Context is the new trend in the language teaching industry, and for a very good reason. Studies have shown that when you learn something in context then you are much more likely to remember it than something which is totally abstract and has no meaning to you. But what does this mean if you are trying to learn a second language?
When you are trying to practice you should always try and discuss things which are real to you. If you are describing a person’s appearance, pick a real person. If you are ordering something in a shop, choose something that you would actually order. This is important as it’s been proven that you’re more able to remember something which has ontological relevance. It’s basic cognition, something that is made up isn’t useful so your brain discards it, whereas it holds onto information that it deems relevant.
This is why it’s also important to get as much practice as you can outside of the classroom and away from textbooks and your teacher. There are two sides to this. Firstly you need to get used to the way people speak, understanding somebody with background noises and speaking without an artificially constructed situation. This really helps you hone your language ability and generates real fluency rather than being able to answer questions in a text book.
Another valuable point of doing this is you will quickly realize you’re strengths and weaknesses and what you need to practice. You might find that you’re struggling to understand somebody, but once you do you’re able to respond. Therefore, you have the speaking ability but you need to focus on listening. Or perhaps you understand but you don’t have the vocabulary to express yourself and thus that is where the focus on your future learning should be.