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Advanced ESL: Conversational Competencies in the Real World

Authentic American English in the real world: developing conversational competences of intermediate to advanced students; practical solutions in the digital era.

When I first came to the U.S. almost 20 years ago, I already had a degree in English and had worked as an instructor and interpreter of English. To my surprise, on many occasions I still had just a vague idea and understanding of what was going on around me; I couldn't always understand people, TV and radio, and movies. It took me several additional years to learn to be comfortable communicating with people and understanding the cultural context of everyday life here. The reasons were plenty, but the most important ones are listed below:

1) New phrases, words, idioms, and slang enter this dynamic language almost daily;

2) People don't always follow the grammar rules and "cut corners" in communication whenever possible;

3) People in this country have a variety of regional and foreign accents;

4) Most people have their individual pronunciation and stylistic idiosyncrasies. Not everybody enunciates clearly; some people mumble and/or slur, others use incomplete sentences, yet others jump from thought to thought, from idea to idea, and it becomes OUR responsibility to figure out what they mean;

5) The most difficult task of all is understanding the psychological underpinnings of communication: many times we understand what people are saying, but what we don't understand is WHY they're reacting this way. By "cultural context" in this course we mean not only the geographical, political, and historical information, but also the feelings and emotions that utterances are based upon. What do Americans appreciate, like, dislike? What are they concerned or worried about? What are the norms of behavior and humor? What is ethical and/or appropriate and what is not? These aspects are culturally based; many times they're not universal and confuse the non-native speaker if they don't coincide with those of the culture he/she comes from.

Very few instructional texts or programs take these "mentality" factors into consideration, so I got very little help and had to bumble through this very rich and endless linguistic landscape of modern American communication on my own. This course is designed for people like myself: advanced learners of American English who need help "fine tuning" their comprehension skills. All the conversations are unscripted and REALArticle Search, just as they occur in life. Let us guide you on this exciting journey that will hopefully help you adjust to the fluidity of modern American communication in a much shorter period of time.

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Irena Dewey is the author and owner of an American English instructional

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