How Grammar Can Help to Maintain
Motivation of Advanced Learners
Teachers often feel challenged to think of ways to motivate themselves and their learners to want to learn grammar, i.e., as Rinvolucri points out, how to get ‘the “game” locomotive [to pull] the grammar train along.’(1) Fair enough, as a certain scariness or insecurity seems to be associated with grammar. I have heard it called the ‘Grammar Monster’; Batstone calls it a ‘beast.’(2) Perhaps these worries are sometimes in the wrong place, though, judging by two surveys I have recently done to compare teachers’ and learners’ attitudes to teaching/learning grammar. The results showed an interesting contrast in attitude regarding grammar in relation to motivation. Learners expressed a much more optimistic view of grammar as a motivating tool than did the teachers. ‘Somehow or other, teachers (or “the system”) fail to capitalise on the students’ curiosity and enthusiasm.’(3)
Grammar teaching and learning has traditionally been very form-focused. As a result, it then went through a phase in the 80’s on the periphery or not focused on at all. From both perspectives, focusing on grammar would not motivate learners. This paper, however, is written with two assumptions about grammar in the classroom, as suggested by Thompson:
With these assumptions in mind, this paper explores how we can exploit methodologically progressive ideas for dealing with grammar to help maintain advanced learners’ motivation. In doing so, we also help our learners improve their overall communicative competence by increasing their grammatical proficiency.
Why is maintaining motivation of advanced learners important?
Dornyei highlights the importance of maintaining and protecting learners’ motivation, saying it ‘needs to be actively nurtured.’(6) Maintaining advanced learners’ motivation can be difficult at times to the point where at least one activity book has been written specifically for this purpose.(7) Advanced learners, I have noticed, have reached a stage where they are highly efficient in using the language, their learning curve is not as immediately evident as with lower-level learners so they may perceive they are not improving, and some even feel that they have learned enough. These conditions can easily lead to lethargy. In my experience, even having a goal such as passing the CAE does not always maintain their motivation.The surveys: what advanced learners tend to think about grammar
The teacher survey(8) was completed by colleagues at work and other teachers that I know. The learner survey(9) was completed by CAE and CPE level learners through paired discussion followed by individually writing notes to summarize their opinions. The surveys were not scientific, but give me a good indication of general beliefs. One survey item asked what some good reasons to teach/learn grammar are, with one of the choices being to motivate the learners. Of the learners, 82% were positive, 12% were not sure, and only one said increasing motivation would not be a good use of grammar. In contrast, only one teacher thought that grammar could be a tool for motivation. This informative difference shows learners seem to view the potential effects of focusing on grammar quite differently – more positively – than many teachers. For me, this is rather alarming because it means that teachers, including myself, may not be aware enough of what actually helps their learners want to learn.
