Learn English with Teacher Joe!

Ask Teacher Joe!

Return to
Joe's Home

Return to
Questions Page

Return to
Speaking Page

Are dialogues a good way to learn English?

Question: Dear Teacher Joe, I have a question for you. I have a book for learning English that has many conversations between two people. Do you think this is a useful way to learn? How can I benefit most from studying from this kind of book? Thank you for your answer. Jacky in Shenzhen.

Answer: Hello Jacky, how are you? Dialogues can be a good way to learn a language, especially for inexperienced speakers. They are similar to real conversations, so you can see how you might speak if you were in a similar situation. As you improve, you should read more newspapers and magazines, and listen to TV dramas or movies, but until then, dialogues are a good choice.

The first thing, and the most important thing, is to listen to the cassette tape or CD that came with your book. If you don't listen, then you will have to guess at the pronunciation. Usually, that leads to many mistakes. As you listen to the cassette tape, repeat each sentence. Focus on pronunciation at first, rather than meaning. English rhythm is especially difficult for Chinese students, so be sure repeat smoothly, even if you don't know what you are saying. Even if some sentences are too difficult to understand now, some day you WILL understand. For now, just listen for every sound of every word, and repeat until you can do it naturally. That is step one.

After you can repeat each sentence smoothly, we can move on to step two - start to think about the meaning of each sentence. You can repeat the dialogue without listening if you want to. The key is to repeat each sentence while making a picture in your mind of what the people are thinking. You should imagine being in the same place, feeling the same feelings, doing the same things. This kind of "imagination practice" is what will help put the sentences into your "long term memory". Be careful not to translate the sentences into Chinese. If you do that, you will need too much time when you want to speak in the future. If you see a sentence such as "The cat is drinking some milk", don't think in Chinese. It is faster and more direct to make a picture of a cat, standing next to a small bowl full of milk. Maybe you can even imagine the sound of the cat licking up the milk! That will make a strong impression on your brain that you will not soon forget.

Now that you understand the meaning of each sentence, it's time for step three. Play the cassette tape again, but this time, don't stop and repeat. Instead, try to follow along as the conversation continues at natural speed. If you have trouble, don't worry. Just go back and repeat those difficult sentences again until you master them. Then try again to listen to the whole conversation without stopping. When you can hear the whole dialogue, with a clear picture in your mind, then you know you have succeeded and can go on to the next one. Good luck Jacky, and have fun!

Learn English Idioms Listen to English Language Exchange
Learn English Grammar Learn English Vocabulary Learn Business English

Copyright 2005, Learn English with Teacher Joe