension checks) to produce utterances he would not be able to produce on his own. Thus, learning (and input) takes place at the Zone of Proximal Development, the place in between what the learner could do independently and what he could not do even with help (Ellis 1997, p48).

  Focusing on the Target Language

While Long focuses on the value of the input gained through interaction, Merrill Swain (Ellis 1997) points out several benefits of learner output (speaking) in interaction.

First, with comprehensible input, meaning can often be attained without paying attention to the grammar of the input. She maintains output can help students notice a gap between what they say and what they hear; thereby raising their consciousness that some of their grammar is not correct.

Second, the output provides learners with an incentive to formulate and opportunities to test hypotheses. They can apply a rule to an utterance to see if it leads to successful communication or elicits negative feedback.

Finally, learners often reflect on their own output, discussing problems and potential solutions.

Many scholars agree that interaction, using the target language to communicate with another person, is beneficial for a variety of reasons.

Whom Will, I Speak with Communication?

If you are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak with a native speaker on a regular basis, please grasp it. But unfortunately, many students do not have this opportunity. Whom will they speak with?

Aren’t there highly fluent non-native speakers for them to speak with? Such as a Chinese friend who studied abroad, a relative who lives in Australia, or a Japanese or Korean business person who speaks excellent English? Or more importantly, what about fellow Chinese students?

Asked students how much time they spent each week using English to communicate with highly fluent non-native speakers or their classmates. 

Question: In an average WEEK of study, how much time did you spend using English to communicate with a HIGHLY FLUENT SPEAKER OF ENGLISH
though he/she is NOT a native speaker of English (For example; A Chinese English teacher with great spoken English)?
A 0 hours B 1 hour or less More than 1 an hour but less than 3 hours More than 3 hours but less than 6 hours More than 6 hours
Successful Learners; 42.42% 18.18% 30.30 % 3.03 % 3.03 %
Non-successful Learners;  
42.42%
 
48.48%
 
9.09 %
 
0 %
 
0 %
Question: In an average WEEK of study, how much time did you spend using English to communicate with FELLOW STUDENTS who are learning English (For example; a classmate or an older student)? A 0 hours B 1 hour or less More than 1 an hour but less than 3 hours More than 3 hours but less than 6 hours More than 6 hours
Successful Learners; 24.24% 42.42% 21.21 % 12.12 % 0 %
Non-successful Learners;  
24.24%
 
48.48%
 
27.27 %
 
0 %
 
0 %

It seems there are more opportunities to use English than just with native speakers. Yet Chinese students do not seem to be taking advantage of them. This is a shame because most students cannot afford to be silent while waiting for opportunities to communicate with a native speaker. There simply are not enough foreigners in China to give every student such chances. Students, instead, must do what they can.

  Understand the Spiral of Silence and explain their Theory

Finding Opportunities to Interact with Communication:

Here are some ways to practice your English that does not require you to speak with a foreigner:

Speak with Fellow English Language Learners: 

I do not know why so many students do not speak English with their classmates. Most foreign teachers have students practice with each other in class. So why would one not speak with a classmate because he would rather wait for a foreigner?

For when he does get a foreign teacher, the teacher will instruct him to speak with his classmates. I understand students are afraid of listening to poor English and acquiring bad habits. But remember, if you are listening to comprehensible input diligently on cassettes or TV programs, you will still be hearing native speakers every day.

In this case, the benefits surely outweigh the dangers. In China, I knew of a class of students that would often have an “English Day.” A day when they would only speak to each other in English. This type of activity can be fun and helpful.

Speak with Non-Native Speakers Who Speak English Well: 

There are many Chinese, Japanese, and Korean teachers and business people who speak English well. Perhaps they can speak with you. Besides, if you get a job which requires you to conduct international business, you will not just be speaking with native English speakers. Many business deals all over the world are conducted in English, even though English may not be the mother tongue of any person at the meeting.

Therefore, speaking English with non-native speakers will not only help you acquire English but also will prepare you for international business communication; Also viewing “Common Mistakes to Avoid for Beginners”. It’s more strong your communication skill.

Speak Over the Phone: 

Many Chinese friends I know have relatives living in English speaking countries that speak English very well. Perhaps you can speak with them in English over the phone. Speaking a foreign language over the phone is not easy, but can be very helpful. My sister speaks Spanish very well. I called her on the phone 2-3 times a week to practice my Spanish with her. I improved a lot from this.

Read Out loud: 

This is not nearly as helpful as true communication with another person. However, it can help you develop oral fluency and confidence.

Strategies for Communication:

  • Do not be afraid of making mistakes. Mistakes are normal.
  • Realize you will not always be understood. When you are not understood, you may use the following strategies: 1) repeat yourself, 2) use gestures (hand movements and body language), 3) say the same thing in a different way, 4) use examples, and 5) give definitions or synonyms for words.
  • Realize you will not always understand what another person is saying. When you do not understand, you may use the following strategies: 1) Make guesses about what is being said. 2) Check these guesses by asking questions. 3) Check your understanding by restating what you think the person means. (i.e. Do you mean…?) (Amato 1996).
  Successful Writing at Work

Saving Face:

Perhaps you know you should speak English in one of the above ways, but you do not dare because you are afraid of “losing face.” This is a big problem. In fact, I asked students the following question about face. The results are not surprising; How to Improve Your Spoken English with Communication.

Question: Which of the following statements best describes you? A; I am not afraid of losing face. Speaking English with foreigners is no problem.  B; I am afraid of losing face, but I know I need to practice to get better. So I force myself to speak English with others.  C; I am afraid of losing face. So many times I avoid speaking English.  D; My spoken English is so poor I dare not speak out. 
Successful Learners; 48.48 % 39.39 % 12.12 % 0 %
Non-successful Learners;  
15.15 %
 
33.33 %
 
36.36 %
 
15.15 %

If we combine the results, they give us a better understanding of what is happening.

Question: Which of the following statements best describes you? A & B 
[Students who speak without or in spite of the fear of losing face.]
C & D
[Students who avoid speaking because they fear losing  face.]
Successful Learners; 87.88 % 12.12 %
Non-successful Learners; 48.48 % 51.52 %

These results are disturbing. Apparently, 51.52 % of non-successful students are avoiding opportunities to communicate in English for fear of losing face. In contrast, only 12.12% of successful learners avoid speaking in English. The results strongly suggest that if you want to speak English well, you must overcome your fear of losing face and begin speaking English with others.

Communication is helpful for your English “How to Speak Fluently English in Week”.

I have always found this ironic. Students attempt to save face by hiding their poor English skills, while this prevents them from gaining face by improving these skills. Which is better? To save face by hiding your mistakes? Or to gain a lot of face by improving your English skills, even though you may lose a little face along the way? The answer is obvious. The honorable thing to do is overcome your fear!

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