Exploiting grammar to motivate advanced learners
According to Skehan, grammatical instruction can ‘make initial change more likely’ and ‘…mark for learners that they have not succeeded in mastering the interlanguage system of the language they are learning.’(10) This leads learners to be motivated to close the gap between their own interlanguage and the target language. ‘This signaling of incompletion is important for learners since it is likely to preserve openness in the language system being developed, and it induces learners to persist at a difficult task.’(11) Thus, awareness of one’s incomplete interlanguage is the key for grammar to be motivational. The teacher, then, needs to implement tasks that encourage the learner to recognize her own incompletion and then noticeably close the gap. Below are six progressive ideas in grammar teaching/learning that I think can help this process along.As Choice
Close says, ‘…the element of choice and of subtle distinction…’ is one that learners ‘…may fail to appreciate or even to see.’(12) Batstone says, ‘Central to the whole enterprise, then, is the issue of learner choice, and the grammatical consequences of the choices the learner makes.’(13) ‘The objective is to allow a measure of choice in what the learner produces, while at the same time regulating or guiding these choices down particular pathways.’(14) The job of the teacher, then, is to help learners both to see and then appreciate the choices they are presented with. By explicitly guiding learners to realize choices they have, learners can take more personal control over their English usage. As one of my CAE learners responded, ‘It’s a good motivating target to know [you’re] nearer to [controlling] the language.’ McCarthy and Carter also emphasize choice: ‘learners need to be given more grammatical choices if they are to operate flexibly in a range of spoken and written contexts.’(15) Nunan, however, rightly implies that without awareness and clearly identifying the purpose of grammatical choice, focusing on grammar could be de-motivating: ‘If the communicative value of alternative grammatical forms is not made clear to learners, they come away with the impression that the alternative forms exist merely to make things difficult for them.’(16) So for the choice to be motivating, the teacher can help her learners realize that the use of grammar is a ‘communicative resource,’(17) ‘not as an end in itself.’(18)
One practical way of giving learners choice is through grammaticization tasks, which reflect the process of calling ‘on grammar to make our meanings clear, and the less knowledge is shared, the more likely it is that grammar will become a necessary resource for both parties.’(19) Some practical activities include re-grammaring a de-grammared text and then comparing the two,(20) giving learners words and pictures and asking them to add the grammar so that learners ‘formulate their own interpretation of the story,’(21) expanding headlines,(22) changing informal (often de-grammared language) into more formal language,(23) and the reconstruction stage in dictogloss.(24)Spoken Grammar (SG)
Based on their spoken English corpus studies, McCarthy and Carter say ‘…certain grammatical forms…enable a greater degree of interpersonal and interactive language uses…’(25) In my experience, most learners, especially advanced learners, want to improve their speaking and conversational skills, so using corpus-based elements of SG feeds naturally into their intrinsic motivation. High-level learners have probably learned most of their grammar based on written English so it is high time to include SG, which ‘has its own constructional principles; it is organised differently from writing.’(26)
Teaching elements of SG could also be motivating because it can help advanced learners to develop more natural usage and to realize for themselves that this is used language that, although extremely common, they have not focused on previously. McCarthy and Carter suggest several useful SG features(27):
Teachers could supplement their coursebooks by integrating these into their syllabuses. A starting point is Yule’s example of reported discourse: ‘there is a strong likelihood that when speakers report previous conversations, they do not produce a verbatim record, but instead construct dialogue for the participants.’(28) That is, there is a mismatch between the mechanical reporting in coursebooks and what may actually happen. It could be motivating for learners to discover this mismatch and improve their output accordingly.
Practical ways of dealing with SG include text-based activities such as analyzing transcripts, transforming coursebook dialogues into more authentic spoken dialogues by employing spoken grammar elements, transforming spoken grammar into more writerly language, or vice-versa. Learners can also discuss the differences between the SG element and the written grammar element. Role play, real play and simulation are classic activities in which learners could try to activate the spoken grammar elements.
