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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread Feb 25th, 2008, 05:50 am
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Question How to help a student overcome his anxiety?

Hello. I would really be grateful if you could help me solve the problem. I'm tutoring a man who needs English to communicate with his clients. During a class (60 min.) we usually manage to do 4-5 tasks: 1. speaking (discussion of the text he reads at home); 2. listening (he listens to a story and retells it or does some tasks based on it); 3. reading (he reads an article that is connected with his profession and then he expresses his point of view); 4. speaking (here I give him different activities that may help him improve his speech speed.) When he is speaking to me - he's doing quite well. I'm satisfied with what I hear. But when speaking to his clients he gets very nervous and anxious; as a result he mixes all the tenses, forgets the words and expressions he needs. He starts speaking in long and very complicated sentences. What should I do to help him overcome his anxiety?
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Unread Feb 26th, 2008, 11:59 pm
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Default Re: How to help a student overcome his anxiety?

Getting to the point where you have truly internalized language bits and skills so that you can employ them as necessary in a natural, non self-conscious way takes extensive and ongoing practice.

The long and the short of it is, he needs a lot more practice conversing in the contexts in which he wants to perform well. Also, the more similar his practice sessions with you are to the situations he finds himself in with his clients, the better.

What I would suggest doing is:

1. Talk to him at length to find out as much as you can about what specific topics he has to discuss with his clients, what things he is usually asked and what kinds of responses he must give, etc.

2. Use this detailed knowledge to custom tailor various role-play situations where the two of you practice doing exactly what he must do during his work.
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  #3 (permalink)  
Unread Feb 27th, 2008, 03:12 am
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Default Re: How to help a student overcome his anxiety?

Siddhartha, thank you very much for a good piece of advice.
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Unread Feb 28th, 2008, 08:38 pm
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Default Re: How to help a student overcome his anxiety?

I agree with Siddharta. It sounds as though not enough time in your lesson is devoted to his weakness, which is speaking. I think summarizing a take-home article is good, as are discussion/debate activities centered around the piece.

Is listening really so important to use class time, though? Is reading another article really so important? I think both can be done at home, even as homework. For example, he has to find additional information on the topic and give a presentation at the start of the next class.

Focus on additional speaking activities in the lesson, preferably ones that are based on the reading material but which are a few steps to either side. He'll thus need to use information gathered from the reading as well as previously held knowledge, integrating the two into a natural conversation.

Good luck!
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Unread Feb 28th, 2008, 11:59 pm
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Default Re: How to help a student overcome his anxiety?

I think the role playing will be really helpful, especially if you push to get him out of his comfort zone (not in a mean way, of course). From what you said, he seems more relaxed when he's speaking to you, probably because he knows that if he makes a mistake, it won't be a big deal. But when he's working, he's probably pretty nervous that if he makes a mistake, it could hurt his job - maybe he won't make a sale, or he'll lose a client, etc. When you're creating a situation similar to his work environment, keep him on his toes and make sure he doesn't see you as the teacher he is comfortable with, but a client that makes him nervous.

Another thing you could do is make a cassette that drills the vocabulary that he'll regularly need to use. I know that drilling totally sucks, and isn't any fun at all, but it's one of the best ways to learn fluency in a language.

So, for example, if your student works at a clothing store, you could drill stuff like, "Hi, can I help you?" "Would you like to try that on?," etc. First, you would record yourself (and a friend if you can scrounge one up) having a typical in store conversation, such as (and this is totally lame, but it's just to use as an examle):
A: Hi, can I help you?
B: Yes, where can I find the jeans?
A: There right over there, next to the shirts.
B: Thanks.
A: Let me know if there is anything else you need.

That way he can hear what the conversation would normally sound like.
Then you go in for the repetition:
Can I help you?
(pause for about 10 seconds)
Can I help you?
(pause)
Hi, can I help you?
(pause)
Where can I find the jeans?
(pause)
Yes, where can I find the jeans?
(pause)
Next to the shirts.
(pause)
Next to the shirts.)
(pause)
They're right over there.
(pause)
They're right over there.
(pause)
They're right over there, next to the shirts.
(pause)
Thanks
(pause)
If there is anything else you need.
(pause)
If there is anything else you need.
(pause)
Let me know.
(pause)
Let me know.
(pause)
Let me know if there is anything else you need.

So, he'd be focusing more on repeating what he would typically be saying, but he would also be saying what his customer would say, too. This will help familiarize him with both sides of the conversation.

He can take the tape home with him, and you could ask him to try to practice once (or even twice) a day for 10 minutes or so. Eventually after he practices enough, he'll start to say the phrases without really thinking about them. They'll become a natural part of his speech. But when he's doing this, it's important that he's not reading anything. He should only be listening and repeating.

It might be a lot of work to make, but it would probably be a pretty useful resource.

Anyway, good luck!

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  #6 (permalink)  
Unread Feb 29th, 2008, 07:15 am
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Default Re: How to help a student overcome his anxiety?

Thank you, Hue, for paying attention to my post.
The student himself asked for some listening activities. The thing is that he communicates with his clients by phone; sometimes he finds it difficult to understand a person without seeing him/her. So, I have to continue with listening.

And I think you are quite right about reading. It should be done at home.
Thank you.
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  #7 (permalink)  
Unread Feb 29th, 2008, 07:33 am
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Default Re: How to help a student overcome his anxiety?

The Obscure, your idea is really valuable. I'll try it and let you know how it works. Thank you so much.
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