It is often difficult for students to practice realistic oral communications with native speakers. Face to face encounters with strangers can be intimidating. Scheduling time can be problematic. One solution is the oral dialog journal.
Just as written dialog journals have proved successful in helping students develop writing skills, oral dialog journals can aid the development of spoken language skills.
The written dialog journal is a special kind of journal which pairs a student and a mentor who then correspond in a conversational manner. It is more focused than pen pals. When adult learners write with their mentor, they use their target language in a supportive, nonthreatening interaction. Learners write to express themselves on topics important to them and share their life experiences. The mentor guides the student to learn new concepts and use in future conversations. The dialogue journal is also valuable for the mentor who is able to more fully understand the needs of the student.
When writing the foreign language, student has the opportunity to try to remember or to look up words and expressions to alter grammatical structures and to reorder the text while proofing the material as many times as necessary. All this can be done in a private environment without an audience.
In contrast, speaking involves immediacy. The novice speaker must perform under the watchful, often intimidating, gaze of the fluent native speaker.
By taping an oral dialog journal, language students retain many of the benefits of writing while developing fluency. Students can listen to a dialogue repeatedly. They can pause whenever they wish and use dictionaries to aid both comprehension and production. Students can listen to their own speech as well rerecording if necessary. All this is possible without the intimidation of a listener being present.
The benefit of oral dialog journals seems to come from the back and forth interaction that allows the student and mentor to get to know each other, eliminate shyness, and improve on conversation skills with practice.