Regular speaking in a foreign language
The most enjoyable and useful part of learning a foreign language is speaking it. Successfully uttering the new sounds is rewarding and motivational, particularly for learners who have difficulty with the grammatical side of language learning.
Unfortunately not enough speaking is done in school classrooms. This is not surprising. Teachers cannot easily control and assess individuals' speaking skills in a classroom containing more than two or three students. It is much easier to have the class doing listening, reading or writing tasks.
Therefore a student 'learning' a foreign language in school could quite easily get through a day, a week, or even a month without uttering many words in the target language.
Systematic formative assessment is the key to boosting the morale of diffident language learners, and at long last technology is now providing the tools for the job.
The solution is for students to perform regular speaking outside the classroom in their own time. The speaking needs to be set as a task with a deadline, just like any other piece of work. It can then be assessed by the teacher and returned with feedback, or redone if inadequate.
Speaking tasks are generally perceived by students as less burdensome, and quicker to complete than reading tasks. They also often prefer to speak in their own time, away from the pressure of the classroom, perhaps using their own technology, such as a laptop, tablet or mobile phone.
The result is a portfolio of regular speaking performances by each student. The monitoring and assessment of these multiple performances can be swiftly completed by the teacher using the live overview functions now available in an online language lab.