C-R tasks are ‘designed to make students aware of features of the language – to notice them…’(29) Batstone asserts that learners ‘need to notice grammar, because if they do not, they will never learn it very effectively.’(30) There are at least two key aspects of noticing(31):
Batstone cautions that learners ‘often manage to complete a presentation task without attending to the target form at all.’(32) Because of this we need to make sure task design does, in fact, prompt noticing and requires them ‘…to process grammar in order to complete the task successfully.’(33)
Practical noticing activities include reformulation and reconstruction tasks. Reformulation tasks progress from fluency to accuracy and involve learners encoding meaning and then the teacher re-encoding the meaning for the learners to notice the difference.(34) For this, Johnson proposes a test-teach-test (‘mistake occurrence – corrective action – retrial’) sequence(35), which I have found quite helpful, especially for advanced learners. This is motivating because learners tangibly see an improvement in their output. Reconstruction tasks progress from learners reading/hearing the teacher’s text to remaking the text, then matching the two.(36) Thornbury says reconstruction is valuable because the noticing done in the matching ‘provides…positive evidence of yet-to-be-acquired language features.’(37)
Another goal of C-R is described by James: ‘…we have to show learners that large parts of the FL grammars are already theirs, and they its.’(38) Although, in my experience, this is easier at lower levels, it is still possible with advanced learners, especially regarding elements of spoken grammar. I think this can be quite motivating for advanced learners, because if we can present, or they can find, similarities that they had not known before, it opens up new ways of communicating in a way that is fairly immediate to access and use. One example is using present simple for oral narrative. For example, in both Czech and Spanish, the equivalent of the present simple can be used for telling jokes or anecdotes to make the story more immediate and engaging, just like in English. Practical classroom ideas to focus on similarities include using translation tasks or tasks where learners consciously find language expressed in the same way as in their own language.Language Awareness (LA)
Thornbury defines LA as ‘…knowledge that teachers have of the underlying systems of the language that enables them to teach effectively.’(39) I think teachers can draw on aspects of LA meant for training teachers and apply them to advanced learners because in my experience doing both teacher training and EFL teaching, I have found that advanced EFL learners often have more awareness and ability to clearly explain grammatical concepts than inexperienced teachers, and given the opportunity, can productively supplement experienced teachers’ knowledge about language. Edge proposes three major roles of a language teacher(40):
I see no reason why these roles cannot be transferred to high-level learners participating in classroom settings. If teachers draw explicit attention to these roles, who they were originally meant for (EL teachers), and encourage their learners to approach grammar from these three perspectives, the learners will likely feel they have more control over their own learning, will be more likely to help each other to discover grammar, and perhaps more willing to risk attempting newly discovered forms and meanings, all of which can be intrinsically motivating. This directly links to Dornyei’s strategies 28, 29, and 30, which encourage teachers to increase
In practice, the role of the learner-teacher may describe learners from short instances of teaching themselves and helping each other through self-discovery to preparing and peer-teaching specific language points they have determined would be useful. Wright and Bolitho propose other practical LA processes and tasks which I believe are transferable to C-R: (44)
From experience, advanced learners much prefer using authentic texts/language than the ones from the coursebook. Wright and Bolitho say authentic texts provide these advantages: ‘…a discoursal perspective on language, …an example of everyday contemporary use of English, comparison with other data sources, [and]…explanation.’(46) With authentic sources, there is the advantage of ‘linguistic heterogeneity’(47) – as Nunan points out, learners get to ‘encounter target language items…in interaction with other closely related grammatical and discoursal elements.’(48) My experience shows advanced learners find intergrated language more motivating than isolated, de-contextualized language. As one of my CAE learners recently observed, ‘When we use real articles, we are in the real world with real language.’Introspection
Wright and Bolitho also suggest introspecting and sharing perceptions.(49) Rinvolucri supports exploiting these processes: ‘Meeting and interiorizing the grammar of a foreign language is not simply an intelligent, cognitive act. It is a highly affective one too…it helps to make students more conscious of what is going on inside them if you ask them to introspect from time to time during a course as to which structure they like in the target language and which they dislike, and why.’(50) Dealing with grammar in this personalized way can motivate because it encourages learners to express their opinions about grammar, i.e., making grammar the topic for discussion rather than just for study. The learners interact personally with the grammar rather than just using it to help interact. This fits Dornyei’s strategy 18, which includes personalization.(51)
Consciously implementing a balance of these ideas allows for grammar to become not only a tool for communicating, but also a tool for maintaining learners’ motivation. Approaching grammar in these ways puts learners in challenging roles including primary language analyst and decision-maker. In my experience, that is often what advanced learners need in order to want to continue learning. It must be noted, however, that combining all of these in one lesson seems unrealistic, but exploiting a variety of combinations throughout a course would be achievable.
1. Rinvolucri, 1984: 4
Batstone, Rob. 1994a. Grammar. Oxford University Press.
Batstone, Rob. 1994b. Product and Process: Grammar in the Second Language Classroom. Grammar and the Language Teacher, 1994. Edited by Martin Bygate, Alan Tonkyn and Eddie Williams. Prentice Hall International (UK) Ltd.
