This article aims to report common approaches that indicate success in English oral communication. Whether English learning is for basic, intermediate or advanced learners, the ability of students to articulate simple to complex ideas in English can be verified, assessed, and improved using various educational techniques. Once students become comfortable using the basic approaches of communicating meaning in English, they can start participating in English conversations, whether through orchestrated scenarios or in real life encounters.
Key words: common approaches, conversational skills, proficiency of students, foreign language articulation
One of the factors that indicate success in English is the proficiency of students in oral communication. Whether English learning is for basic, intermediate or advanced learners, the ability of students to articulate simple to complex ideas in English can be verified, assessed, and improved using various educational techniques. Once students become comfortable using the basic approaches of communicating meaning in English, they can start participating in English conversations, whether through orchestrated scenarios or in real life encounters.
In any linguistic context, the process of conversation involves listening, mental formulation of meaning and speaking. Each participant in a conversation has to perform all three tasks in order to remain an active and relevant player in the encounter. Because these tasks are by no means easy to perform for most non-native speakers, the experience of successfully participating in a complete session provides much pleasure, excitement and satisfaction among students. Often, there is some sort of eureka moment when an idea expressed in English is correctly apprehended by the student and when a specific idea students are trying to convey in foreign language is articulated correctly and clearly understood by a native English speaker. Likewise, teachers of English as a second or foreign language whose students have developed conversational skills are adequately affirmed in terms of their profession as well as the learning strategies and techniques that they adopt.
Getting students to develop conversational skills in English is riddled with challenges, however. The fact is, the various forms of oral discourses - light conversation, role-plays, debates, topic discussions and recitations - are seen with dread and apprehension by many students. This results to a considerable timidity or hesitation among students to proactively articulate their thoughts in English. A number of factors have been identified to cause or reinforce learners’ reluctance to speak in English. These include:
- The topic is irrelevant or totally foreign to the student.
- The student does not have an opinion or anything to articulate about the subject.
- The student does not know how to correctly articulate an idea and is fearful of making mistakes and ridiculed by the class or the conversation partner.
- The student is intimidated by the higher level of proficiency exhibited by other students. The possibility of being compared to more articulate learners results to a nagging reluctance to participate even when the student has valid ideas about the topic.
- The student is conscious about and ashamed of the peculiar accent he or she exhibits when speaking in English.
Getting these common hindrances out of the way is the first major step a competent teacher should take. Here are some logical, common sense approaches in doing so:
- Teachers should be aware of socio-cultural contexts they are teaching in. Aligning lesson plans that make use of highly relevant and familiar topics will help students to easily form ideas and opinions that they need to express in English.
- To facilitate a better learning environment, English teachers should make it a point to get to know their students individually as much as possible. In smaller classes, getting to know students’ hobbies or interests may help yield valuable conversation topics. This may not be possible in much bigger classes, however.
- Creating an open, tolerant, and socially constructive classroom is critical in fostering collaborative learning. At the beginning of the lesson, teacher should already have established that mistakes will inevitably occur and that there is no reason to be ashamed of them.
- In some learning scenarios, competition is a strong motivation for success. In others, however, collaborative techniques that wholly benefit the group are better utilized.
- Exhibiting accents is a normal manifestation in second or foreign language articulation. Educators and linguists differ on how they regard this phenomenon, however. On one hand, the spread of English around the world has transformed it into a global language such that no single ethno-linguistic group can now really claim it as its own. After all, linguists believe that language is organic and continually evolving, with different groups assimilating a particular language and imbuing it with their own characteristic nuances and accents. On the other hand, there are teachers who maintain that encouraging the use of a neutral English accent is the best course to take in the long run, especially in global communication. Hence, teachers should constructively teach the globally acceptable way of speaking in English.
Finally, in addition to classroom activities, teachers may encourage their students to visit online portals that offer live English conversations to second or foreign language learners. Most of these are paid services but other websites do offer free audio records of different situational dialogues. These audio records can be good practice aids to help students improve their English conversational skills.
In English as a foreign language, the focus is often on teaching reading, writing and grammar skills while little time is spent teaching speaking skills. This becomes a problem when students need to use English to speak. The research of many scholars in the fields of improving speaking skills helps to identify and explain effective approaches and tools for improving learners’ oral English. Combining how common approaches are understood, what oral communication consists of and where oral communication takes place leads to a greater understanding of how to teach speaking skills.
- Stephen D. Krashen. “What does it take to acquire language?”, 2000.
- Marianne celce-Murcia, Donna M. Brinton and Janet M. Goodwin.”Teaching Pronunciation”; 1996.
- Timothy Bell. “Extensive reading: Why? And how?”, 1998. Internet resources: http://www. ehow.com/how_ 6496012_improve-oral-english.html