Using recorded speech in the classroom
Zeilsprache Englisch, 1, 1977, 1-2
increasing number of textbooks make use of tape-recordings of spontaneous
speech. Some of the reasons for this are that recorded speech
the student to observe a real act of communication, complete with the
interactional features that a scripted dialogue excludes;
the student a true picture of real spontaneous speech with its hesitations,
false starts, and "mistakes";
present a greater range of regional and social class forms than is usually
possible with actors;
the learner to fill in the gaps in the grammatical coverage of even the best of
easier for the student to follow than unrecorded speech since he can go over the
same piece time and again;
great interest and positive motivation for the student because it shows him real
people talking about subjects that interest them.
us look at a brief example and see how it may be used:
Husband: Didn't we reckon we
were going to get some Premium Bonds?
Husband: Do you want them?
Yes. Premium Bonds for you, darling? (to baby)
Husband: What happens if she
wins it? We can't claim the money, can we?
Baby: Coo coo coo coo.
techniques can be used in teaching this extract:
1. The teacher explains
the background of the extract: he explains what a Premium Bond is and gives the
relationship between the speakers. This background can be presented through a
reading text providing factual or language information or through the teacher
questioning the students. The teacher decides whether to let the students
encounter the extract without explanation and to try and make something of it as
they would have to do in a real-life situation, or to anticipate the problems by
explaining in advance.
2. The teacher plays
the extract itself. The length of the extract varies according to the level of
the student; probably a minute or so is as much as most students can manage.
Then the teacher asks questions. Usually he starts with basic comprehension
questions, playing the tape at least once more before he can be certain that the
students have understood it. The form of the questions should be as simple as
possible since many students find listening to spontaneous speech is in itself
highly demanding; multiple-choice questions and true/false choices are
preferable since they do not require the student to produce a sentence of his
own. If the aim is to teach the comprehension of ordinary conversation, the
questions should not concentrate on one narrow aspect, say, vocabulary, but
should range over all the aspects involved in understanding real conversation:
grammar, intonation, pronunciation ...
3. The teacher uses the
extract as a lead-in to discussion. He can ask the students what equivalents
they have in their native country: is there something similar to Premium Bonds?
He can ask what they think of the people: does the wife really want any bonds?
He can widen the discussion into personal reminiscence: have you ever won a big
prize? Or into moral and political argument: should gambling be supported by the
State? This technique develops the student's interest and motivation and allows
him to communicate something through English.
4. The teacher exploits
the extract for other follow-up activities. He practices the grammatical points
that have come up, such as the questions in this extract; he can try freer
activities such as role-playing. The extract provides a convenient opening for
whatever teaching techniques the teacher favours, whether drills, compositions,
or anything else.
5. The teacher uses the
written transcript of the recording. With most classes this is the final part of
the teaching cycle; the student sees the written text only after he has heard
the extract and done the follow-up work. With advanced classes the transcript
can be used without the tape - as comprehension material, as a basis for
reported speech or summary, or as the data for grammatical analysis. With all
classes the transcripts must be used cautiously, simply because spoken English
looks so strange written down that there is an initial period of disbelief
before students accept that it accurately reflects how real English people
five techniques do not differ radically from those employed with scripted
dialogues except by emphasising the student's active participation. For this
reason the technique commonly used with scripted dialogues, namely repetition,
sentence by sentence or phrase by phrase, is not recommended. Also recordings
of spontaneous speech are hard to use in this way because real speakers seldom
pause at the points where the language teacher would like them to.
may be helpful to give some notes on courses that use recordings of spontaneous
Dickinson and R. Mackin, Varieties
of Spoken English, Cornelsen & Oxford University Press,
Based on 14 recordings, mostly of conversation. Different types of comprehension questions,
to This, Cornelsen & Oxford University Press, Second edition
20 recorded interviews with factual explanation, multiple choice and free answer questions,
O'Neill and R. Scott, Viewpoints, Langenscheidt-Longman, 1974.
15 interviews, each unit having a factual and language introduction, free answer questions,
J. Cook, English
Topics, Oxford University Press, 1974.
Part of each unit consists of recorded spontaneous speech with true/false comprehension