Batstone, Rob. 1996. Key concepts in ELT: Noticing. ELT Journal. 50/3 July 1996. Oxford University Press.
Close, R.A. 1992. A Teacher’s Grammar. Language Teaching Publications.
Cranmer, David. 1996. Motivating High Level Learners. Macmillan Publishers Ltd.
Dornyei, Zolta . 2001. Motivational Strategies in the Language Classroom. Cambridge University Press.
Edge, Julian. 1988. Applying Linguistics in English language teacher training for speakers of other languages. ELT Journal, 42/1, January 1988.
Harmer, Jeremy. 2001. The Practice of English Language Teaching: Third Edition. Pearson Education Limited.
James, Carl. 1994. Explaining Grammar to its Learners. Grammar and the Language Teacher, 1994. Edited by Martin Bygate, Alan Tonkyn and Eddie Williams. Prentice Hall International (UK) Ltd.
Johnson, Keith. 1988. Mistake correction. ELT Journal, 42/2, April 1988. Osford University Press.
Lewis, Michael and Jimmie Hil . 1992 (1999). Practical Techniques For Language Teachers. Language Teaching Publications.
McCarthy, Michael and Ronald Carter. 1995. Spoken Grammar: what is it and how can we teach it? ELT Journal. 49/3 July 1995. Oxford University Press.
Nunan, David. 1998. Teaching grammar in context. ELT Journal. 52/2 April 1998. Oxford University Press.
Rinvolucri, Mario. 1984. Grammar Games. Cambridge University Press.
Skehan, Peter. 1994. Second Language Acquisition Strategies, Interlanguage Development and Task-based Learning. Grammar and the Language Teacher, 1994. Edited by Martin Bygate, Alan Tonkyn and Eddie Williams. Prentice Hall International (UK) Ltd.
Thompson, Geoff. 1996. Some misconceptions about communicative language teaching. ELT Journal. 50/1 January 1996. Oxford University Press.
Thornbury, Scott. 2001. Uncovering Grammar. Macmillan Heinemann English Language Teaching.
Thornbury, Scott. 1997a (2004). About Language: Tasks for teachers of English. Cambridge University Press.
Thornbury, Scott. 1997b. Reformulation and reconstruction: tasks that promote ‘noticing’. ELT Journal. 51/4 October 1997. Oxford University Press.
Ur, Penny. 1988. Grammar Practice Activities. Cambridge University Press.
Wajnryb, Ruth. 1990. Grammar Dictation. Oxford University Press.
Wright, Tony and Rod Bolitho. 1993. Language awareness: a missing link in language teacher education? ELT Journal. 47/3 July 1993. Oxford University Press.
Yule, George, Terrie Mathis, and Mary Frances Hopkins . 1992. On reporting what was said. ELT Journal. Volume 46/3 July 1992. Oxford University Press.Also referenced
Biber, D., Johansson, S., Leech, G., Conrad, S., and Finegan, E . 1999. Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English. Pearson Education Limited.
Anticipated Problems and Possible Solutions:
Number of learners:
Much of the grammar included in Advanced Gold, the coursebook we are using, is revision and consolidation of grammar points from earlier levels. This is useful for learners, serving as a reminder and re-focusing their attention on what the CAE exam assumes they should know. However, based on past experience, I believe that high-level learners need more than just revision of grammar to sustain their motivation. Although this coursebook does include new grammar points as well, opportunities to make revised grammar points into new and exciting ones are often overlooked.
