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Performance : Journal of English Education and Literature

Badan Penerbit UNM. 2007

Maemuna Muhayyang
English Departement, FBS UNM


This paper aims to describe the nature of teacher talk in English classroom
interaction. It is assumed that to capture the realities of how English as a foreign
language is used, classroom as the setting in which the contact among teacher,
students, materials that are framed by the context of place and time should
promote the practice and use of language in real life. To determine and shape the
English as a foreign language development, teacher takes important roles to be
language provider and language models to be imitated by the students in all
performed classroom interaction.

Key words:
Teacher talk, classroom interaction

A. Introduction

In relation to language acquisition and development of English as a foreign

language undertaken in formal education background, EFL teachers play important roles
as language input providers and language models to be imitated by the students in
teaching and learning classroom. It cannot be denied that a teacher in teaching carries out
some specific communicative acts, such as lecturing, asking and responding questions,
explaining, and giving direction or instruction. These activities will inevitably facilitate
the students to perform the same or similar things in communicating with each other
accordingly in all varied classroom interactions assigned by the teacher. Therefore,
teacher talk should be clear and intelligible, which should contain no errors. Noni
(1994:1) stated that the instructional language used by teachers should always serve the
objectives of providing students’ acquisition and acquaintance with the language, of
promoting learning among them, and of initiating class-interaction leading to
communication. These objectives will be attained if the teacher language is appropriate in
terms of pronunciation, grammar, and word collocation for the students in accordance
with their language competence, experience, and proficiency.
To grasp an understanding on teacher talk, the writer highlights the nature of
teacher talk and its characteristics in classroom interaction.

B. What is Teacher Talk?

Teacher talk is the language produced by teachers addressed to the students in
classroom interaction serving two functions that is pedagogical and communicative.
Pedagogical function refers to the language used by teachers which intentionally becomes
a model for students in learning the language. Not only does teacher talk substitute as
model but also facilitates to perceive and analyze the linguistic content of the speech. As
for the pedagogical function, teachers as language producers always try to make their
language sound perfect to the students since they think that the language produced is
taken a model by students.
In conjunction with the pedagogical function of teacher talk, Milal (1998) stated
that teachers as facilitators are very helpful to the students regarding to their valuable
efforts in particular to provide either material assistance or mental support. First of all,
teachers provide the students with sufficient input as a model to imitate and require in the
form of modeling use and reinforcement to confirm or reject their hypothesis manifested
in the form of feedback. Both modeling and feedback characterize the teacher talk used in
language teaching and learning process.
Teacher talk in communicative purposes is produced to build up and maintain the
social relationship between teachers and students aiming at either arising students’
attention or stimulating their response toward a certain message delivered by teachers in
their communication.
In sum, when teacher talk is employed for pedagogical purpose, its main focus is
to teach the students a language to facilitate them to achieve linguistic competence.
Conversely, when it is used for communicative purpose, the focus is on the establishment
of social relationship between the two parties, namely teacher and students in order to
enliven the classroom interaction.
In relation to teacher talk, Rasyid (1997: 7-8) states that talking is one of the most
outstanding behaviors revealed by teachers in the classroom which may become the most
difficult thing for teachers to avoid. The reason is quite obvious. If we, for example, ask
an EFL classroom teacher what he does in his class, we will likely hear from him such
things below:
I greet students;
I review the previous lesson;
I introduce new materials;
I explain, describe, exemplify, compare, analyze, and synthesize ideas;
I give instruction and direction;
I give pronunciation models;
I dictate words, phrases, sentences, and short passages;
I encourage, motivate and give prompts to students;
I give advice, and offer suggestions;
I respond to students’ questions and ask students questions as well to take a part
in classroom interaction;
I give feedback, etc.
What the teacher does above is all plausibly pedagogical and it seems that a 4-
hour session (with no break) is a short period for those activities to be carried out at a
time. We can imagine what a considerable amount of live target language input is likely
the students will receive if the teacher uses the target language in teaching. It really
makes sense that students get some plus points to develop their language performance in
every session of language learning classroom interaction.
In terms of the function of teacher talk in teaching and learning classroom
interaction, Celcia-Murcia (1989) distinguishes teacher talk into indirect and direct
teacher talk. Indirect teacher talk covers four areas of teaching and learning process, that
is (1) accepting students’ feeling, (2) stimulating students’ motivation and interest,
(3) using students’ perception, and (4) offering questions. Direct teacher talk may come
out in terms of (1) informing something, (2) giving direction, and (3) justifying students’
Furthermore, Cook (1991) assumed that teacher supplies more speech rather than
students in classroom interaction. It is obviously reasonable since the teaching under the
teacher overall guidance takes, not surprisingly, 70% of the utterances in most classroom.
This can be clearly illustrated in the following three main parts of the exchange of turn in
classroom interaction:
1) Initiation. The teacher takes the initiative by requiring something of the
students through a question. The move starts of the exchange; the teacher acts
a leader
2) Response. The students answer the question whatever is required. So the
move responds to teacher’s initiation; the students act as follower.
3) Feedback. The teacher does not directly take another initiation, but she/he
gives feedback to the student’s response whether it is acceptable or not.
The three structures of initiation, response, and feedback are very frequent to take
place in teaching. For this reason, teacher talk really takes a great part to be a language
model for students to get language knowledge and develop their language performance
they are learning.

