At LivelyLanguages, we’ve developed a technique to enable people to speak French, Spanish or German with fluency and confidence. In our sessions, people practise scripted conversations in pairs and pick up language through repetition and modelling. They then go off piste and enjoy authentic spontaneous conversations. The attendees can also investigate further and learn the grammar focus of the conversations even before attending the sessions. With our technique, we took learning out of the classroom and moved to pubs and cafés – a more suitable environment for sociable and fun sessions!
In March 2020, COVID and the subsequent lockdowns changed all this, and could have resulted the end of our weekly sociable sessions that people so enjoyed and even the demise of LivelyLanguages. On the advice of a friend, we moved the sessions on to Zoom, with a paid package that included breakout rooms. Of course, it’s not the same as going to a pub or a café; you have to bring your own drink for a start! On the other hand, the lively pace of the sessions is maintained because the time in the breakout rooms is limited to four minutes, and everyone comes back to the main area laughing and smiling from their recent conversation. The attendees still get to speak to different people in the sessions and they can continue to use the crib sheets as little or as much as they like, which means that someone with advanced language skills can happily chat to a near-beginner.
Zoom even has some advantages over a pub or café setting – there is little ambient noise to interfere with people’s hearing in the breakout rooms and some people appreciate not having to travel to a venue, particularly if they don’t have much time to spare.
So, on balance, I’d say that Zoom is a really effective vehicle for our particular teaching technique. It certainly doesn’t replace going to a local venue, but it does enable people to carry on with their routines, social life and language learning – all of which are so important in the strange times we’re living in. What’s more, location is not currently a deciding factor when choosing a group and attendees often swap groups.
Since March, although we’re based in Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire, we’ve had people join from Yorkshire, Spain, India, the Middle East and New York. The community has been getting wider and wider whilst our daily lives are still very limited. To be honest, when life gets back to ‘normal’, we’ll probably carry on using Zoom for some sessions and people can choose whether to opt for face-to-face or online sessions. I am sure many will adopt a mixture of both and that Zoom will always have a place in LivelyLanguages.
Feel free to leave me a comment about your experience with Zoom or a different video conferencing platform. It's always good to hear from you!