Thursday, May 04, 2006

Teaching Speaking (10)


While the role play gives practice in using English in situations similar to those outside the classroom, the situations are still controlled in some sense, because of the presence of the teacher and other prompts. On the other hand, use of English in the real world may offer features that are not captured in the classroom pretend situations.
Also, use of English in the real world will demand a competence that solely, if not wholly, revolves around the student’s attainment of English. Several community interaction activities are advised in order to develop the speaking skill in real world situations. Assignments should be given to students which will require oral communication between the student and the community. These assignments must be task-oriented.
For example, these assignments may involve buying a train or bus ticket, getting information about schedules of trains or buses, transactions with the “dry cleaners, shoe repairs, self-service laundries, auto repair shops, employment agencies, fast food establishments, the public library, fire stations, car wash facilities, state highway patrol, ambulance service, self-storage facilities, airport transportation, etc.”
However, I would urge that you choose your contexts in such a manner that what you have chosen would be familiar to your students and would be appropriate to their level of competence in English. Note that it is not necessary for all the material culture facilities of the West to find a place in the English language lessons for the non-native speakers. If you can find suitable contexts within their own country in which the use of English would lead to an appropriate diction and structure in English, please prefer these contexts first.
Since English plays a very crucial and important role in India in all walks of life, the Indian teachers of TESOL should identify situations that are relevant to life in India relating to a variety of professions where English is ordinarily used. And use these situations to develop communicative competence in their students.
Gathering information from the community is another important way of using English in the real world. This requires going to the community institutions and getting information about the services they offer. These institutions are many, such as the post office, a bank, a movie theater, the bus company, a car rental office, the International Student House, and so on. Include in it dialogues in a doctor’s office with the nurses and doctor, dialogues in a department store, with a waiter and so on. In all these instances, the student should acquire adequate vocabulary, relevant structure, and socially appropriate usage (Bowen, et al. 1985).
Interviewing native speakers in the classroom is an important exercise that will encourage speech. This will also be an occasion to explain certain cultural constraint one is expected to observe. For example, questions relating to the age, weight, or salary of the interviewee, are not considered appropriate in native English-speaking context.
Another important step in developing speaking skill is to ask and enable students to pass on the information they have collected to other students in the class. This will help students focus on the essentials and compose their thoughts and sentences accordingly.
In the real world, making excuses and getting oneself excused from an activity is a very important skill in the domain of conversation. It requires tact, understanding of the parties involved, succinct and convincing explanations, not too much prodding and such other characteristics that would be considered imposition or intrusion, and other socially appropriate usage. There may be differences in this area between practices followed in English-speaking societies and the society of the second language learner. You should learn how excuses are made in an appropriate manner in the language of your students and ask your students to imagine such situations in native English- speaking contexts and teach appropriate usage.
Developing abilities to understand the intentions of someone, and to communicate your own intentions in a more sophisticated indirect manner, are very much demanded in native English. Recognizing the intentions of the speaker often requires a good linguistic and sociolinguistic sensibility.
It will be hard for you to imagine and prepare passages of this type. My suggestion is that you watch for these passages in the day to day conversations you may have with your friends, in cartoons, and in books which focus on jokes. Consider this dialogue reported in Bowen, et al. (1985). Teen-age son: The manager at the used car lot assured me that the Plymouth had only one previous owner, an elderly lady who drove it very little and treated it like a jewel. Father: That’s a man you can really trust.
Expressing Politeness/Annoyance requires a skill in the manipulation of intonation (tone of voice), as well as in the use of words and expressions. A number of situations may be presented to the class for practice. Students will be given a description of the situation and asked to generate appropriate sentences to the roles they are assigned. While suggesting situations for practice, look for the most appropriate contexts for your class. The class should not be expected to know a lot more about the social life of the native English speakers to understand these passages. If a lot of explanation is to be given, the fun in learning these would be lost. Choose those contexts which are easy to recreate and easy to explain. Choose those contexts which would not demand complicated structures. Also choose those contexts which would use only those structures which are familiar, and which have been practiced already in the class.
Sometimes it may be necessary to analyze and describe situations to enable the students to understand whether an utterance is a formal one or not, whether it is an informal utterance, rude, neutral, etc. This discussion may be incorporated as part of the introduction the teacher gives to the class before speaking practice of selected utterances begins. Problems in interpersonal relations are easily revealed in linguistic exchanges. Linguistic exchanges reveal the attitude of the participants in the conversation process.
Language Games such as “rumor” help students to compose their own sentences and speak. The class is lined up and the teacher whispers a message (length and difficulty level appropriate to the class) to the student on the end of the line, who listens and repeats, again in a whisper, to the next student, continuing down the line. What emerges is seldom recognized (Bowen et al. 1985). What other games would you like to introduce for the development of the speaking skill?
Translation is another helpful device to encourage students to speak in English. The students may be given some sentences in their own native language and asked to translate them and use these to answer or ask questions. There are several other ways of using translation as a tool to develop speaking skill.
Survival English is basic English which one needs to use to get around places and meet some basic necessities of life in a native English environment. For example, one needs to know how to flag down a taxi and to tell the taxi driver where to take him. One needs to know how to get to the Underground station and to reach places in London. This kind of English focuses on the needs and problems of the student in his immediate environment.
The student should have the ability to produce expressions in a manner comprehensible to native speakers of English. “If he depends on trains, he’ll need expressions about departures, stations, destinations, tickets, etc. Regardless of where he is, he should learn to count and should master directional terms necessary to communicate with a taxicab driver, such as ‘right, left, straight ahead, stop here, how much,’ etc. He should learn to use gestures, pointing, finger counting, etc. that will support his attempts at oral communication, and he should have the means of enlarging his vocabulary when bilinguals are available, by asking questions to clarify meanings and pronunciation” (Bowen et al. 1985:110-111).
Survival English should not be taught separately as an end in itself in a TESOL class. It is to be considered only as a stage or a part of the learning process. If survival English is focused upon as an end in itself, students may have no motivation to develop proficiency in English. They may lose their motivation to seek further improvement in using English. They may develop a “pidgin” English of their own.


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