One such opportunity arises in unit 8 with reported speech. Like most published material focusing on reported speech, Advanced Gold (pages 96-97) takes a mechanical approach, asking learners to change tenses, perhaps change deictic markers (with no explanation of why, though), with brief attention to reporting verbs and dependant prepositions. Yule, however, rightly indicates that these areas of reporting could be broadened to include more authentic and natural approaches saying, ‘This situation is particularly problematic for those learners who have mastered the widely taught mechanics of converting direct to indirect speech forms, yet still need guidance in becoming familiar with the range of options used to present reported discourse…’ (Yule, et al., 1992: 245). It is this ‘guidance’ and some of this ‘range of options’ that this lesson seeks to help learners to discover and explore. Even though these are advanced learners, they will likely be surprised by these new possibilities of reporting, so I do not want to overload them by presenting all of the range Yule proposes. I have limited the focus to ‘summarized reports’ (see Yule, 1998: 275-276) and ‘constructed dialogues’ (see Yule, 1992: 248-249) because they seem very useful, common and achievable for learners.
This lesson draws heavily on authentic material (stages 1,2,3) from well-known personalities, real reports, and the American sit-com Seinfeld and takes a retrospective approach (see Thompson, 1996: 11) featuring guided self-discovery (stage 2) to aid awareness and comprehension of new language. The lesson, taking into account its place in the timetable fit, is an extended test-teach-test. The first test was in a previous lesson, taking a look at some of the coursebook’s brief revision of reporting, useful perhaps for the CAE English in Use paper, and working out whether the learners knew about Yule’s suggested possibilities of reporting. I felt it was important to discover how informed the learners were of more natural reporting techniques. The learners were clearly very confined to the mechanical reported speech of classic grammars. Based on this, stages 1 and 2 are the teach phase, giving learners opportunities to discover and discuss summarizing and constructing dialogues. Learners will have plenty of time to avoid feeling rushed through this discovery phase. Stages 3 and 4 are the second test phase, giving learners opportunities to report what they hear from the DVD and also from personal experience, thus catering to as many learners as possible through engaging tasks with both guided and freer speaking and active, participatory listening. Learners will have reason to listen out of curiosity: what they did not see in the DVD and to learn about their peer.
Acklam, Richard and Sally Burgress. 2001. Advanced Gold Coursebook. Pearson Education.
1B. Learners compare their matching from 1A with a partner to confirm. If learners have done this on their own throughout 1A, we can jump ahead to stage 2.
2B. Feedback to self-discovery: T asks questions and guides discussion about the target language that learners analysed in 2A. In addition to the 7 questions on the worksheet in 2A, T will also:
Lead-in: T shows Seinfeld visual. Quickly tells learners it is an American television comedy, and they will watch small segments and report to each other what the characters talk about.
3A. DVD Stage 1: Learners are split into two groups. One group stays in the classroom, the other group goes out into the hallway.
The group in the classroom watch a short segment from a video. They can take notes if they want. We will watch the segment a second time to help weaker learners and make sure everyone is comfortable with the material. They will have a chance to think about, with a partner, how they want to report the dialogue from the video.
Meanwhile, the group in the hallway has a sheet with prediction questions to prepare them to here the report from their peer in 3B.
3B. Reporting Stage 1: The hallway group comes back into the room and pair up with someone who has seen the video segment. The viewer reports to the non-viewer what was said in the segment. This will give the non-viewer the information needed to watch the next segment (See 5C). For feedback, T will ask 1 listener about their partner’s reporting.
3C. DVD Stage 2:
3D. Reporting Stage 2: The hallway group comes back into the room and each learner in that group pairs up with someone who has seen the video segment. The viewer reports to the non-viewer what was said in the segment. (Note: Learners will work with a different partner than in 3B.) For feedback, T will ask 1 listener about their partner’s reporting, time allowing.
4B. Personalized free communicative task: reporting a time when learners got advise for some sort of life change. Learners take turns. If time allows, they can report more than one experience.
(If time: T quickly elicits what learners did in the lesson today.)
T gives out summary sheet and homework task.
Materials & tasks
‘Life Changes’ Transcripts:
Elvis: (12 seconds) -from ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’
I had no cause to doubt you. But, I’d rather go on hearing your lies than to go on living without you.
