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Understanding and Teaching Spoken English

Features of the spoken language
Teaching spoken English: Principles and practice How to use A Speaking Course

Part One: Preview

Features of the spoken language Prosodic features Shortened forms Features resulting from limited processing time Organizational features Accent and dialect Functions of the spoken language

1. Features of the spoken language 1.1 Prosodic features:

stress pitch intonation rhythm tempo


e.g. She sells seashells on the seashore, the shells she sells are seashells Im sure.

1. Features of the spoken language 1.2 Shortened forms

Contraction Elision Ellipsis


a reduced form often marked by an apostrophe in writing
e.g. cant = cannot Ill = I will

the omission or slurring (eliding) of one or more sounds or syllables
e.g. gonna = going to wanna be = want to be wassup = whats up

the omission of part of a grammatical structure

e.g. You bored? A bit,

1. Features of the spoken language

1.3 Features that result from the limited processing time False start Repairs Fillers


False start:
when a speaker stops after beginning an utterance and then either repeats or reformulates it. e.g. right well let's er --= let's look at the applications -- erm - let me just ask initially this
(The CHRISTINE Project: http://www.grsampson.net/RChristine.html)

an alteration suggested or made by the speaker, the addressee or the audience to correct or clarify a previous conversational contribution.

- no particular meanings - provides time to think, to create a pause or to hold a turn e.g. er, uhm, ah, well.
Compare with the Chinese filler neige.

1. Features of the spoken language 1.4 Organizational features Back-channeling Turn-taking


Feedback for a speaker, meaning I understand you or Im listening. e.g. I see, really, uh huh or oh

a typical, orderly arrangement in which participants speak with minimal overlap and gap between them. Short-turns: one or two sentences; long turns: can be an hours lecture.

1. Features of the spoken language


Accent: the ways in which words are pronounced. Factors: age, region or social class, e.g. RP Dialect: The distinctive grammar and vocabulary associated with the regional or social use of a language, e.g. Bernard Shaws Pygmalion.

1. Features of the spoken language


Different functions Interactional talk: Conversational language for interpersonal reasons and/or socializing. E.g. chitchat. Primarily listener-oriented. Transactional talk: Language to get things done or to transmit content or information. Primarily speaker-oriented.

Part Two: Preview

What should be taught and what can be taught? The roles of a spoken English teacher Basic principles in teaching spoken English Some suggestions for the design of activities

2.1 What should be taught and what can be taught? (1)

What are the possible aims of a spoken English course? Notions; Situations; Topics; etc. Which spoken model should we present to our students? RP or a standard American accent?

2.1 What should be taught and what can be taught? (2)

What should be corrected and what should not be corrected? What are the possible sideline productions? Training of communication skills, public speaking skills, and skills to organize thoughts within a short time

2.2 The roles of a spoken English teacher

Three stages and respective teachers roles: Presentation: an informant (+ a model provider?) Practice: a conductor or a classroom manager Production: a guide or a facilitator

Does teaching have to be in this order?

2.3 Basic principles in teaching spoken English (1)

The importance of stress and rhythm Difference between English and Chinese English: stress-timed Chinese: syllable-timed

e.g. I saw a big tree on the top of the mountain. The use of songs in the teaching of pronunciation: Do Re Mi (Unit 1)

2.3 Basic principles in teaching spoken English (2)

Communicative stress: the less the better How to reduce this stress? The listener: peers; one is better than many The situation: private; familiar; relaxing The language: same for speaker and listener Status of knowledge: information about the topic or issue and the vocabulary needed So: group and pair work are better than individual and class work.

2.3 Basic principles in teaching spoken English (3)

Information gap: basic principle in the design of tasks Always ask: Is there a reasonable purpose for the speaker to perform the task? Does the listener need that information?

2.3 Basic principles in teaching spoken English (4)

Correction: when and how? Relaxed attitude towards mistakes, esp. at the beginning. Beginning of a semester: establishing a good rapport with the students; help learners to build confidence in speaking in English

2.3 Basic principles in teaching spoken English (5)

Correction: when and how? Relatively privately, e.g. in the process of pair or group work. In class if necessary without mentioning names of students. Take notes while supervising pair or group work.

2.3 Basic principles in teaching spoken English (6)

The importance of encouragement: Pygmalion Effect - Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968), children aged six to twelve years, all drawn from the same school, given an IQ test. Children were then assigned to an experimental or control group. When teachers were told that the children in the experimental group were "high achievers", these children showed significant IQ gains over the course of one year, despite allocation to group having been in fact random.

2.4 Some suggestions for the design of activities

The use of pictures The use of jigsaw The use of games The use of drama The use of role play and simulation

Part Three: Preview

Brief introduction to A Speaking Course Teaching spoken English to big classes Teaching spoken English to mixed ability classes Motivating the students

3.1 A Speaking Course

An integrated syllabus: Book 1: Pronunciation; Functions (I); Functions (II); Situations Book 2: What will you say? What will you do? How to complete the project? What is your opinion?

3.1 A Speaking Course

Principles in organization and design of content 1) Objectives, warming-up, activities, review, tips 2) Presentation, practice, production Models are usually provided. 3) Situations and topics are close to the life and future needs of the students.

3.2 Teaching big classes

Big classes: 50-60 students in one class Difficult, but not mission impossible. 1) Carefully design tasks with clear learning goals 2) Use pair work and group work 3) Maintain discipline: Be firm and fair 4) Feedback: One or two groups or pair

3.3 Teaching mixed ability classes

Let the more competent students do some of the teaching. Pair work and group work benefit the more capable students more. Leave different types of assignments for the students to choose from.

3.4 Motivating the students

Involve the students in the design of tasks Interesting tasks Varied design of activities Encouragement and some training of learning skills Make learners aware of the sideline products of the training of spoken English.

Tell me and I'll forget; Teach me and I'll remember; Involve me and I'll learn. Benjamin Franklin?

Thank You