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The benefits of interaction in language learning

There are many excellent reasons for using activities which promote classroom interaction. First and foremost, you make full use of your most valuable resource - the learners themselves. Not only are adults ready and willing to work together but they tend to learn better in a sociable environment and are more likely to stick to their studies when they feel part of a strong group.

The activities are designed to further their language learning in several ways:

Since the ostensible aim of the activities is to exchange information on a specific topic, your learners will focus on what they are saying rather than how they are saying it, helping to dispel any self-consciousness or inhibitions they might have about speaking a foreign language.

Repetition is vital to learning and retaining language but it can be tedious. During these activities key language elements have to be repeated in an interesting and natural way to communicate the required information.

People are far more likely to retain words and phrases they have used in a meaningful context rather than passively seen or heard. When scenarios are created in the classroom, the related interaction and the 'props' give your learners a hook on which to hang the vocabulary.

The language of the course is controlled but the activities allow an element of choice in the language used and are structured in a way that prepares your learners for the unpredictability inherent to language.

It is very motivating for learners to realise that, even at this early stage, they can communicate information successfully entirely in the target language. It promotes a tremendous feeling of achievement and gives them immediate confirmation that they are making progress.

Adults tend to lead busy lives, with work, family, social and other commitments having to take priority over their language learning. Since many adult classes take place in the evening, your learners may well be tired and stressed before they even start the class. On a purely practical level therefore, it makes sense to add variety and interest to the lesson and to ensure people participate in an enjoyable and motivating language learning experience.

You can find further information about teaching languages to adults and related issues on the Cilt (Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research) site: www.cilt.org.uk. The site is regularly updated and, as well as details of the Netword series and the Pathfinder series (Publications page), you will also find details of relevant courses and conferences and other Cilt services.

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Adapting Talk . . . to different learning styles and situations

As language professionals, we are encouraged to be flexible in the way we deliver language training. One of the key features of 
Talk . . .  is its adaptability to a range of different learning styles and situations.

For people who choose to learn independently, the book offers clear, user-friendly guidelines on how to use the course, a variety of activities, frequent self-checks and guidance on language learning.

Learners using Talk . . . in self-access language centres also work at their own pace but have the additional support of a tutor who can organise opportunities for them to get together occasionally in small groups to use the language learned. Nearly all the activities in this site are suitable for such groups, either as they are or with a little adaptation.

For the thousands of adults who opt every year to learn languages in classes, there is an added social dimension to learning. The Talk . . . activities provide opportunities for interaction and communication using the target language, thus integrating the social dimension with the linguistic objectives of the course.

We would be interested in hearing about your experiences in using Talk . . . and the Talk . . .  classroom activities, and also your views and ideas on adult language learning in general. Whether you're a new tutor or someone with many years experience, get in touch by sending an email to webmaster.languages@bbc.co.uk.

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