How Simple Conversation Practice Can Change Everything

Such a good conversation class tonight! It’s always so rewarding for me as a language coach and teacher to sit back and see my students get to take the reigns of the conversation. We had a ladies’ night tonight, and each woman did an amazing job of listening, participating, and asking clarifying questions.

I could tell that everyone was so focused on the CONTENT - what was being shared, and had true curiosity behind their follow-up questions - that the actual language learning process was just occurring naturally!

When this happens, when you are more focused on what you’re hearing and saying than on how you need to deconstruct and construct it in your second language, your second language is actually entering your brain subconsciously. THIS is where the MAGIC happens - you are truly acquiring the language!

I’d already shared with my students that an hour of conversation practice does more good for your second language acquisition than a whole week (or month, at that!) of using a language app or computer program.

So it was funny to come home and see this article, How you talk to your child changes their brain, on just that!

In this study on child brain development from MIT, scientists analyzed recordings of children’s brains for “conversational turns”, or back-and-forth exchanges between an adult and the child.

They found that the number of conversational turns correlated strongly with the children’s scores in a range of language tests. It also correlated with more activity in the area of Broca’s area, the area of the brain involved in speech production and language processing, when the children listened to stories while their brains were being scanned.

According to this study, the number of ‘conversational turns’ a child has is a stronger predictor of language ability and development than overall input, test scores, or brain activity. This means that having conversation practice is more important to your results in learning a second language than how smart you are overall. It’s more important than how stimulated your brain is in your job or day-to-day life. It’s more important than how much language you’re exposed to. Conversation also provides for better language skills than listening or talking alone.

Chatting also requires more complex cognitive skills than only listening, or only talking. According to the MIT researchers, having a conversation allows children to practice understanding what the other person is trying to say, and how to respond appropriately. This is very different from merely having to listen.

Now, I don’t work with children (mostly). My language programs are designed for adults. But so much of how we learn a second language as adults is so comparable to how we learned our first language! We just do it way more efficiently. :)

Conversation is an invaluable part of your language learning! It will give you better results than merely listening or talking. It will stimulate your brain in a different way. It also allows you to get to know people and learn new things!

After my students left the conversation class tonight, I could still hear them talking and laughing together outside my learning studio for at least ten minutes into my next class with my next student! These ladies had been perfect strangers an hour before. After just one hour of natural, open-format conversation practice in a second language, they were bonded!

Simple conversation practice is amazing. It boosts our confidence by giving us more experience, it brings more amazing people into our lives, and it helps our second language root more deeply into our brains for the long term!

While conversation is always an important aspect in every class I teach, I’ve also built regular, EXTRA conversation classes for practice into the new language semester program. [Enrollment is open! Check out all the class options here!]

We also have one more drop-in conversation class scheduled before the holidays next Tuesday, December 18th, from 5:45-6:45p. Hope you can join us!