Mary is 14 years old, she is my Intermediate student (that perfect kind of student who is always doing her homework), she is really good at grammar when it comes to doing exercises, and she is one of those victims of the educational system that dominates Russian schools: you make a mistake and you are punished with a low mark. This system simply blocks you.
When she started speaking she would feel ashamed of making a mistake and would lose confidence straight away. When I tried to encourage her to answer my questions in English, she would say “I can’t” and I could see tears in her eyes. As I am not the one who would assess her, I felt that it was purely psychological barrier (I believe there is no ‘language barrier’, it’s all about psychology and cultural stuff). We didn’t actually write a lot in the Dialogue journal, but her spoken English has become more fluent. And I’ve learned to ignore her mistakes (I realised that I automatically corrected her when I heard a tiny slip)…
I’m not sure if the technique itself worked or the way I assured Mary that it WOULD work. She can speak now, with mistakes though.
I must thank my colleagues who explained the idea of Fluency to Accuracy vs. Accuracy to Fluency. I’m starting to feel the difference :)
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