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TO SPEAK OR NOT TO SPEAK?

Автор Доклада: 
Shybanova T.V.
Награда: 
TO SPEAK OR NOT TO SPEAK?

TO SPEAK OR NOT TO SPEAK?

Shybanova Tetiana Vasylivna, a teacher
European University, Cherkasy Department

The article is devoted to some of the problems that arise when using spoken English. The work describes some strategies which may help to overcome the most common problems learners face when they speak English.

Keywords: learning, speaking skills, communication, listening, meaning, clue, practice.

In many parts of the world and on the Internet, the English language has become a common standard for international communication. However we are facing some problems in teaching and learning English nowadays. Why are our students afraid of speaking English and feel themselves unconfident in their speaking skills? Should we teach these skills in the classroom?
The answer is evident: “Yes”.

If students do not learn how to speak or do not get any opportunity to speak in the language classroom they may soon get de-motivated and lose interest in learning. As Nunan (1991) wrote, "success is measured in terms of the ability to carry out a conversation in the (target) language."

So, speaking is fundamental to human communication. Just think of all the different conversations you have in one day and compare that with how much written communication you do in one day. Which do you do more of? In our daily lives most of us speak more than we write, yet many English teachers still spend the majority of class time on reading and writing practice almost ignoring speaking and listening skills. Do you think this is a good balance? If the goal of your language lesson is truly to enable your students to communicate in English, then speaking skills should be taught and practiced in the language classroom.

If the students don’t talk or say anything we should find the root of the problem and start from there. If the problem is cultural, that is in your culture it is unusual for students to talk out loud in class, or if students feel really shy about talking in front of other students then one way to go about breaking this cultural barrier is to create and establish your own classroom culture where speaking out loud in English is the norm. One way to do this is to distinguish your classroom from other classrooms in your school by arranging the classroom desks differently, in groups instead of lines etc. or by decorating the walls in English language and culture posters. From day one teach your students classroom language and keep on teaching it and encourage your students to ask for things and to ask questions in English. Giving positive feedback also helps to encourage and relax shy students to speak more.

A completely different reason for student silence may simply be that the class activities are boring or are pitched at the wrong level. Very often our interesting communicative speaking activities are not quite as interesting or as communicative as we think they are and all the students are really required to do is answer 'yes' or 'no' which they do quickly and then just sit in silence or worse talking noisily in their native language.

Another way to encourage your students to speak in English is simply to speak in English yourself as much as possible in class. If you are shy about speaking in English, how can you expect your students to overcome their fears about speaking English? Don't worry if you are not completely fluent or don't have that elusive perfect native accent, as Swain (1985) wrote "We learn to speak by speaking" and that goes for teachers as well as students. The more you practice the more you will improve your own oral skills as well as help your students improve theirs. If students do not have something to say or do, or don't feel the need to speak, you can be sure it won't be long before they are chatting away in their language.

Nobody can speak a language without listening to it. Even an infant starts speaking in a particular language after listening to it for many months. It is why an infant who is deaf by birth remains dumb too. Since s/he is not able to listen to, s/he cannot speak in it. So, listening is the one basic skill which makes speaking possible. Many students are deprived of speaking abilities because they have not been properly guided in listening skills. This may be the proper reason why they have not been able to speak English in a proper manner. They have become adept only at writing and reading of English. There should be a comprehensive course for listening and speaking skills. The classrooms should be equipped with audio-video materials. Student Talking Time should be maximized.

One of the speaking problems is that during a conversation, many learners of English find it difficult to follow other speakers. Learners generally feel that this is due to the speakers’ natural (often considered too fast) speaking speed and/or their use of some unfamiliar vocabulary. You should/t forget that good learners and even native speakers use guessing when they haven’t heard or understood something well enough, when they don’t know a new word, or when they suspect that there is meaning hidden ‘between the lines’. Trying to follow a conversation, they can use two different types of ‘clues’ to help them make guesses. One of these clues is called linguistic clue. For example, you may guess the meaning of an unknown word from its context in a sentence (found amongst other words that you do know). Similarly, if you are familiar with the topic of a conversation, you might be able to guess a word that you’re not sure you heard properly by thinking about ‘keywords’ associated with the topic. Sometimes unknown words might sound like other words in English or even in another language that you know. You can use this knowledge to guess the meaning of these words.

However, perhaps the most valuable clue in communication is non-verbal behaviour. Non-verbal behaviour includes things such as intonation, pitch, gestures, body movements, eye contact and facial expressions. Taking note of non-verbal behaviour is essential in making guesses when following a conversation. You can, for example, usually get a good idea about a person’s feelings from his/her facial expressions. Likewise, intonation is often a good indicator of ‘implicit’ or ‘hidden’ meanings and feelings.

Another strategy of good speaking is your control over the conversation. In order to fully understand their partner students can frequently make requests such as "Excuse me, could you speak a bit slowly please?", "I’m sorry, but could you say that again, please", "Did you say . or . ?", "Can I repeat what you’ve said?", "19 or 90?" etc. These kinds of expressions are fairly easy to learn but very effective for taking control of a conversation.

Many learners feel they don’t have enough vocabulary to express themselves fully or completely clearly in English. In this case sometimes it might be necessary to just listen (and pay careful attention) when a conversation is on a topic that is unfamiliar to you. If you’re very brave, another strategy is to try to change the topic of the conversation to one that you are familiar with.

When you can’t think of the words for expressing your ideas, you need to get help from your conversation partners. For example, you may ask them to provide you with a word in English by asking for a translation of a mother-tongue word (assuming that they can speak your mother tongue). Another commonly used way of getting the word you need is physically pointing to the object you mean or miming (using gestures) to indicate meaning. Don’t be afraid to use a few drama techniques when you’re speaking.

These are just some of the problems that teachers can face when teaching speaking English. They are not new but worthy of overcoming. Don’t forget that “Teaching is more than imparting knowledge, it is inspiring change. Learning is more than absorbing facts, it is acquiring understanding”-William Arthur Ward.

References

  • 1.”Education”.Problems in Current Instruction of English Language Learning.M.D. Coyne (2007).
  • 2.”Creating practice Opportunities” Language Center, HKUST (2004).
  • 3. Celce-Murcia. M. (2001). Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language (3rd ed). USA: Heinle&Heinle.
  • 4. Tanner .R. & Green.C.(1998) Tasks for teacher education. UK. Addisson Wesley Longman. Ltd.
  • 5. H. Widdowson,  Aspects of Language Teaching. Oxford: OUP, 1990. 
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