C. The Characteristics of Teacher Talk in Classroom Interaction

It is clear that teacher in foreign language classroom should supply the students
with correct forms and functions of the language. In terms of the language used by
teacher in foreign language teaching and learning classroom, the teacher should meet
with the five characteristics of good teaching presentation as follows:
1) The teacher talk should be clear. This means that students should have no
difficulty in understanding what the new language items mean. In this respect,
the teacher should use simple language.
2) The teacher talk should be efficient. This means that the students can get the
personalization stage to manipulate the new language items.
3) The teacher talk should be lively and interesting. This refers to the assumption
that the students are directly interested to the teacher talk.
4) The teacher talk should be appropriate. This means that the teacher talk is
meaningful and useful in communication and interaction either inside or
outside the classroom.
5) The teacher talk should be productive. This indicates that the students can use
appropriately the language for both the academic purposes and
communicative purposes.
In conjunction with the characteristics of teacher talk, Breines (2002) describes
four (4) characteristics of teacher talk which function as a language input for the
development of students’ foreign language. They are:
1) It is directive. The main function of directive is not only to instruct the
students what to do but also to get the attention of the students. The use of
directive in terms of socio-cultural context considers that teacher in classroom
interaction will inevitably engage in face-threatening acts.
2) It is imperative. The teacher may employ humor and invite giggles and
laughter to appreciate the social affection and to deprive effectively the
appearance of boredom in language classroom interaction as well.
3) It should be shorter, simpler, slower, and clearer speech. Speech that promotes
comprehensibility for second and foreign language learners includes
clarification requests, comprehension checks, repetitions, and rephrasing of
both teachers and learners’ utterances. Since the language used by the teacher
is an important source of linguistic input for foreign language learners, the
teacher should be able to modify his/her language use in ways that make it
work as effectively as possible in the classroom setting.
4) There should be repetition. The teacher should be conscious of being the
language model for the foreign language learners. She/he should often repeat
what she/he says and what a student says, for the entire class with the exact
words and sometimes by rephrasing it using different words. She/he, for
example, repeats students’ one-word answers in full sentences and in correct
forms. By introducing new vocabulary and developing academic language in
the content areas, the teacher facilitates students’ language development.
Therefore, the teacher should speak clearly and slowly most of the time, and
often spend extra time for the foreign language learners by either making
repetition or by waiting patiently for them to speak in their language learning.

D. Lecturer Talk in Foreign Language Classroom

The language of the language teaching and learning is distinctive because it is

designed for language learning to take place. An important element in the success of

foreign language learning appears to be how learners to be treated- the teaching method

used with them, the language they hear, and the environment in which they are learning.

The purpose of language teaching in a sense is to provide the best input to the process of

language learning. Everything the lecturer does provide the learner with opportunities for

encountering the language.

The lecturer at this point may employ either communicative method or listening-

based method. The communicative method emphasizes the learners’ double role as

listener and speaker. A typical exercise requires students to take both roles in

conversation and not only to understand the information they are listening to but also to

express it themselves. They are receiving input not only from the lecturer but also from

their peers in the class. The listening-based methods, on the other hands, confine the

students to the role of listeners through the application of Total Physical Response, for

instance, the students listen and carry out commands but they do not need to speak.

Hence the input they receive is totally controlled by the lecturer.

The lecturer’s language as an input to the students is also characterized by

functional adjustment. He/she may simply make some repetitions, prompting, modeling

and expansion just to enable the students to use the most appropriate forms and functions

of language they are learning. It is clear that classroom holistically becomes the
determinant factor toward the effective implementation of teaching methods as part of

lecturers’ efforts to adapt language they use in teaching which suit their students’ level of

language competence. Classroom may vary in many ways, it is not constant. Since the

classroom may vary, the lecturers may adapt it in whatever way they like and the students

as well.

To make lecturer talk as a comprehensible input to the students in classroom

interaction, Cook (1991) proposed four considerable things as the following lists:

a) Be aware of the two levels at which language enters into the classroom. Using L1

for instruction may deprive the students of genuine examples of language use. The

overuse of initiation, response, and feedback of lecturer-talk may undermine a

communicative classroom by destroying the usual give-and-take interaction

outside the classroom.

b) Be aware of the different sources of input. Language may come from lecturer,

textbook or teaching materials, and from the students.

c) The input that the students are getting is more than just sentences. The whole

context provides language involving the classroom interaction between lecturer

and class, between students in class. Many lecturers encourage spontaneous

natural interaction from the students but they are controlling a class in every

physical activity they make.

d) Students learn from teaching not from learning. This has been often in language

classroom; the students in general taught by listening method s turn out to be a

better listener; students taught through reading are better at reading. The major

source of language available to students is what they encounter in classroom. The

lecturer’s responsibility is to make certain that the language input provided is

sufficient for the students to gain the appropriate type of language knowledge and

does not destroy it in crucial ways. In many respects, English language students

will go with their own developmental sequences in which their classroom input

affects their language in broad terms.

At this point, the writer has come to the gist of this review by pooling the concept

that lecturer talk is the language produced by lecturers addressed to the students in

classroom interaction. It is characterized by linguistic modifications or adjustments to

facilitate the students to grasp the messages conveyed. Lecture talk is categorized into

instructional and management talks serving two functions that is pedagogical and social.

E. Conclusion
To be a good language input provider and model for students, English teachers in
teaching and learning classroom interaction should meet with the requirements of good
teaching presentation. It is believed that teachers with good teaching presentation enable
the students to acquire and learn English as a foreign language easily and effectively. The
students can apply the language imitated and modeled in their own communication and
interaction in and out of the classroom as the result.

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