COMMUNICATION & INTERACTION STRATEGIES
by Costas Gabrielatos
What Is to Be Taught (Speaking in the EFL Classroom)
Brown & Yule (1983b) mention that spoken language is primarily
interactional, they go on to propose that what the EFL learner
needs more is the teaching of "extended transactional
turns" (op. cit.: 24), giving the following reasons:
Long transactional turns can prove demanding even for
the native speaker.
It is more often the case that the EFL learner needs
L2 to communicate/acquire information.
It is more feasible as far as methodology is concerned
(op. cit.: 23-24 & 33).
(1991: 137) argues that there is a bias in favour of transactional
talk reflected onto the design of materials/activities for
the EFL classroom and proposes that the element of unpredictability
which is inherent in interactional talk should be present
in speaking and listening activities.
On Learner Strategies
use communication strategies (Bygate, 1987: 42-48; Ellis,
1985: 180-185) in order to compensate for their imperfect
mastery of the language when faced with a communicative need.
Faerch & Kasper (1980 in Ellis 1985: 181) present them
as being "potentially conscious" in the sense that
learners may not always be conscious of the strategies they
employ. Ellis adds that they can be "motivated"
when learners become aware of the shortcomings of the linguistic
means at their disposal. Ellis regards communication strategies
to be the short-term solution to a problem, learning strategies
being the long-term answer.
strategies can be sub-categorised into achievement and reduction
strategies. The first aim at the communication of the whole
message as perceived by the speaker. Examples of achievement
strategies are: the use of L1 items, translation, paraphrasing,
miming or pointing, eliciting/asking for help from interlocutor.
The second aim at either communicating an imperfect message
or communicating a message other than the one intended initially
(a message that the speaker can manage to communicate).
3. CLASSROOM CONTEXT
small private EFL school (English is the only language taught).
There were enough tape recorders to record groups of three
students separately during the activities. Unfortunately,
other rooms were not always available and groups performed/recorded
in the same room. As the room itself is quite small, there
is considerable background noise in some of the recordings.
previous years the methodology was teacher-centred with a
focus on accuracy. Grammar was considered of primary importance
and was taught through a separate grammar book. Vocabulary
teaching consisted mainly of memorisation either of synonyms
or Greek 'equivalents'. Writing lessons consisted of memorisation
and writing of model compositions, combined with grammar and
vocabulary exercises. For listening & reading, First-Certificate-test
type exercises were used. Speaking skills were not dealt with
in any way (students were not expected to interact).
methods, skills development activities/tasks and group-work
were introduced this year. The students responded rather well
to the new (for them) teaching methods and at the time of
the project they had come to regard pair/group work to be
a matter of course.
14-16 (Secondary School students).
& Language: All students shared the same culture and L1
Formally their level is Upper-intermediate. In the Greek EFL
context this means that the students have been learning English
for six to seven years. It is common practice in Greece that
students start learning English at the age of 8 to 10. After
six to eight years of tuition, they normally sit the FCE exam.
This class was expected to take the exam at the end of next
year. In reality the students are of mixed ability, two students
in particular would benefit more from an Intermediate class.
On the whole they show interest. Nevertheless, since most
of them come to classes right after school (schools in Greece
work in morning or afternoon shifts) their concentration and
ability to work are (understandably) not of high standards.
Nevertheless, they seemed interested in the idea of a project
on 'speaking' and they were involved during the project. The
fact that the activities were recorded added a further element
of interest and improved their participation (that is after
the first shock had worn off).
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