Thursday, March 02, 2006

Teaching Speaking (2) by: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.


Imitation and repetition are important elementary steps in developing speaking skill in English. Imitation and repetition are inter-related, and yet they are distinct.
Imitation helps students to pronounce and produce the English utterance they hear from the teacher as closely as possible to the utterance produced by her. Imitation is not restricted to mere production of the sounds, phrases, and sentences. It includes also the capacity to produce the utterances in the contexts in which the original utterances were produced.
On the other hand, repetition refers to the acts of producing the utterances in as close a manner as possible to the original. Repetition leads to automatic reproduction of the utterance, and, in the process, some sort of memorization of the sound or structure practiced takes place through repetition.
Note, however, that neither imitation nor repetition results in the mastery of any language. These are important steps in practicing the language material, but these should not become the focus of the learning process in the classroom, because ultimately the TESOL speaker is expected to use English in novel and unpredictive ways to meet his or her needs. Children in the process of acquiring their first language use imitation and repetition as props, but not as the main tool for acquisition.
Some of the imitation and repetition exercises may be organized in the following manner: Present some simple sentence, phrase, or word and ask students to repeat after you. If you want them to understand and repeat a conversation, say the questions and the answers and have the students repeat the latter, or perhaps both, signaling the meaning in some way. The meaning can be demonstrated with realia (real objects brought into the classroom), pictures, gestures, or translating.
The teacher may use pictures, gestures, pantomime, translation, guessing, and drawing on the board to make the students understand the meaning. It is important that you use only meaningful words, phrases, and sentences for imitation and repetition. The props you use to explain or demonstrate the meaning should enable the student to learn the meaning with ease, along with the pronunciation.
Ask students to repeat the utterance several times. Some learning takes place through repetition, and the student begins to see patterns at different levels. He may form some hypotheses as to the order of occurrence of sounds in a word, words in a phrase, or a sentence. He may begin to distinguish between statements and questions. He may generalize from what he has been exposed to, and form even new sentences based on what he has repeated so far. He may begin to substitute new words in place of the old in the sentences he has repeated and form new sentences.
In the initial phase of learning and teaching English, repetition and imitation serve to make students familiar with the sounds and structures, get the attention and interest of the students, and focus their effort in the learning process. However, if these are stressed continually, or made as the main process of learning, these soon become boring events, and do not contribute to real learning of English. Naturally, the TESOL student will commit many errors at first. His pronunciation may not be appropriate, or he may not have reproduced all the elements or units of a word, phrase, or sentence. He will be hampered or guided by the structure and sounds of his language. However, imitation and repetition will help him to practice producing native-like utterances at the sound level.


Blogger said...

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011 2:59:00 PM  

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