Not just turning up and saying, 'What do you want to talk about?'
(New updated conversation methods!)
This is the section where I tell you all about my conversation lessons: how they work, how you can apply, what to expect and some price guidelines.
I've had several years experience of teaching in Poland and now specialise in conversation. However, I DO NOT simply saying 'hello' to a student and then just talking away, hoping that we'll find something to talk about, and then charging them. Or even just saying to the student, 'Hello, nice to see you again, what would you like to talk about today?'.
That is absolutely NOT the way to do things.
In many countries there are several students who are keen to practise their conversational skills with a native speaker, but finding good native speakers who had taken the time to prepare material beforehand proved a problem. There are many who do not prepare and just ask the student what they would like to talk about. This is lazy and unprofessional.
Yes - you thought conversation was just talking. No it isn't. You need to have ready materials beforehand and to have spent some time preparing those materials.
And this is precisely what I did, and here is my routine.
1. General introductions, easy discussion: six things to take to a desert island, the lessons ahead
The first meeting is very important as you need to be relaxed. Having a first lesson, particularly with a native speaker, can be very stressful!
We start with a very leisurely conversation on a subject called 'four weeks on a desert island', which gives us the chance to get to know each other. Unless we had a 15-20 minute meeting earlier, I will then explain to you how my lessons work.
Depending on you, these meetings are usually 60 minutes, 90 or two hours maximum. I can do longer, but both you and I would need breaks!
2. A subject chosen from a prepared list of topics
Over time, I have collected several interesting, unusual and even controversial subjects and added a twist. I now have over 100 in my collection.
The topics have been all placed into categories: activities, attitudes and perceptions, business/work, difficult topics (meaning the subjects could be controversial), education (mainly focussing on aspects of the English language), finance and competition, health, leisure, psychological, stereotypes and technology. You may be, perhaps, a doctor who wants to focus on your use of English, so the obvious categories to choose would be education, health and even psychology. You can see the full list here.
After deciding on a topic, I email a copy of the material needed for you. This material includes a vocabulary list of several words or phrases that perhaps you may not know, which are reviewed before reading the text.
We then go through the text paragraph by paragraph: I read and you listen for intonation and pronounciation. When I complete reading the paragraph, I will ask you to repeat it, based on how you have heard me read it.
The text is followed by a series of comprehension questions, and then for the more advanced students among you, we do a vocabulary view in the form of a game.
I would then give you a set of fifteen additional questions in the form of a PowerPoint presentation with a set of multiple choice answers, with points to be won!
Although most students choose to have 60 minute meetings, a completed topic usually takes about two sessions, but depending on the discussion (and student enthusiasm) it is often possible to fill three or more!
If you ever need a change of routine and some point, I have an alternative list of general topics to choose from, but here there are no fixed subjects. From a sentence or question, we can talk about this thing and everything!
3. An optional writing project
I don't usually mention this to students in my introductions, but it's a useful exercise because this would cover the other CAE requirement of writing.
Your project, should you decide to accept it, is to write a 1000-word text on a particular topic that is in the style of the texts that have been presented in the discussion lessons.
I will then go through the text with you and 'knock it into shape'- that is, work on it so it reads like a native speaker has done it.
I will then ask you some comprehension questions about your text - which will be typed up - and then, for fun, we will come up with twelve to fifteen fun questions with lots of possible answers!
The result is that your finished work will then be used as discussion topics with other students, but you will keep exclusive credit, and if you wish (which I do encourage), your name will be credited on the text.
So what do you have to do and when are lessons available?
Click the next page for more information and featuring the most frequently asked questions.
Author, cartoonist, language instructor, English text proofing, and a definite sense of humour