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Personal Communication Classes

I offer classes in personal communication to improve your spoken and written communication. For this, you need to practice expressing yourself to develop greater ease and proficiency. These classes are tailored to your needs and include targeted grammar as well as some reading and listening comprehension.

I have been teaching English for all of my adult life. Over this time, I have observed, tested and thought about how people learn languages. In fact, when I did my Master’s in Linguistics, my thesis focused on language acquisition. Beyond that, I have taught English in Spain and to new immigrants and francophones here in Canada for many years.

Please see the FAQ, below, for general information on my approach. For other questions, please contact me here.

Information on academic writing classes can be found here.

 

Q. What is your approach to language learning?

A. I believe in a whole language approach, helping students from the very beginning of their study to practise speaking, listening, writing, and reading. I have found that students learn best when grammar is introduced when the student needs it. I am happy to explain the finest detail of grammar but I have found that until the student is ready, this is not a good use of our time. By expanding conversation and writing scenarios, we introduce contexts where the student sees the need for various grammatical structures. In this way, the lessons make more sense to the student and the grammar can then be used outside of the classroom.

Q. Do I have to buy a textbook?

A. I do not use textbooks or exercise books with students. To improve in any language, it is important that students start to step away from the comfort of exercise books. Speaking and writing require active practice and cannot be learned unless the student engages the parts of the brain responsible for these skills. This can seem a big task after years of filling in the blanks in workbooks, but I have seen all levels of students develop confidence quickly under my guidance.

Q. I have been studying for a while but I still make a lot of mistakes. Am I doing something wrong?

A. Never be embarrassed by making mistakes. We’ve all been there. At the most basic level, this means that you are stepping out of your comfort zone. While it’s true that adults do not learn languages as quickly as children, it’s not all due to changes in our brains. A lot of it is because we become less tolerant of our mistakes as we get older. This makes learning harder. If you want to learn to speak, you have to put in the work and accept that you will make some mistakes. These mistakes are what helped you learn your native language and they will help you learn English. Consider them a sign that you are pushing yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Q. With your approach, do I have to start from scratch or do you build on what I’ve studied before?

A. Essentially, each of the four domains (speaking, writing, listening, and reading) use different parts of our intelligence (soliciting overlapping but not identical areas of the brain). As such, if the student wants to develop an overall command of English, it is necessary to target all of these areas and develop skill in English in each of them. The work you’ve put in up to date, perhaps passive comprehension that has been constrained by popular fill-in-the-blank exercises, can be called upon for this new, integrative phase. Nonetheless, one cannot learn to dance only by watching dance videos or learning only to move one foot at a time.

Q. I have to improve my English because in a few months because I am going on a business trip OR have a presentation to make. Can you help me get fluent in such a short period of time?

A. True fluency takes years but what many people do not realize is that the language we use for speech is generally much simpler, with a smaller vocabulary, than written language. My approach helps you make your previous studies in English active. In other words, the passive knowledge that you have gained can become active knowledge with a little more work. For this reason, if we know what we are preparing for, in a fairly short period of time, we can get you ready for your upcoming event.

Q. Considering the much higher cost of private or semi-private classes, is it really worth it?

A. It is comforting and certainly can seem cheaper to study in a large group. The fact of the matter is that learning in a large group is more often passive learning. This is why it is more comfortable. It is also why you tend to learn more slowly in a larger group. Considering how much faster you progress when there is a small teacher-student ratio, private and semi-private classes are very cost-effective. They are certainly more time effective. Very simply, you have more time to practise when you are in a smaller group.

Q. What do you charge? For corporate classes? For private classes?

A. My corporate rate is $54 an hour for the first student (where I travel to your place of business). The non-corporate base rate is $30 per hour for a single student (where we meet in a café in the city centre). In each case, there is an $8 supplement for each additional student. I offer a simple flat rate for groups of eleven or more students.