August 23rd, 20116:31 am





A short conversation between two people presented as a language model – the dialogue – often receives top billing in the manipulative phase of language learning. As a result, students spend much time repeating dialogues for pronunciation and memorization practice, or for grammar drills on selected lines. But when we come to the dialogue in the communicative phase of language teaching, its glamour seems to vanish.

When students are ready to use language more creatively dialogues could be turned into stepping stones to free communication. The following procedures can help students develop fluency in English:

1. Alter the dialogue to make it conform to the reality surrounding you and your friends by introducing variations on specific dialogue lines consistent with reality because “reality exercises” while still manipulative to a great extent, are a good start toward free expression.

2. Write the dialogue on the blackboard and have your students suggest one more exchange that would be a logical addition to the conversation.

3. Have your students paraphrase the lines of the dialogue.

4. Once your students have become adept at paraphrasing, you can call on two of them to stand up and extemporize a paraphrase of the dialogue, such as looking at a watch, raising the eye-brows, and so forth (cf. Total Physical Response techniques). In this way, the student’s paraphrase of the dialogue becomes a real conversation.

5. For an even closer approximation to free expression, you can simply outline a situation similar to the one in the dialogue and have two students perform the conversation completely on their own. This kind of exercise is most challenging and therefore is a good test of your students’ competence.

6. Give your students a chance to compose their own dialogues as a group project by having pairs of students act out their type of dialogue format.

Occasionally, students may want to stage a “show” for friends and family based on the dialogues. This is a good project for a conversation group and can be done at all proficiency levels. At more advanced levels, the students can design their own dialogue themes and rehearse conversations extemporizing each time. The teacher, of course, corrects any errors in language usage so that when the students actually perform for an audience, they will make a minimum of mistakes.

It should be noticed that if students are to master oral skills in a foreign language thoroughly, they must be provided with regular opportunities of using their skill in situations which are stimulating and as realistic as possible (real-life situations).

The conversational lesson might be said to have three goals:

1. The first and most obvious one is to introduce and practise elements of spoken language. This not only includes the skill of expressing oneself orally, but many other aspects. The lesson should aim at improving comprehension of speech; if possible everyday conversational formulas and more specialized uses (such as medicine, business, technology, etc.). The conversation lesson should also provide the opportunity for learners to use their vocabulary actively, in realistic contexts. Not only familiar words can be used, but also new vocabulary can be practised immediately. Idiomatic language is easily and naturally introduced in the lesson and students can be encouraged to use it and to learn to recognize differences between written and spoken language.

2. The second goal is closely related to the first one, and is to bring passive knowledge of the language into active use, and to develop this in new situations. It is common experience that students gain good marks in paper-and-pencil tests but have difficulty in expressing themselves, particularly orally. The conversation lesson gives them an opportunity to develop active oral skills. These may include such aspects of conversational language as “strategies” (formulas of agreeing/disagreeing, butting in, being rude and so on), “gambits” What a nice day, isn’t it? Dreadful weather, don’t you think? Excuse me, is anybody sitting here? Excuse me, have you got a light by any chance? (what’s your opinion….? I see your point, but…), etc. [19, p. 125].

3. The third goal is to create a situation in which the two other goals may be realized. The situation should be as realistic as possible, but it will be unavoidably unrealistic to some extent, because in most teaching situations learners share a common mother tongue. Language structures and communicative functions are not bound to specific situations: once they have been mastered, they can be used creatively within the framework of a given socio-cultural context .

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