How to develop your confidence in using English
by Claire Jaynes
The biggest area where our learners want to improve at Trebinshun House is in being able to use English more confidently. Whether our students are preparing to speak at international conferences, lead weekly conference calls or negotiate contracts with new suppliers, what they all have in common is wanting to feel more sure of their language skills. So, what do we do on our Intensive Training programmes which helps to develop learners' confidence?
1. Analyse goals
As many of our students are busy business people (with only a short time to study on an intensive business course) they are all familiar with goal-setting principles. So we start by analysing their objectives and making them SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound). Being more confident or fluent is a global goal but what we firstly need to look at is the context where they will use English. Secondly, we need to consider what language is most used in those settings An example of a SMART goal is 'I'd like to learn how to link together my ideas better in a presentation I'm giving next month'.
2. Work with real-life situations
Getting to know the context in which a student works is very important so we take time to get to know the student, their business and their industry. We work with case studies and the student's own environment to ensure that relevant language practice is maximised. For example, if a client needs to regularly lead meetings, we look at sample dialogues to analyse and then practise useful language. We may do this at first in a one-to-one class to build confidence in this safe setting.This practice can then be extended to group lessons and with a maximum of four students, everyone still feels relatively comfortable (this example would be from one of our Combination courses). Practice makes perfect and develops confidence!
3. Give accurate and relevant feedback
As a teacher, it's important to give balanced feedback: this means, praising the student where language use is improving but still providing critical feedback where language is inaccurate. As a student, it's important to be open to receiving this feedback. Developing a good working relationship and trust between teachers and students is therefore of high importance and at Trebinshun House, this relationship-building is done outside the classroom during coffee breaks, lunches and dinners as well as inside the classroom. Confidence grows alongside trust.
4. Understand the complex issues
There are complex factors at play in a student's wish to improve English and it's the job of the teacher to take these into consideration. Indeed, as an organisation, it is often our role to take the pressure off students in order for them to relax into their language learning experience. Providing a 'safe' setting is crucial for effective language learning. For our students, there might be a pressure to perform in a more senior function or to perform in English more publicly. Discussing this pressure openly is helpful.Using another language can leave us feeling quite vulnerable - how to express ourselves in a second language on quite complex issues can be very demanding.
5. Recognise the importance of the individual
Many teachers believe that language learning is a journey: students take different routes at different speeds. The same is true of confidence: we need to recognise how learners feel about themselves and accept that language learning can also be different at different points in the language learning process. At Trebinshun House, many of our students return to us for a second visit and often report they feel more confident second-time around, partly because not everything is new and partly because they are now ready for the next part of their journey.
Confidence in language learning raises a great deal of questions. What has helped you develop confidence in your ability? What has been your role and your teacher's role in this?