IELTS 5 – 6:5: Talking Englishes

28th August 2019 page 13.

Today is a speaking lesson, so hopefully that will be more active and interesting for the students. However, a three-hour lesson means the teacher has to prepare a ‘montage of attractions’ (a connected collection of various activities) to maintain energy and enthusiasm and … most importantly … to help the students acquire and practice the new vocabulary, expressions and pronunciations.

Warm up: As mentioned in just about every blog, students arrive willy-nilly and, for sure, they are coming from work, from school, stuck in traffic but it does interrupt the flow. therefore we need a quick warm up game into which people can jump.

Call My bluff:

Image result for call my bluff

Class in two teams (or sub-divided for larger classes). One team has a list of low-frequency words, followed by three definitions and word class. The object is for them to read out (and hopefully elaborate) the definitions, give examples and trick the opposition into giving a wrong answer. For example, the word ‘obnoxious‘:

  1. Adjective – an unpleasant, horrible person
  2. Noun – science, a gas that becomes a liquid at 50 degrees centigrade
  3. Noun – a small village, usually in north Europe, that doesn’t have a church.

Depending on the English ability (and let’s be honest – the motivation) of the students, this could be an interesting game, as well as increasing their vocabulary. New words can be recycled throughout the lesson. Other words are ‘demeanour’, ‘broadsheet’, ‘mindset’, ‘surreal’, ‘vainglory’, ‘troglodyte’ (believe me, this word perfectly describes a lot of people in my neighbourhood) & ‘excruciating’.

After this, I want to get all the book work under our belts then move on to speaking activities.

Small Talk and keeping conversations going.

This could introduce cultural topics; what is acceptable in one culture is a big ‘no-no’ in another, for example, you can ask a westerner if they are married, but if they say “No,” it is not acceptable to ask WHY (implication – what is WRONG with you ?). For a western, used to ‘Rockin’ in the Free World,’ all politics is off limits … If people want to proclaim, “Communism forever !”, while using the latest iPhone X and getting rides home from their parents in luxury cars, let it go … likewise, hearing that Chairman Mao is a hero … oh well, whatever, never mind. At least in Viet Nam people has access to the internet, so maybe a little Google search with ‘Mao’ & ‘famine’ could be enlightening. So, you see, this digression was to show just precarious small talk can be.

Image result for neil young rockin in the free world

NOT that I’m saying the west is a Utopia of free speech … political correctness, non-disclosure agreements, hate speech, misinformation and downright lies … but that is ANOTHER story. Back to our activity:

There will be a list of ten innocuous questions. The idea is to use back channelling, follow-up questions, tag questions and encouraging elaboration, to make a long discussion. EXAMPLE:

What do you do ? // I’m a student. / Really, where (and what) do you study ? How do you like the classes ? / Have you given any thought to what you want to do after you graduate ?

Other questions are:

Where do you live ? // What are you going to do this weekend ? // Have you ever been abroad ? // Where do you come from ? // How do you like studying English ? //

This activity can also be timed … can they speak for one or two minutes without a break ?

Buying and selling role play

Variaties of English used in purchasing and bargaining. This may seem unnecessarily complicated, but code-switching (changing from language to language or from formal to informal) is a part of (I’m sure) most if not all languages (I haven’t studied enough world languages to state this as a concrete fact – if anyone knows, please correct me, with citations – thanks).

SO .. half my class are sellers, working in either a top department store, a High-Street shop having a sale, or a good old-fashioned street marker.

Image result for harrods seller
This is a salesperson in a high-end department store.

The language here would be RP, standard English, no glottal stops or slang, although some common expression may creep into the dialogue.

Here, we can elicit the type of conversation one would expect, e.g. “Yes, Madam, how may I be of assistance ?”

Related image
A cashier in a High-Street clothes store.

Language would be friendly and probably more informal, though still polite, “Hi, how are you today ? Oh, that really suits you !”

And now, a market trader. This has subtitles, so it a great way to follow the man’s London accent

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sw94R0P2dOs

You may hear questions such as, “Yes, mate, what can I do for you ? What do you fancy ? How about (‘owwbout’) a nice box of (boxa) strawberries ?”

I will give the students some photos of various items (shirts of differing quality, shoes, watches etc). The idea is to buy four items but spend under a certain amount.

As a fun ending, and depending on the energy of students, some could try to imitate the sound of the market trader … not just the vocabulary, but the tones and stresses, the ups and down of the cadences … in a word … the music of everyday speech.

If time allows, we always need some quick games up our sleeves.

One is guess the idiom – I say an idiom and the students have three option from which to choose.

There is also two lies, one truth; I say three facts about me, but only one is true. By asking questions, the students have to deduce the correct one. Then they can repeat in small groups (or sleep or just talk Vietnamese, let’s be realistic here … Vietnamese are not the best students in Asia … but that is another story, for another blog).

2 thoughts on “IELTS 5 – 6:5: Talking Englishes

  1. Hmmm, that last part was rude of them. It’s funny (sad); up till my recent trip to Hawaii, I had this illusion of Asian cultures being more refined and polite than Western ones. Not necessarily better, mind you, just more polite.

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  2. It’s wrong to generalise, but as far as Viet Nam goes, a lot of students do NOT display the respect towards teachers that we see in Japanese or Korean films. I even refuse to teach teenagers, as most of them just see the lesson as a challenge to the teacher. I’m trying to keep my blogs positive, but i also need to warn prospective teacher about the realities of working in VN. Thanks for the comment, SC – keep up the writing – I’m a fan !

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