Kofi Annan interview: (37 seconds) -from interview on BBC, 17/9/04
Kofi: Most of my adult life has been outside Ghana, yes.
Interviewer: So what do you want to do there?
Kofi: I…I…I…I…want to be a farmer. A farmer in the sense that, heh heh heh heh, you seem surprised.
Interviewer: Yes, that’s great, you’re going to go and farm.
Kofi: Well, I would…I would like to farm, and also in the broader sense, also that, I would want to do something that will help Africa feed itself.
Interviewer: What sort of farming? You’re goi…you’re…you’re…going to…what sort of farming do you want to do?
Kofi: Well, I haven’t decided what sort of farming I want to do, but one thing I know is that I would want to be, uh, try and get involved with improving African agricultural productivity.
Work colleague: (19 seconds) – 4/3/05
Emma: I suppose one of my life changing experiences was when I went to study in Granada. Uh, I was obviously studying Spanish at university and when I arrived there I suddenly realized that after (pause) so many years of study I couldn’t speak a word and I couldn’t understand anything they said.
Brother and Sister talking on the phone: (24 seconds) – 5/3/05
Kris: Well, I’m thinking of possibly going back to get my MBA. I’ve looked at the University of Arizona – they have a good program and it’s something I’ve been thinking
Greg: That’s sounds good.
Kris: about doing but there really hasn’t been time to do it.
Greg: Yeah, it’s been a while you’ve been thinking about that.
Adam Clayton interview: (51 seconds) –from DVD/Documentary ‘U2 and 3 Songs’ – 10/6/04
Adam Clayton: You know, it’s a song that Bono wrote the lyric, you know, when his father was, when it was obvious that his father was going to die from cancer, um, at, when we were recording the last record, and fortunately Bob actually kinda lived for quite a long time, and lived through to the tour and Bono was able to kinda spend a lot of time with him on the tour and then eventually passed away as people probably know before our Slain gig, so, you know, it’s an important song fr..fr..from that point of view for him, you know, it..it documents a..a very real moment for him, a continuing moment, so…
Listen and match these bits of authentic reported speech with the recordings.
Language analysis: Use the examples above to discuss these questions with your partner.
1. Divide these reports into 2 categories based on the patterns you notice. What is the difference? How could you generally describe each category of report.
2. How are these reports different from the reported speech you have learnt and practiced in the past?
3. What are the advantages to reporting in these two ways?
4. What do you think the level of formality of these reports is?
5. What reporting verbs are used? What verb forms do you notice?
6. In F, why is present simple used when Elvis is, in fact, dead?
7. In E, why does the speaker say ‘blah, blah, blah’ at the end?
Prediction Task 1: Your classmates will watch a short segment of a television show, an American comedy called Seinfeld. Afterwards, they will report to you what the characters say. To help you get ready to listen to your classmate’s report, please discuss these questions with your classmates who are in the hallway with you now.
1. What are some reasons why people decide to quit their job?
2. When a person quits his/her job, how does he/she tell his/her boss?
3. What are typical things that people might do soon after quitting their job?
Prediction Task 2: Your classmates will watch another short segment from the same television show. They will watch a scene in which George, the man who quit his job, is discussing future job possibilities with his friend Jerry, the man he met at the laundromat. Your classmates will report to you what the characters discuss. To help you get ready to listen to you classmate’s report, please discuss these questions with your classmates who are in the hallway with you now.
1. What do you think the mood of the conversation will be?
2. What types of jobs do you think they discuss?
3. What sort of advice do you think Jerry gives to George?
4. Do you think they come to a solution? Why or why not?
Seinfeld transcripts from the episode called, ‘The Revenge’:
********************************Segment 1: 1.06 to 1.29
George: (speaking to his boss at work) That’s it. This is it! I’m done! Through! It’s over! I’m gone! Finished! Over! I will never work for you again! Look at you! You think you’re an important man? Is that what you think? You are a laughing stock! You are a joke! These people are laughing at you! You’re nothing! You have no brains, no ability, nothing! I quit!
