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Teaching Speaking

Many language learners regard speaking ability as the measure of knowing a language. These learners define fluency as the ability to converse with others, much more than the ability to read, write, or comprehend oral language. They regard speaking as the most important skill they can acquire, and they assess their progress in terms of their accomplishments in spoken communication.

Language learners need to recognize that speaking involves three areas of knowledge:

  • Mechanics (pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary): Using the right words in the right order with the correct pronunciation
  • Functions (transaction and interaction): Knowing when clarity of message is essential (transaction/information exchange) and when precise understanding is not required (interaction/relationship building)
  • Social and cultural rules and norms (turn-taking, rate of speech, length of pauses between speakers, relative roles of participants): Understanding how to take into account who is speaking to whom, in what circumstances, about what, and for what reason.

In the communicative model of language teaching, instructors help their students develop this body of knowledge by providing authentic practice that prepares students for real-life communication situations. They help their students develop the ability to produce grammatically correct, logically connected sentences that are appropriate to specific contexts, and to do so using acceptable (that is, comprehensible) pronunciation.

 

Section Contents

Goals and Techniques for Teaching Speaking
Strategies for Developing Speaking Skills
Developing Speaking Activities
Using Textbook Speaking Activities
Assessing Speaking Proficiency
Resources

 

Material for this section was drawn from “Spoken language: What it is and how to teach it” by Grace Stovall Burkart, in Modules for the professional preparation of teaching assistants in foreign languages (Grace Stovall Burkart, ed.; Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics, 1998)

 

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