Teaching Speaking in Adult ESL

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This was the keynote presentation for the Manitoba Adult Language Training Conference in 2007. The presentation contrasts written and spoken language and focuses on some of the key aspects that need to be addressed in ESL instruction.


  • 1. Spoken vs. Written Language Skills InvolvedFeatures of interactive spoken EnglishInstructional suggestionsJoanne Pettis 2007

2. Context dependent Context independent Dialogic Monologic Unrehearsed & Edited & Redraftedspontaneous Relies more on nouns Relies more onand noun groupsverbs Lexically dense Grammaticallyintricate 3. Very informal, spontaneous & jointlyconstructed (social chit-chat) Very formal, predictable & planned (debates, panel discussions, some meetings) 4. Listening comprehension skills Conversation management skills Linguistic knowledge Genre & Discourse knowledge Intelligible Pronunciation Background knowledge of content Sociocultural & pragmatic knowledge Compensatory strategies 5. Discourse markers Delexical verbs Adverbs General words, Back-channels Vague language & Deixishedges Ellipsis Modality Fixed expressions Heads & fronting Tags 6. Particularly important in terms of the fluidmanagement of interactive talk Signal intention Hold the conversation turn Mark boundaries in topic 7. OK then; anyway Personalize & soften interactive style Oh, by the way Often used to initiate a turn Indicates a topic change Well Mark the beginning/closing of a segment of talk May be used to return to a But topic You know, I mean 8. As much a generational marker as a discoursemarker, used to: Signal a comment on a previous topic Signal an example Signal amplification on a topic 9. Word or phrases that directly relate an utteranceto a time, place or person. This/that, these/those, here/there, now/then Pronouns, such as I, you he, she they Phrases, such as you people, we teachers, over there,out west, down (back) East, up North, down South 10. General words - indefinite reference Thing, stuffHedges - To avoid being to direct; To express anopinion about someone or something Kind of, basically,Vague language - To avoid sounding tooauthoritative or assertive; In informal contexts tosoften conveyed information Something, around, or so; adding y or ishsuffix to words greeny-blue, six-ish 11. Awareness-raising Appropriation Autonomy 12. Involve 3 processes Paying attention, noticing, understanding Focus on the type (genre) of spoken language &the context variables Identify and address gaps in their knowledge what to say in a certain situation, how to respond, etc. 13. Spoken and written language are different Interactive spoken language has distinct features Instruction that emphasizes awareness-raising isessential in addition to appropriation andautonomy activities.


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