How to organize an English speaking club
A speaking club is fundamentally different from an English language course. The main characteristics of English conversation clubs are as follows:
- The aim of a discussion club in English is development, first and foremost, of speaking skills and, to a lesser extent, of listening skills. Reading and writing skills at meetings of conversation clubs are completely ignored, as well as explanation of phonetic, grammar and lexical rules of the English language.
- Meetings of a discussion club in English are not related to each other thematically, so a participant can skip one of them without affecting the entire programme of the course.
The following is recommendations for organizing an English speaking club, based on our practical experience, but by no means are the absolute truth.
1. It is not necessary to explain why the venue of a conversation club in English should be comfortable for all its participants. We only note that creation of an atmosphere, which favours pleasant communication, can be facilitated by dim lighting. It distracts attention of the participants in an English speaking club from details of the interior and appearance of their interlocutors, which helps to concentrate better on the discussion.
2. Regarding to the number of participants in an English speaking club, you should adhere to the golden rule: when more than nine people gather, the joint discussion inevitably splits into several conversations. Thus, without taking into account the host, no more than eight people should be present at a meeting of an English speaking club at a time.
3. Most English speaking clubs usually inform their participants in advance about the topic of the upcoming meeting, but we do not recommend to follow this practice! Firstly because a meeting of a conversation club should as much as possible stage the real situation of a spontaneous discussion with an English-speaking interlocutor. Secondly, a complete lack of preparation makes the brain work faster, 'lifting deep layers of knowledge to the surface', including ones from the subconscious. Thirdly, as our experience shows, a regular participant in a English conversation club can skip a meeting only because they did not prepare, or comes, but feels timid.
4. We recommend to start the first meeting of a discussion club in English, regardless of the level of its participants, with the topic 'Names'. Firstly becasue it will help you and the participants in your speaking club to memorize faster their names. Secondly, this is the easiest of the speaking topics we offer and so a discussion on it will inspirate the participants of the first meeting and give them a positive attitude to visit your English conversation club in the future.
5. The main mistake that hosts of English speaking clubs make, in our opinion, is that they ask a question to the whole group and wait for anyone who wishes to answer it. As a result of this practice, the same extroverts speak all the time during a meeting, and some introverts leave the venue of an English conversation club without saying a single word! Of course, this is absolutely unacceptable! To avoid this huge mistake, the host of a discussion club in English should ask the same question personally to each participant and, until everyone has given thier opinion, must not move on to the next question.
6. You can encourage the participants in your conversation club to begin their judgments with introductory expressions like 'I think', 'In my opinion', 'From my point of view', as this is common in the English-speaking world, but may be unusual in the hosting country.
7. It is not necessary during one meeting of a discussion club in English to go through all eighteen questions of the chosen speaking topic. The speaking topics, we offer for an English conversation club, are never an academic programme. Rather they serve as a kind of 'pusher', which starts a discussion in English. Moreover, if after the first few questions, the conversation goes into another direction, this meeting of the English speaking club can be considered as successful! Remember, that the most important criterion for a successful meeting of a conversation English club is interest of all its participants. If they desire to discuss some other topics in English, but not the one you have suggested, this is really great!
8. Do not allow participants in your English speaking club to keep any notes during a meeting. First, let us repeat that the atmosphere of a club meeting should imitate the real situation of a conversation with an English-speaking interlocutor as much as possible. Secondly, keeping notes distracts attention of the meeting participants from the discussion in English. Strictly speaking, this is the very thing that differs a speaking club from an English language course.
9. As to phonetic, grammar and lexical mistakes, made by participants in an English speaking club, they should not be corrected immediately during the discussion. Only if the same participant makes the same mistake more than twice, it is necessary to gently point it out at the end of the meeting. If necessary, you can advise them to listen to, read or do exercises on this subject.
10. Also at the end of each meeting of a speaking club, it is advisable to remind the participants to read books and to watch films in English, as well as to do various exercises between the meetings. If necessary, you can recommend the most useful resources for learning English.