Conversational skills in English may differ from a student's L1. How do you teach them successfully
#ELTchat on October 26, 2016
Edited by Maria Conca
skills in English
may differ from a
How do you teach
Teaching conversational skills can be different depending where you are, what your
teaching context is and, most importantly, what your learners actually need. SueAnnan
said that her BE learners practise conversation with the teacher in class as she makes
a lot of genuine small talk. Surely, learners in an English-speaking country have more
practice opportunities than learners, who are in a non-English environment. MConca16
said she finds it hard at times to teach conversation because of the nature of
conversation itself, which is so complex. It’s even harder when learners have limited
practice opportunities and rely on conversation focussed lessons to improve their skills.
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The nature of conversation is very complex and entails different aspects of oral
communication. There may be huge differences between conversation in learners’ L1 and
the L2. Teaching conversation will have to focus on: social conventions; taboo topics;
how to start/maintain/end an exchange; turn-taking; keep the conversation going;
hesitation; repair & deal with misunderstandings; spontaneity.
It is important for learners to have as many practice opportunities as possible in the
classroom to gain skills and confidence in managing conversations with both native and
non-native speakers. Teachers can be a great source of conversation through genuine
small talk at the start/end of a lesson if everyone is involved and the teacher is genuinely
interested in what learners have to say. Alternatively, real life models and prompts such as
videos & audio resources will help learners discovering conversational skills in context.
Interactive tasks and engaging activities that provide chances for rehearsing and
repetition like mingling, talk shows or speed dating, are of great help for learners to build
their confidence and become more spontaneous.
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