A Monday morning.
And it’s dark outside.
I mean like, middle-of-the-night dark.
On Friday, Renata at the language school asked me if I wanted a new student.
I wasn’t crazy about the time, but I needed the extra income, so I said “Yes.”
But now, walking toward the metro station and feeling my nose start to freeze, I was having second thoughts…
Luckily I manage to find the address without getting lost. Although I’ve been in the city for seven months already, it’s still easy to end up on the wrong street and late for my lesson.
I speak to the receptionist but she doesn’t hear a word I said. The second a receptionist hears English they know you’re an English teacher and lead you to the conference room.
While I’m waiting for my student to arrive, I unpack my gear – a blank sheet of paper, a pen, a dictionary – and a minute later Mr. Novak walks in and introduces himself.
After some small talk we get down to business.
“What would you like to work on?” I ask.
And then I hear them…
The five sweetest words every (lazy) English teacher secretly wants to hear.
“I just want to talk.”
This means no lesson planning.
No correcting homework.
No remembering difficult grammar rules.
In fact, no work at all.
Drinking free coffee and getting paid to discuss politics and listen to office gossip.
Not the worst job in the world.
But then, as my first year in Prague turned into my second and then my third, I began to notice something.
Although I saw these “just talk” students for one or two hours a week, and while their fluency improved, often they stayed stuck in other areas.
Their vocabulary stayed the same.
They made the same mistakes.
And their accent remained unchanged.
There was something missing.
And that missing something can be the difference between improving a lot or just improving a little.
In his Ted talk, Eduardo Briceño says that while people can do the same job for years, most won’t improve.
The reason, he says, is because they always perform and never do any practice.
Compare this to a professional musician who divides his time between playing his instrument and practising it.
On Friday night he performs at a jazz club. But on Monday morning in his apartment by himself he’s practicing.
So that’s the first step — you have to practice.
Next, it has to be the right kind of practice.
Anders Ericsson, whose research was the basis for Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule, recommends “deliberate practice.”
Here’s how to do deliberate practice:
1. The activity must be challenging
2. You must have a goal while practicing
3. You must get immediate feedback
During a meeting or on a phone call with a client, I recommend performing.
But during your lesson with your teacher, I recommend practicing.
Here’s one way you can use deliberate practice to improve your speaking.
Use The Echo Technique
What’s an echo?
If you stand on the edge of a canyon or at the entrance to a cave and shout “Hello!” and a second later you hear “Hello!” that’s an echo.
The echo technique means you’re echoing what your teacher says.
Here’s how to do that:
First, listen carefully. It’s surprising to me how many students during lessons, and people in general, just don’t listen.
Second, pick something you want to improve. This could be vocabulary, verb tenses, or accent.
Third, copy that one thing during your conversation
Use the same words or verb tenses or intonation you hear your teacher using.
Finally, you must ask your teacher for immediate feedback and then try again until you get it right.
Click here for a demonstration of the echo technique.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
So what do you think?
Is this something you’ve tried?
Has another technique worked well for you?
Please share below.