When we learn a language, we are learning to express ourselves in that language. Expressing ourselves means expressing our thoughts, opinions, wishes, desires, needs, and concepts, among others. Doing so involves typical, or 'stock', expressions, idioms, phrasal verbs, collocations (words that typically go together), and words on their own – for example, linking words. Having said that (a linking expression), we may also link words and groups of words (phrases and clauses) with stock expressions, as I have just done.
Learning English involves expressing ourselves using the expressions that native English speakers use. And while expressions from other languages may sometimes be directly translated into English, often this is not the case.
While we could learn these expressions – idioms and phrasal verbs, among others – from lists found on the internet, books, and foldouts, we still need to practise using them. In turn, practising what we have learnt from these media involves retrieving them from memory, pronouncing them correctly, and checking that they have been used correctly in the context. Practising the language concepts we have learnt is best done in real-life contexts, such as conversations.
Furthermore, when we make mistakes in these real-life contexts and conversations, or when we realise that there is a gap in our knowledge – as we often discover in conversation – and we make the correction or fill in the gap, we have taken another step forward on our language-learning journey.
This real-life use of the English language is what small group conversational lessons offer. In real-life contexts, we often do not have the time to note an error or a gap in our knowledge. But with the more relaxed pacing of small-group conversational lessons – where one can stop the trainer or instructor and ask for input – we can update our knowledge and usage.
When we study, practise and produce language, as in small-group conversational settings, we can rest assured that we have the optimal strategy for progressing as quickly as possible towards attaining fluency and accuracy in English. Naturally, this depends on the time we invest in learning English – the more time we spend studying, practising and producing (speaking and writing in spontaneous conditions) English, the more likely we are to achieve incremental successes and growth. So when it comes to preparing for exams, increasing the time we allocate to learning English will be key to our success.
Beyond the advantages of small-group conversation lessons already given, experiencing oneself interacting and communicating effectively in English boosts one's self-confidence, serving as a motivator to keep on moving onwards and upwards.