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Genuine social interactions

Genuine social interactions take place whenever people communicate with each other using their own utterances in response to a real social purpose.

Research shows that language is best learned in the context of genuine social interactions, not contexts where the use is predetermined and the purpose and audience imagined.

Classroom activities should therefore encourage students to use natural and meaningful language in conversations and other exchanges with their classmates. Learners need opportunities to practice language with one another.

Conversations are a fundamental avenue of communication; they are also very effective learning opportunities because they require attention and involvement on the part of students. By conversing, students can practice adapting vocabulary and grammar to the situation and making their own comprehensible contributions.

In the kinds of conversations that are most effective in promoting such learning, participants exchange real information, ideas, and feelings.

As they engage in conversation, students have opportunities to try to make themselves understood, and they receive immediate feedback concerning their success. This shows them where they need additional or alternative language structures.

As they engage in such exchanges, learners practise their output and receive new input, which further supports their language acquisition in a ‘virtuous spiral’.

Genuine social interactions in the classroom

Research suggests that effective teachers:

  • create opportunities for meaningful interaction in the classroom by using activities in which students employ natural language in authentic language situations
  • encourage students to work in pairs or small groups
  • set activities in which students have to solve problems in which each party must contribute information that others do not possess
  • motivate their students by setting them learning tasks that relate to their needs and interests and providing them with constructive feedback as appropriate.

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Last updated January 28, 2011