Speaking

Module One | Describing language and language skills

Speaking: a productive skill

Speaking, like writing, is a productive skill which requires using speech to convey messages to others.

Here is a list of things people do. Tick the ones they do when they are speaking.

  1. Enunciate words
  2. Give answers to questions
  3. Use intonation
  4. Request clarification and/or explanation
  5. Correct themselves when they make errors
  6. Participate in discussions
  7. Change the content and/or style of their speech according to how the person who is listening to them responds
  8. Address people/greet them
  9. Plan what they are going to say
  10. Smile/laugh
  11. Request and give information
  12. Respond suitably
  13. Convince someone
  14. Begin to speak when somebody else stops speaking
  15. Narrate stories
  16. Use perfect grammar and vocabulary
  17. Use tenses correctly
  18. Participate in conversations/discussions

Apart from number 9 and number 16, we regularly do all the other things on the above list when we speak. It is only when we are making a speech or speaking formally that we have the time to do number 9 and 16. Below is a list of categories which are examples of the other points:

  1. Grammar and vocabulary (17)
  2. Functions (2,4,6,8,11,12,13,15)
  3. Features of connected speech (1,3)
  4. Appropriacy (12)
  5. Body language (10)
  6. Interaction (5,7,14,18)

Speaking:
TKT PRACTICE TASK 

Given in the box below are teaching focuses (A-C). Listed from 1-7 are activities. Match the activities with the teaching focuses.

Teaching focuses

 A  appropriacy

B  fluency

C  connected speech

  1. Using intonation to convey surprise
  2. Using exponents of formal invitations
  3. Speaking without hesitating
  4. Recognising main stress in short conversations on audio cassettes or CDs
  5. Addressing people informally
  6. Speaking at a normal and natural speed
  7. Recognising specific phonemes in dialogues on audio cassettes or CDs

Speaking: interaction

Two-way communication requires using language and body language to keep the person who is listening to us interested in what we are saying and to see that they hae full understanding of what we mean. This kind of communication is called interaction. Here are some examples of interactive strategies: making eye contact, use of facial expressions, asking questions (for example, to see whether the listener understands clarifying what we mean and confirming understanding.

Normally when we speak, we do it with fluency. Fluency means speaking smoothly at a normal speed with confidence, without any hesitation or pauses and also without having to repeat anything or correct ourselves. We also speak with accuracy which is the use of correct forms of gammar, vocabulary and pronunciation.

expert

Nerd baby says ...​

The speaking skills of students can be further developed by concentrating more often on specific features of speaking. For example, pronunciation, fluency, grammatical accuracy and body language.

Controlled practice activities are activities in which the students can use language that they have just learned. These kind of activities are done in a lot of classes and focus mainly on accuracy in speaking. They do not focus on communication, interaction or fluency. Therefore, they teach a very limited kind of speaking.

Controlled activities do not give the students as much opportunity to revise and practice communication, interaction and fluency than tasks and less controlled practice activities.

If students have a good reason for communicating, for example to solve an issue or to give necessary information to someone else, they will often speak more comfortably and with more enthusiasm.

• Sometimes students might need extra assistance in the classroom to get ready for speaking because it is such a complicated skill. For example, they may need to practice the necessary vocabulary, they may need time to arrange their opinions and organise what they want to say, they may have to practice how to pronounce new words and expressions and doing a task before they are fully prepared to speak in freedom. • Sometimes students might need extra assistance in the classroom to get ready for speaking because it is such a complicated skill. For example, they may need to practice the necessary vocabulary, they may need time to arrange their opinions and organise what they want to say, they may have to practice how to pronounce new words and expressions and doing a task before they are fully prepared to speak in freedom.

Students who are just beginning to study the language and children might find it necessary to have extra time to absorb what they have learnt and heard before they can start speaking.

Usually, activities that are used in a speaking lesson look like this:
(a) Lead in: this is an introduction to the topic that is being taught in the lesson and activities which concentrate on the language being taught.
(b) Practice activities or tasks which are used to give students opportunities to make use of the language they are learning.
(c) Post-task activities: these are activities which encoruage students to talk about the topic with ease and if necessary, ask the teacher questions about the language which is being used.

Test Your Knowledge

Match the headings with the aspects that they concentrate on. You will find that some headings concentrate on multiple aspects.

accuracy               B  fluency          connected speech    D  functions     appropriacy

  1. Storytelling
  2. Participating in discussions
  3. Conveying doubt with the use of intonation
  4. Opposing in a polite way
  5. Recognising minimal pairs of sounds
  6. Storytelling using past tense
  7. Language for disagreeing and agreeing
  8. Greeting in informal language
  9. Language for requesting verification politely
  10. Intonation in wh-questions (what, when, where, why, how)

What methods did your teachers use in order to teach you English speaking? Were you given the opportunity to practice all the aspects of speaking regularly?

What do you think are the easiest and hardest aspects of speaking English? Do you still feel the same way about those aspects?

When you teach speaking, do you use the same teaching methods that your teachers used for you? Why or why not?

Make a recording of yourself telling a story in English. Now listen to the recording and note the weak points and strong points when you use connected speaking. Practice it and then record it again. Do you notice any changes or improvements?

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