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The saying 'learn to walk before you run' applies here perfectly. The pre-communicative practice in learning a language is like learning to walk as a baby. How many times did you fall when you started to walk? MANY times, indeed. But you didn't give up! Your mum was there to pick you up every time and you didn't even think about it. Learning a language needs this repetitive stage until you become confident in using your words and moving your tongue in your mouth to pronounce your words fluently and correctly.
Imagine communication as a dance:
When you learn dancing you first learn the steps of a particular dance. You learn your steps and your partner learns his/her own steps. Then you form a pair and practice those steps for real. The result may be a coordinated, harmonious dance, or it may be a complete disaster, including stepping on each other's toes, kicking inadvertently and mis-coordinating your steps.
Picture the helping wheels of a bike:
As a child, I had a pair of smaller wheels on my bike, to help me keep my balance while practicing, before I could ride without thinking of all my moves. Think of these as the teacher and think of the bike as the grammar, the forms of speech you're handling before you become proficient in using them on your own.
In this section we practice the elements of the language system without communicating any actual messages. We practice the steps of the dance separately, before we join our partner to do the actual dance. For now we only want to become proficient in doing the steps mechanically, without thinking too much about what comes next.
You need to master the simple rules of word order and structure: the adjective comes before the noun, the way an adjective becomes an adverb by adding '-ly' at the end, the way we double some letters when we add '-ing' for the progressive etc.
Simply concentrating on these and doing a lot of exercises (we call these drills) even in the hundreds will help you a lot in becoming fluent. You will come to a stage when you don't need to remind yourself the rules in your head before writing or saying the expressions - you don't need the helping wheels on your bike anymore, you've got the confidence to use your skill.
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Pre-communicative practice is designed for 2 levels:
The first level is when students work in pairs repeating over and over dialogues based on a picture or pre-set situation. Here are some examples and more explanatory notes.
The second level of the pre-communicative practice, where the relationship between the language structures used and their meanings are reinforced by situations that can occur in real life. Find a few examples here and notes on how to use this practice.
We're starting our weekly Communicative Grammar E-zine in January 2013.
It will be sent to subscribers on Mondays.