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THE CRAFT OF SPEAKING COMMUNICATION

DEVELOPING INTO

Communication is the main purpose of teaching and learning a second language but in most Indian classrooms, this does not appear to be the purpose. English as a second language is taught and learnt for a series of reasons, short-term goals such as examination success, long-term goals such as improved career opportunities. Actual communication seems to be a side issue. State school language teaching and learning is often directed by the need to reach a certain level by a certain date; and the students the customers in this retail language teaching service often have absolutely no say in what they learn and how they learn. So, while teachers may THINK they are teaching English in order to help their students to communicate, in fact there are several other agendas at work. Students are often only thinking of the next stage in the process they have been told about, such as, the next endof-term or end-of-year examination. Classroom exchanges between teachers and students are often very strange. Consider this genuine exchange between a student and a teacher. T: Has anyone ever had an accident? S: Yes. T: What happened to you? S: Last year, I break my leg. T: (Doubtfully) Break ...? S: Oh, sorry ... broke. T: OK. Try again. S: Last year, I broke my leg. T: Very good. Whereas the communication started as a genuine one, it petered out to be a grammar teaching activity. Part of the problem here is that the teacher has too much control of the communicative situation. In most classes, the entire stimulus comes from the teacher. They control the whole communication process in the class that is not to the liking of the students. We dont like controlling people in other parts of our lives, so why should we be happy for teachers to be so much in control? But whats the answer? If more exchanges can be a dialogue of discovery, the teacher relinquishes some of the control. This can create a greater opportunity and motivation for the students to speak. The dialogues of discovery can be designed to improve accuracy and fluency. An accuracyoriented activity a drill for example is usually used in the teaching of a new target item; a fluency-oriented activity an information gap activity, for example aims to develop the students spontaneous communication skills by using what they have already learned. An

activity, which aims to improve fluency, may of course also have some features of an accuracy activity. Some useful activities in improving fluency and accuracy are:

i. ii. iii. iv.

information gap activities activation activities (including drama games) minglers and games language tasks

I will demonstrate here one activity that combines both fluency and accuracy.

BACK TO BACK Objective: Speaking, listening comprehension, observation, memory Organization: Pairs Preparation: Music system, radio, mobile phone Time: 15-20 minutes Procedure: While music is playing, everybody walks around the room observing other peoples clothes, hairstyle etc. As soon as the music stops, each student pairs up with the person standing nearest and they stand back to back. Taking turns each of them makes statements about the others appearance. A student may be allowed to make statements so long as they are correct. After a few minutes the music starts again and all partners separate. When the music stops a second time, the same procedure may be followed. This activity is fluency-oriented in the sense that students comment on the appearance of their respective partners, something which they must have done in the past. It is thus an information gap activity used to develop their spontaneous communication skill. It is also accuracy-oriented because it is a drill where students use structures that are similar e.g. His shirt is . , His shoes are. or, His hair is. etc.

CONCLUSION It is for the teacher to make sure that learners actually speak and communicate. The onus lies on the teacher as the initiator and motivator for the learners to develop their speaking skills and thereby their communication skills, so that they gradually develop into effective users of English.