Segment 2: 3.05 to 3.31
George: Guess what?
Jerry: (pause) How did you know I was here?
George: Kramer. Guess what?
Jerry: I don’t know.
George: I quit my job.
Jerry: Get out of here!
George: I couldn’t take it any more.
Laundromat attendant: You can have this on Monday.
Jerry: What happened? Levetan?
George: I go in to use his private bathroom. Everybody uses it. And then I get a memo…A memo! telling me to use the men’s room in the hall. Well, I mean, we share it with Pace Electronics. It’s disgusting!
Jerry: You and your toilets.
Segment 3: 5.05 to 6.37
George: Okay. Sports. Movies. What about a talk show host?
Jerry: Talk show host, that’s good.
George: I think I’d be good at that. I talk to people all the time. Someone even told me once I’d be a good talk show host.
George: Yeah, a couple of people. (pause) How do you get that? Where do you start?
Jerry: Well, that’s where it gets tricky.
George: Can’t just walk into a building and say, ‘I wanna be a talk show host.’
Jerry: I wouldn’t think so.
George: It’s all politics.
Jerry: Alright, okay. Sports, movies, talk show hosts. What else?
George: This could’ve been a huge mistake.
Jerry: Well, it doesn’t sound like you completely thought this through.
George: I guess not. What should I do?
Jerry: Maybe you can just go back.
George: Go back?
Jerry: Yeah, pretend like it never happened.
George: You mean, just walk into the staff meeting on Monday morning like it never happened?
Jerry: Sure. You’re an emotional person. People don’t take you seriously.
George: Just go back. Pretend the whole thing never happened.
Jerry: Never happened.
George: I was blowing off a little steam. So what?
Jerry: So what? You’re entitled.
George: I’m emotional!
Jerry: That’s right. You’re emotional!
George: Never happened!
Jerry: Never happened!
Reporting speech in a more authentic and natural way.
Coursebooks traditionally tell you that reported speech involves back-shifting the tenses (e.g., from past simple to past perfect), changing pronouns (I, he), time references (yesterday, the day before) and place references (here, there). However, learning reported speech in this way may not prepare you for language they may hear outside of the classroom, away from your coursebook.
Here are some ‘natural’ ways of reporting what has been said:
‘I suppose one of my life changing experiences was when I went to study in Granada. Uh, I was obviously studying Spanish at university and when I arrived there I suddenly realized that after (pause) so many years of study I couldn’t speak a word and I couldn’t understand anything they said.’
This could be reported in by summarizing the main points:
‘She was saying how studying Spanish in school didn’t really help her when she got to Granada.’
The reporting verb can be in past continuous to show that the conversation being reported had more duration than the summary.
Constructing an imaginary dialogue
With this technique, the speaker also focuses on the important points, but recreates a dialogue with imaginary direct speech to report. Verbs such as be like, go, and be are very common as the the reporting verbs. Two people have the following conversation:
Kris: Well, I’m thinking of possibly going back to get my MBA. I’ve looked at the University of Arizona – they have a good program and it’s something I’ve been thinking
Greg: That’s sounds good.
Kris: about doing but there really hasn’t been time to do it.
Greg: Yeah, it’s been a while you’ve been thinking about that.
An overhearer could report it like this:
So she says, ‘I might do my MBA.’ Then he goes, ‘That’s a good idea. Haven’t you wanted to for a while?’
Mixing both ‘summarizing’ and ‘constructing an imaginary dialogue’
It is also possible to mix the two. Perhaps reporting a bit of summary first, and then presenting a constructed dialogue where you feel lit may be important to ‘bring the report to life’. An example, using the same dialogue from above, could be:
We were chatting about her plans, you know, what she wants to do. So she says, ‘I might do my MBA.’ Then I go, ‘That’s a good idea. Haven’t you wanted to for a while?’
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