For Language Teachers

Why have your students 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), among many other aspects of language.
  • 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 teachers

Restaurant and store simulation activities are a common practice in ESL and EFL classes. These typically ask students to role play as waiters and customers (or customer and vendor) and interact in the target language. That way, they can practice certain constructions (e.g. adjectives, question forming, politeness markers etc.) in the target language.

With the language map, these activities can be supplemented by assigning to students to visit a restaurant with actual native speakers of the target language. It may be useful to design and think of the in-class simulation as preparation for an authentic language exchange experience.

An alternatives would be to simply assign students to visit a restaurant without an in-class simulation beforehand and then asking them to share or reflect on their experience with fellow students. Whichever approach is taken, it will work best if there are guidelines, goals, and a follow-up activity where students discuss and analyze their exchange. Also, it is important to discuss possible cultural sensitivities or topics that students should avoid before they embark on the exchange activity.

Several online language partner sites (like this one, this one, this one, or this one) offer conversation topics that can be adapted to a more specific lesson plan/goal.

Below are a few ideas, lesson plans, and resources on restaurant and shop role-playing.

Restaurant (Dave’s ESL Café)

Advanced Survival Role Playing (Dave’s ESL Café)

ESL Flow list of restaurant activities (Website)

Ordering Food in a Restaurant (

Shopping lessons (website)

How Much Is it? A Shopping Lesson Plan (Boggles world ESL)

Shopping (ESL Club)

Lesson Plan: ordering at the restaurant (Slideshare)


(*featured image by Mustafa Polat)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s