Conversation Lesson

August 24th, 20116:31 am


Conversation Lesson

Conversation Lesson


Directing conversation practice is probably the most demanding of all language teaching activities. It is also one of the most rewarding.

Students cannot be expected to leap suddenly to original and creative communication. The teacher has to lead them step by step, gradually reducing controls over what they say and how they say.

Although the subject and form of the student’s narrative are rather narrow, the teacher can, within the limits, come up with a wide range of possible statements that express actual (real-life) situations. The teacher’s evaluation of the situation will increase the students’ self-confidence and encourage them to solve the problems of their own.

The student would like to express himself in English but is afraid to deviate from the safety of the sentences he has practised and the words he memorized. In this case the teacher has to prod him gently and help the student by pointing out that with the words and structures the student already knows. This will enable the student to seek other ways of putting the words and phrases together to express his thought. Using inferences will lead the student to a build-up of novel speech situations.

When the teacher helps the student work out the meaning of a word or structure, he encourages him to guess meaning through the process of deduction – a vital survival skill in English conversation in and beyond the classroom doors.

Questions and answers, as we have seen, are major elements in natural conversation, the backbone of directed conversation sessions. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to vary and enliven the question-and-answer format.

Many EFL/ESL textbooks leave the impression that “long” answers are used frequently in English, since students are often encouraged to give long answers for drill purposes. However, English speakers, like speakers of all other languages, have a natural tendency to use short answers.

When someone asks a question, the interlocutor often replies with more than one statement, for example:

-What did you do yesterday?

-I went on a picnic with some friends. We drove to a place thirty miles south of here. I hadn’t been there before, and I was surprised to see so many pine and fir-trees.

Since there is much of a common occurrence in normal conversation, we should give all the students practice in responding to questions in this manner.

As for the kinds of question-answer sequences, they may be divided into four major types:

1) question – single statement answer;

2) question – multiple statement answer;

3) question deduced from answer;

4) multiple questions drawn from a single statement.

When someone asks a question, he often receives just a single statement in reply. Very often this statement results in unprofitable “yes” or “no” answers. The teacher should encourage his pupils to proceed from short answers to longer ones that give some indication of natural conversational English.

The multiple statement reply is a favourite technique used by many teachers. The teacher specifies exactly how many statements he wants as a response to a question. The student may answer the question with one statement, add two more that are factual and related to the first one.

A useful variation is to give students a factual reply and have them deduce the question or questions that would have produced such a reply.

As was mentioned elsewhere, EFL/ESL students spend more of their time answering questions than asking them. This is why such techniques as deducing questions from answers or working with multiple questions from a single statement are recommended in guided conversation practice. These exercises correct the imbalance in students’ syntactic repertoire and promote facility in question formation – a much needed skill in all conversation .

Another major ingredient in all conversation is comments. We continually make comments when we converse – either in the form of simple remarks (It looks like it’s going to rain) or in the form of rejoinders (You’re right). But although comments are such an important part of conversation, one rarely sees special techniques used to help students develop facility in commenting in English, with the result that a statement intended to encourage conversation is often followed by a distressing silence.

Rejoinders are sprinkled throughout conversation. They are conversational, generally brief, sentences that express interest, surprise, disagreement, enthusiasm, sympathy, or simply reassurance that the speaker is being listened to. Since each language has established its own standardized rejoinder formulae, it is essential that students learning English resist the temptation to translate their native language rejoinders into English. The teacher should encourage students to use rejoinders in dialogue to keep the conversation going and to demonstrate attentiveness and interest in what is being said.

Близнюк М.І. Курс лекцій з методики викладання англійської мови. – Чернівці: ЧДУ, 1999 – с.