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To class (or not to class?)

Photo by Stephen Paris from Pexels

Taking a language class is an obvious decision when you are learning or improving your skills. For some it’s a social occasion - a great opportunity to chat with friends and acquaintances and have a bit of a laugh. For many with a busy schedule, it’s a guaranteed time slot where you can put everything else out of your mind and focus on studying. Let’s face it, only the very motivated and disciplined among us will dedicate free time to home study. Folding a basket of washing or reorganising a kitchen drawer suddenly become very appealing when the alternative is time with a language book! That hour of class each week may be the only time you dedicate to study, despite your very best intentions.

But attending a language class won’t make you learn, you need to participate effectively. Here are 3 tips to help you get the most out of your English class.

1. Speak (in the new language!)

Here’s something I’ve learnt: no one is waiting for you to fail. We’re interested in your contribution, not the number of mistakes you’ve made in a sentence. I know it can be scary, but nobody in the class is expecting your English to be perfect (otherwise, why are you there? Go spend your money on something else!). If this is the only hour in the whole week that you have a chance to practise speaking English, shouldn’t you use it?

2. Don’t wait for the teacher to give you something else to do

You had an extra hour this week and did some study at home. As a result, you finish an activity before the other members of class and shout, “Finished!” before crossing your arms and sitting back in your chair.

Instead of broadcasting your speed to the class, take a look over the activity. How do you know your answers are right? What are the grammar rules or clues in the text? Are there any words you didn’t understand? How many adjectives/adverbs can you find? Which words have the same pronunciation? These are all mini activities you can do to reinforce what you’ve learnt and help you identify what you don’t know.

3. Look beyond the English book

Some students treat the course book like a language god and focus more of their attention on its contents than anything else in class. (I have some news for you: the book was written by people and probably even contains errors. Gasp!) If you want to get even more from your lesson, focus on the language you hear between course book activities. If your teacher only speaks English in class, put the book aside and listen closely. What words and phrases are they using? Write down a couple of the useful ones or try repeating them in your head, and as always, ask when you don’t understand.

Article aid

  acquaintances = people you know, but who are not really friends (e.g. classmates)
  have a bit of a laugh = have a good time/enjoy yourself
  time slot = a specific time when something is scheduled to happen
  put something out of your mind = stop thinking about something (e.g. a worry)
  let’s face it = let’s be honest
  get the most out of = take advantage of/use something as much as possible
  take a look over = look at a text, but not read it in great detail
  gasp = the sound you make when you breathe in suddenly because you are shocked

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