5 ways informal language training helps you master English skills

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Do you want to take your language skills to the next level? If you’re a beginner who is in a formal English class, or intermediate to advanced but need to adapt to Canadian English, consider informal language training.

What is informal language training?

Informal language training is generally unstructured – meaning it doesn’t follow a rigid curriculum or design. Participants learn at their own pace. It can be a program that is moderated by an instructor or self-directed, managed by you, the learner. Some are done in a classroom setting but many are not; it can be with a group, with a peer, or by yourself. In short, they are more flexible compared to formal language training programs. Another distinguishing feature is the lack of formal feedback or assessment at the end. Examples of informal learning activities include conversation circles, book clubs, drop-in sessions, self-study activities using media resources like TV, movies, YouTube channels, apps and other means.

If you are a beginner, informal language training is a great supplement to formal language training. Meanwhile, those who are already proficient but need practice will benefit from activities that will help them fill-in some gaps in their language skills.

Here are 5 ways informal language learning can help you:

  1. Confidence booster

    Informal training programs allow you to test out your skills without the pressure of being evaluated and graded for your efforts. Being in an open and non-judgmental space (like in a conversation circle, for example) can also help you overcome the fear of embarrassing yourself if you have been intimidated to show your language skills. Learners improve faster when they are not scared of making mistakes.

  2. Speeds up your learning

    Informal classes support formal learning by reinforcing lessons through application. It allows you to experiment and explore strategies to see if they work for you or tweak them to fit your abilities or learning style. Nowadays, with informal language learning resources available online anytime, you can learn while on a break from classes or on-the-go even while you’re at work or travelling.

  3. Practice makes perfect

    Continuous practice is essential to language proficiency. Informal classes can provide opportunities for you to speak and test out new vocabulary that you may have learned. Listening and observing how others communicate is also a great way to boost listening skills and learn effective body language. If you’re self-directed, using apps or tools like a voice recorder can help you practice pronunciation and improve your diction.

  4. Learn in context

    You go beyond vocabulary, sentence structure and grammar rules when you participate in an informal language class. You get to discover how you use language in real-life situations. If you’re participating in group learning, you will have an opportunity to use informal or casual English when speaking to your peers. You will also benefit from the knowledge shared by others based on their experience.

  5. Entertaining and builds your social skills

    Informal classes tend to be more loose and fun. It can motivate you to sustain your interest in language learning. Another big plus if you’re attending group classes is that you improve your social skills the more you participate.

There are many informal language training programs that are free for newcomers to Manitoba. Read Types of language training programs for newcomers to Canada for links to programs (both formal and informal) that you can join.

Sources: 8 benefits of informal learning in the workplace, eLearning Industry and Formal vs. Informal learning, David Nield. Accessed October 31, 2019.

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