For Language Students

Why try to interact with native speakers?

  • Naturalistic interaction (such as conversations) is a crucial and central aspect of learning a second language
  • Many studies have provided evidence that interacting in the target language leads to better comprehension (Mackey 1999) and speaking skills (Toth 2006)
  • In the past few decades, researchers have found that naturalistic interaction helps students get a better grasp of the target language’s syntax (Sato 1990), vocabulary (Jung 2004), and discourse practices (Kivik 2012)
  • Interacting with a native speaker allows language learners to take risks and learn more complex aspects of the language that they may not be exposed to in the classroom (Nakahama 2001)
  • Interacting with native speakers in person is beneficial because learners are guided by gestures, context, and other factors that are not usually available in online native speaker interactions (Kim 2006).

Some tips for students

  • If you were assigned to visit a business by your teacher, make sure you have read your teacher’s guidelines and understand the purpose of the assignment.
  • Before beginning the interaction, it may help to inform the employee that you are language student and would like to practice with him or her.
  • If you get stuck, it is okay to switch back to English. The goal is to communicate. In this situation, language is a means rather than an end.
  • The employees are probably busy, so a long conversation is probably out of the question.
  • Instead of asking personal questions (e.g. religion, politics, income etc.) ask questions about the products you are interested in. It’s up to your discretion to determine whether questions about the employee’s background, home country and other more personal questions are appropriate.
  • If you can, buy something to support their business and the linguistic diversity of Tucson’s businesses.
  • Immediately after the interaction, make a note of things you learned, things you had trouble with, words you had never heard before, or any other things that you noticed about the exchange.
  • Language is an important part of everyone’s personal and cultural identity. Be respectful and understanding if someone declines to speak in your target language.


(*featured image by Mustafa Polat)

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