Using Empatico to Practice a New Language

Review some helpful tips for how to use Empatico to practice a new language!

Empatico allows language learners to see how they can use their new language in real-life conversations with peers from another location. Students gain an understanding of culturally appropriate behavior associated with that language or region and authentically practice vocabulary and grammar with native speakers. This resource outlines tips to help you and your partner class have a positive Empatico experience.

Suggestions for language learners

Before the exchange...

Introduce key vocabulary and grammar structures:

1) Teach students academic vocabulary and provide sentence starters required for the exchange topic.

2) Activate students’ prior knowledge of the language as it relates to the activity topic.

3) Use authentic, age-appropriate materials aligned to your exchange topic. This may include books and online resources that are written by native speakers of the language.

Leverage students’ native language and culture:

1) Celebrate your students’ unique heritage by preparing to share vocabulary or phrases in their native language(s) with your partner class related to topics that interest students (e.g., greetings, local animals, games, etc.).

2) Use students as experts. If there are students in your class/school who are fluent in the language your students are learning, invite them into your class for teaching and learning opportunities.

Integrate the language and culture of your partner class throughout your classroom and curriculum:

1) Label classroom objects with words from your partner class’s language to support students’ everyday learning.

2) Teach language skills across the curriculum. Try several Empatico activities to support a learning goals for regional and international standards, providing ample opportunities for students to practice new vocabulary and grammar in a variety of subject areas (social studies, science, language arts, etc.).

Increase student confidence in speaking by preparing students to meet their partner classmates:

1) Lead a role-play exercise in front of your device’s camera, in which students practice engaging in a conversation similar to the one they’ll have with their partner classroom.

2) Consider recording videos of students introducing themselves to prepare them for the live Empatico experience, and share them with your partner educator by using the built-in messaging tool on the Empatico platform.

During the Empatico exchange...

Create a fun, interactive, and relaxed environment:

1) Incorporate movement like dancing and performing.

2) Sing songs especially in your students’ native language(s), and share what the song was about.

3) Have students share fun facts about themselves such as personal stories about their pets or their favorite hobbies, to increase their engagement and participation in the exchange.

Be patient and provide encouragement: 

1) Offer encouragement and celebrate each student as they speak and listen to their partners during the exchange. Students may struggle to learn a new language when they are anxious or have low self-confidence. To learn more, see this resource on Second Language Acquisition and the Affective Filter hypothesis.

2) Give students extra time to respond to their partner classmates’ questions. Giving language-learning students at least 3-5 seconds greatly increases the quality of students’ responses.

After the Empatico exchange...

Reflect as a class: 

1) Have students write to reflect on the experience and demonstrate what they learned during the exchange.

2) Facilitate a verbal Reflection Circle to provide encouragement and positive feedback, and discuss how students felt while communicating with native speakers, what they think they did well, and how they hope to continue to improve their speaking and listening skills in the language they are learning.

Suggestions for the classroom speaking their native language

Before the exchange...

Prepare with your partner teacher:

1) Consider sharing your students’ questions in advance so that your partner students can practice responding in the language that will be spoken during the exchange. Spontaneous conversation may be difficult for some non-native speakers.

Prepare students to meet their partner classmates:

1) Review the Teacher Tips for Navigating Student Differences video for suggestions on how to approach language and cultural differences with kindness and respect. Model curiosity and maintain a positive attitude towards your partner class's language and culture(s).

2) Introduce your partner class’s native language when showing your students where the partners are located, and prepare them for their partners’ speaking abilities and accents in the language they will use during the exchange. Introduce or remind students of perspective taking, and ask them to consider how they might feel communicating in a new language in front of their peers.

3) Explain that cultures are not monolithic and that their partner classmates may come from a variety of backgrounds and speak different languages or dialects from one another.

4) Consider recording videos of students introducing themselves help them practice speaking slowly and clearly, and share them asynchronously using Empatico's built-in messaging tool.

Introduce vocabulary and phrases in their partner class’s language:

1) Try learning to say a few words or phrases in your partner class’s native language.

During the Empatico exchange...

Encourage patience and model respectful behavior:

1) Reinforce respectful communication and positive behavior by praising students who demonstrate empathy towards their partners who may be communicating with native speakers for the first time.

2) Give partner classmates extra time to respond to your students’ questions. Giving language-learning students at least 3-5 seconds greatly increases the quality of students’ responses.

3) Repeat information slowly, as needed, but never in a louder voice.

Incorporate visuals:

1) Consider writing down your students’ presentations or responses in large text to hold during the exchange. This may help their partner classmates comprehend more easily by reading it.

After the Empatico exchange...

Reflect as a class: 

1) Facilitate a verbal Reflection Circle to encourage perspective taking and discuss how students think their partner classmates felt while communicating in a new language and how they think they would have felt in a similar situation.

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