Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Getting English Language Learners to Speak

Using Substitution Dialogues for Interactive Speaking Practice

English Speaking Practice Dialogues

Whether you are using a course book-based English as a foreign language curriculum or not, preparing speaking dialogues can be a highly effective means of generating speech in class. Although most English language teaching course books contain grammar-based practice dialogues, preparing more authentic dialogues for integrated vocabulary and grammar practice has numerous benefits. If you want to reinforce social introduction skills, for example, incorporating colloquial elements into a prepared dialogue can prove to be very useful for your foreign language learners.
In the early weeks of a semester, I frequently have lower and intermediate English language learners use substation dialogues for integrated speaking practice. That is to say, important information is included in a prepared dialogue, which although not quite authentic, incorporates key information and linguistic skills as in the following dialogue example.

A: Hi, my name is Larry. What’s your name?
B: Hi, my name is Sandra.
A: Nice to meet you Sandra.
(learners shake hanks at this point)
B: Nice to meet you too Larry. What’s your last name?
A: My last name is Lynch. What’s your last name?
B: My last name is Perez. How do you spell your last name?
A: It’s L-Y-N-C-H. How do you spell your last name?
B: It’s P-E-R-E-Z. Where are you from Larry?
A: I’m from Pennsylvania in the United States. Where are you from Sandra?
B: I’m from Cali, Colombia. What’s your telephone number?
A: It’s 324 – 4525 What’s your telephone number?
B: It’s 446 – 3870
A: Okay, got it. See you later, Sandra.
B: Okay, see you later.

In this dialogue, the English language learners will need to substitute their own name, telephone and hometown information as they address and practice with others. You can have one learner take role A and the other role B, then have the role B learner take role A when the next learner comes up to practice speaking. This can continue with each learner doing both roles during two practice turns. Alternatively, learners can practice in individual pairs if the class is a large one.

This dialogue allows the English language learners to practice saying:

• numbers and telephone and cellular phone numbers
• where they are from
• the alphabet as they spell their last name
• names of other people as a memory aid

English Speaking Practice and Social Skills

Learners also practice introducing themselves, shaking hands as a greeting (which is not typically done in some countries and regions). I’ve found this to be an effective, well-received means for my English as a foreign language learners to begin developing speaking and listening comprehension skills from their very first class.

If you’re using a course book based series such as Interchange (Jack C. Richards, CUP), you may have the added benefit of video conversation examples as well to aid even further in rounding out and deepening English as a foreign language communicative skills. So whether you are using a course book-based English as a foreign language curriculum or not, preparing speaking dialogues can be a highly effective means of generating speech in class.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 135 countries. Get your FREE E-book, “If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at: Need a blogger or copywriter to promote your school, institution, service or business or an experienced writer and vibrant SEO content for your website, blog or newsletter? Then E-mail me for further information.

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