Is it useful to practice speaking English with other students?

Students who learn English often believe that the best way to improve their spoken English is to speak with native English speakers. They think this is best because they will hear "pure" English, and because they believe native speakers will correct their mistakes. For these reasons, English students are sometimes reluctant to practice speaking English with other students.

Of course, it is good to practice speaking English with native speakers of English when the opportunity arises. However, there are several good reasons why students should also practice speaking to each other as often as possible.

First, the idea that native English speakers will correct students' errors is generally mistaken. Westerners consider it impolite to correct other people's language mistakes, so usually as long as Westerners understand what students are trying to say, they won't correct any mistakes. Students should not expect every speaker of English to be a language teacher.

Second, there are relatively few English speaking foreigners in most countries, so students who only practice with foreigners are likely not to have much practice at all. Students who wait until they have a foreigner to practice with will generally not be able to express their ideas very quickly or fluently, so when they do meet a foreigner they may not be able to carry on a conversation in English.

However, the most important reason students should practice speaking to each other is that such practice helps them learn to express their ideas in English more fluently. In speaking English, the most difficult thing is figuring out how to express ideas in English - before the person you are talking to loses patience and leaves. And this is something that students can practice by talking to each other.

No doubt, it is good to practice speaking English with people who speak English well. But practicing with each other is still a good way for students to build their fluency. Students who practice speaking English with each other will be better prepared to converse with foreigners when the opportunity arises.

Word and phrase list:
native speakers (of a language): people who have spoken that language since childhood, those who regard it as their mother tongue.
reluctant to (do something): not want to (do something), not be very willing (to do something). Ex: Even though Sam needs money, he is reluctant to ask his friends for a loan.
to arise: to happen, to occur.
to express ideas: to put ideas into words.
to carry on a conversation: to have a conversation, to talk.
to figure out how to: to think of a way to (do something). Ex: I can't figure out how to solve this mystery.
to lose patience: to become impatient. Ex: The third time Sally forgot to turn in her homework, her teacher began to lose patience with her.
to build fluency: to become more fluent, to become able to use English more easily and smoothly. Ex: The best way to build fluency in English speaking is to practice a lot.
to converse with: to talk with

By: Don Snow, Learning English: A Textbook for English Teachers

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