Why dialogues are important

By Frederik De Vos

Learning to speak a language is often compared to learning how to drive — the more you do it, the more familiar it becomes — and in the end it's automatic.

Dialogues are so important because they're like the actual traffic situations when you learn how to drive.

It's quite common that people get lost in the grammar and learn lists of words and look for a magical rule behind something. I've struggled with that too.

I thought I had to figure out all possibilities in the word order or why something is correct and something else isn't. And before long I was on a quest to find all the rules, make lists of all the verbs and so on. After a while, I realized it didn't help much.

It's a bit like disassembling your car and figuring out what every little part does. Sure, there's a lot to learn from that, but it's not going to teach you how to drive.

If you want to learn how to drive, you have to sit behind the wheel and get on the road.

It's the same with languages. If you want to learn how to speak, you have to learn from what people are actually saying in conversations. How to answer questions, how to express surprise and excitement, and all the things that aren't actually in the words, but are just as much part of the conversation, such as intonation.

There's something missing in sentences like "The tree is taller than the car." Sentences like this sound unnatural and are irrelevant in everyday life.

This is why we place so much importance on natural dialogues in our course. Authentic dialogues contain the "whole" language. They don't only teach words and how to combine them with grammar rules, but also how people express their emotions, with the right words and intonation.

Dialogues tell you something about the culture and make the language come alive.

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