Are Conversation Classes Right for Me?

Is a conversation an argument for argument's sake or is there a purpose?

Is it just a mere exchange of words between two or more people or something more?

I found it quite amusing when an Australian mate of mine looked at me and said the phrase, "Let's have a chinwag, " and "With me, you don't have to dot around."

Chinwag was one of those words that even though I understood what we were speaking about, I had no idea what he meant at all.

On the other hand, I realized exactly what he said when he talked about "to dot around" even though his use of the word dot made very little sense to me at the time.

Hopefully, this post will answer:

► What is a Conversation Class

► Why they are so popular

► What "chinwag" and "to dot around" means and why I’m mentioning it

► Whether conversation classes are right for you at this moment or not

two men talking

What is a conversation class?

Well, from a schools perspective it's a class in which students don't just learn or study English but rather the focus is to use it. From a students point of view, it's a great way to practice the language and get some real experience through speaking.

woman contemplating

What's a chinwag?

It's Australian for a chat, but literally, it means for one's chin to wag. Just think what does your chin do when you talk? If you don't understand what I mean, then you need to look up the word wag and or the word chin.

I've been seeing conversation courses become increasingly popular these days.

So much so that I'll go as far as to say that it's the new fad, but why?

Well, people are finally beginning to realize that only study isn't enough, and usage is equally or even more critical.
Let's face it shall we, I mean what's the point to learn any language if we can't use it when we need it?!!

Unfortunately, many people I've encountered have learned English on a very superficial level.
It still never ceases to amaze me how many people still lack essential communication skills even after a year of study.

dart board

Before we get into whether a conversation class is right for you and what constitutes an excellent conversation class, lets first understand what my friend meant when he said, "Daniel with me you don't have to dot around."

thumbs up britain

To better help illustrate my point lets talk about the phrasal verb, come across. We could say:

"I came across an interesting book in the library."

"She came across as a nice person."

Here we have the same phrasal verb used twice in two different sentences, yet they have two different meanings. Why? Well.... simply put because of context, but more about that in just a moment.

In the first sentence came across means; found and in the other it means; seems.

Quite literally if we wanted we could rewrite those sentences as:

"I found an interesting book in the library."

"She seems like a nice person."

The sentences with verbs are much more easily recognized and understood by foreigners whereas those with phrasal verbs are much more commonly used by us natives. Mainly, because phrasal verbs are a much more informal way of speaking and the line between formal and informal has diminished almost to the point of extinction in America.

In fact, one of the reasons why songs, tv shows, and movies are so difficult for you to understand is because of your limited exposure to phrasal verbs. Anyway, I'm getting off the topic. I want to speak about context which is often overlooked, yet a vital component to your success in learning English.

woman questioning

Sadly, many students become discouraged and stop paying attention merely because of a word they don't recognize while listening.

You might think that you don't do that and it could be that you don't, but this type of behavior stunts growth and many people are guilty of it.

Furthermore, through context, it's possible to understand what the person might be saying even though you don't understand every single word.

Let me just say this, for the record,

"You don't have to understand every single word being spoken all of the time in a conversation to comprehend what's being said."

...and that's precisely what happened with my Australian mate.

So with chinwag, it was absolutely necessary for me to look at him and ask, "Chinwag?"

Maybe it had to do with his pronunciation of the word, but when he said, "Daniel with me you don't have to dot around", I was able to look at him and say jokingly, "Dot. Who's dotting? I'm not dotting, you're dotting."

I had never heard "dot" being used in that way and I most certainly didn't believe that he actually meant the word "dot".
Yet, in spite of not understanding the meaning of the word dot, we were able to carry on the conversation.

My point being, keep listening and paying attention when having a conversation even if a word or two is said that you don't recognize because through context you can often understand the gist of what they are saying.

Furthermore, a good conversation class should encourage real-time learning by provoking thought and asking questions rather than just spoon feeding everything to students.

It was later that I approached him to ask what he meant by the word "dot".
He thought about it for a bit and then said, "Ohhhhhhh, you Americans say dart."

Needless to say, I found it very amusing and "dart" made total sense.

The common American idiom for this is, "You don't have to beat around the bush."

So let's get to the question at hand, shall we?

Is a conversation class right for me?

wizard magician

If you are a person who already has obtained a large enough vocabulary, a notion of basic grammar structures, both present, and past, know at least 20 or more verbs in all their forms, as well as pronouns, then I would say you are ready to start having simple conversations.

In the case that you are a bit timid or shy to speak, then I would suggest holding off a bit till you start to feel more confident to participate.

Assuming you are the type of student, who learns best by making mistakes and by doing so remembers more easily how to do things correctly then I would say you should do much more conversation type classes.

A word of caution

At one time or another you will have to loosen up and allow yourself to commit mistakes.
Real improvement only comes through trial and error which is the natural process and can't be avoided.

If you are