I wrote most of these articles and conference reports while I was doing my M.Ed.(CI). Originally put up on the website TeachAsiaOnline.com (defunct since 2009), I have decided to archive them here as I think most of the information is still relevant and useful for others. (2012) I'm now picking up where I left off to write about more recent seminars I attended.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Teaching Speaking: Issues and Options

Speaker: Prof. Jack C. Richards
Organised by: CUP, Bangkok
Date: 26 October 2012
Location: Windsor Suites, Bangkok

Prof. Richards identified the goals of teaching spoken English as being able to communicate clearly in English as an International Language (EIL). This means there has to be a certain level of accuracy, complexity, fluency, appropriacy and capacity.

To be competent in spoken English one should have knowledge of
discourse genres and their conventions. Examples of these are “small talk”,
“casual conversations”, “meetings” and “presentations”. Each of these genres has its own settings, participants, roles, purposes, procedures and conventions.

The purpose of for example “small talk” is that it:
1. Has a social function. It is polite, creates goodwill and the contents are not important.
2. Makes interaction comfortable
3. Indicates the degree of social distance, intimacy etc.

It covers greetings, comments on the situation, expressions of shared concerns and general non-intrusive questions. The skills necessary to make small talk include:
1. Acquiring fixed expressions and routines used
2. Developing fluency in making small talk around predictable topics
3. Using opening and closing strategies
4. Using back-channeling (“really?”, “I see”)

In the classroom this translates into letting the students study example exchanges and create their own; give them situations and suggest suitable small talk; let them mingle and practice small talk about assigned topics.

Prof. Richards walked through several other discourse genres until he ran out of time.

He kindly made his presentation available to the audience Teaching Speaking: Issues and Options (until page 58). His own web site can be found at http://www.professorjackrichards.com/.

My comments: It’s a pity Prof. Richards was not able to discuss the very important part of his presentation on “Developing a Course in Speaking Skills”. I for one would’ve been very interested to hear his ideas on how to translate the concept of learning the different discourse genres into a real speaking course! Now we only have a few presentation slides to read. An opportunity lost.

(c) cafavier, 2012-2013

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