The four language skills to master for a well-rounded knowledge are listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Two years ago, I started creating an online course for beginner learners of Latvian. I gave the name to it “Latvian 4 English Speakers” (L4ES). The focus of the course was Latvian grammar, specifically – nouns and words that describe or replace nouns. I had observed that English speakers struggle with understanding the changes in the forms of these words so I developed a product that would explain them in more detail in English. My idea was that after completing the course a learner would be able to construct their own grammatically correct sentences, learn them by heart and use them in communication.
When a student who wanted to sign up for testing the course asked me what the preconditions for the testing would be, my answer was: “Knowing Latvian letters and sounds”. I developed a short 4-part video course for that that I still offer for free. During the testing process, I observed that for some students it wasn’t enough. They could read Latvian words out loud rather well, but they still struggled with writing them down phonetically. That’s when I developed the course “Sounds & Writing” to teach that thoroughly.
I had a plan to observe my first students who bought the L4ES. In order to be able to do that, I offered free consultations to students taking my course. My observations made me realize that the course helps to master reading, writing, and some listening skills, but not so much speaking. That’s because during the consultations I am focusing more on making sure the students understand the grammar concepts. I’m also focusing on making them feel comfortable. Yet, I notice the need for help in mastering speaking. That’s why I decided to start to offer small group tutoring to help people to enhance their Latvian speaking skills.
Tutoring Designed to Help You Master Latvian Speaking Skills
These tutoring sessions will differ from the consultations for L4ES students by structure and intensity. The consultations are rather passive, and I speak mostly English to explain Latvian grammar. During the tutoring sessions, you’ll hear a lot more Latvian. Most importantly, you’ll speak more Latvian yourself.
Learning to speak is best in small groups of 2 to 6 people. That is because group work helps to maintain motivation and creates an environment of healthy competition. Each of you will choose a topic to master, and you’ll learn from listening to each other and interacting with each other. I am a member of a local Toastmasters International club. Toastmasters’ meetings gave me ideas for the structure of my tutoring classes. You’ll have roles that will hold you accountable to your peers.
As you understand, you need more than a couple of tutoring sessions to up your Latvian speaking skills. Once you’ll decide that you want the tutoring, the key will be to find study peers.
How to find Speaking Partners
You can invite people you know or you can find a partner within my Facebook group “Immerse in Latvian with Ilze Be.” It works best if your language levels are close, but they don’t need to match precisely. If your level is higher than that of your peers, you can learn a lot by teaching things to them. Teaching helps to memorize which often is a challenge.
The language level and goals of each individual can change too as time goes by. That is because we are affected by circumstances in our lives. Therefore, it’s normal for group dynamics to change. It is actually a wonderful thing.
Assess Your Oral Proficiency Level in Latvian
Please take the time to determine your Latvian language level. I used to work as an oral language proficiency tester for the American Council of the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center. I learned to assess student language level according to their assessment grids. Yet, I have agreed to not disclose the specifics of assessment to anyone. That’s why I’d like to direct you to the page of the ACTFL site that’s accessible to anyone: Oral Language Proficiency Levels Explained and Demonstrated.
Information placed there will help you to determine your Latvian language level. The videos below the level descriptions will be helpful too. In the videos, you’ll see the oral proficiency level determined for English. Watching them though will give you an idea of where you fit in the grid for your Latvian.
It’s important that you assess yourself for the purpose of my tutoring sessions. If you want more challenge, assign yourself a higher level of two you might fit in. If you prefer a slower pace, go for a group of a lower level. You are my target student if your language level ranges from Novice Low to Intermediate High.
Learning is Intense during Tutoring Sessions
Prepare to be in a hot-seat during the speaking practice. That’s because you can only learn to speak by actually speaking. But rest assured that I’m not going to create those situations to embarrass you. You’ll know in advance what to prepare for. For instance, during the first session, I’ll ask you to tell me about yourself and the topics of your interest. Your peers will listen and prepare questions for you to answer after you finish speaking. It’s okay to look in your notes while speaking.
Then, I’ll give each of you some feedback and prepare the group for the following session. Your goal is to raise your Latvian language level not to compete with your peers although a little competition helps too.
During the tutoring sessions, your brain will work rather intensely. You’ll get tired quicker than while learning passively. That’s why it is not practical to have long sessions. Short, 45 min. sessions can be effective enough for 2 to 3 people. I suggest longer, 60 to 90 min. sessions to larger groups of students. Longer sessions will also allow for more Q&A time, and you might prefer that. Therefore, you’ll have a choice when you book the sessions.
At times, I will work together with one of my partners or they will work without me. We will record the meetings, but only you and your speaking partners will be able to access them. Recordings are good to watch later to revise or if you can’t attend the meeting. Note that the recordings will get deleted 3 months after the last session. We will never sell the recordings. If we decide that a part of a particular session has turned out particularly good and I’d like for more people to see it, we’ll ask every student that’s in the recording to give me permission to publish it. We will never post any fragment of the recording unless everyone in the recording has given me permission to do so.
Once you’ve decided that you’d like to book tutoring sessions with me or one of my partners, go to my calendar and select the service of your choice.
/If you have a group and you are ready to purchase a package, please e-mail me at email@example.com . /
Ilze Be is a Latvian born American coach, trainer, and public speaker. She works with leaders and managers to create change and grow. She has also created digital courses for English speaking community interested in Latvian language and affairs.