COMMUNICATION & INTERACTION STRATEGIES
by Costas Gabrielatos
are presented with controversial statements characterising
the 'good teacher'. The students are asked to decide on two
they most agree with and two they most disagree with as (a)
individuals, (b) groups of 3 or 4, (c) a class.
Some General Observations
a whole the discussion lacks natural flow and it is not easy
for the listener to follow. Particularly in the case of group
B it is not often clear whether the group came to an agreement,
nor which the group's choices were.
In several cases students do not adjust their responses
according to their interlocutors' opinion and do not show
intention to negotiate. For example, instead of responding
to other students' views they just move on to express their
own when their turn comes. In such instances the 'discussion'
seems more like a series of monologues.
They do not make any attempts to circumlocute in order
to compensate for vocabulary shortcomings, and when they do
try they are rarely successful.
They seem to regard helping each other as inappropriate
(in some instances they whisper when they do so).
They do not seem to regard the negotiation of meaning
as being a joint responsibility.
They leave their utterances unfinished.
They do not often signal (lack of) understanding/interest
(few instances of asking for repetition/ clarification/confirmation).
students were asked to fill in two questionnaires, and were
involved in a class discussion on the pre-test activity and
the questionnaires with the aim to:
Record the students' reactions to the activity (e.g.
Indirectly raise the issue of certain strategies and
to enquire about the students' views on their usefulness.
Check the degree to which students were conscious of
the strategies they used.
to the students the two main sources of problems were lack
of relevant vocabulary (78%) and lack of relevant "formulaic
expressions" (67%) (Bygate 1987: 17). An interesting
instance of inconsistency occurred when the students stated
(during the feedback discussion) that they had not encountered
any problems concerning lexical shortcomings. Lack of adequate
grammar knowledge and lack of confidence followed in their
ranking (44%). The students were aware of the reduction strategies
they used (Bygate 1987: 47-48; Ellis 1985: 184-185). They
did not seem aware of the lack of circumlocution on their
part although they started that they opt for Greek/silence
as often as they try to circumlocute.
the feedback discussion after the Questionnaires I and II,
it was shown that some students somehow understood the words
'co-operation/help' as meaning 'correction'. Also some students
thought that the teacher should intervene in a group's discussion
and help/correct a student
if no one else can", "because each person will have
a different opinion about his/ / /em/ or if he's stuck ?a
p??µe (= so to speak, in Greek) /e/ he want to
/ / / /e/ he want to help in a different way // and the most
/e/ correct /e/ way is /e/ you..."
that point I elicited the function of providing the interlocutor
with the item he/she lacks or finishing his/her utterance:
"What do you show?"
P: "That you understand."
T: "What else?"
AD: "That you care."
T: "...and that you are?"
circumlocution their opinions were mixed. Some examples:
1. "... if you can."
2. "But sometimes it's very difficult to find different
words / to say something (S: Yes.) if you do not know the
vocabulary / the right vocabulary." S: "And then
you have to say it in /e/ Greek." N: "I do not agree
/ I think we know enough words to say something in different
words." AD: "If it's very difficult?" P: "If
it's a subject that you do not know / words..." N: "You
go on to say something else." H: "Start again."
3. "You can't find always words / more simple words to
express it / I think you do not." M: "I say it in
a simple way from the beginning."
of vocabulary and grammar were obviously encountered during
the discussion. Nevertheless, it does not seem to be the case
that remedial lessons on vocabulary/grammar would result in
considerable improvement of the students' oral production.
It seems that students would benefit more from lessons focusing
on communication strategies (Bygate 1987: 42-48; Ellis: 1985:
84 & 184) and negotiation skills (Bygate 1987: 47; Ellis:
1985: 184). Furthermore, since their efforts to employ production/achievement
strategies (Bygate 1987: 44-46; Ellis: 1985: 184) were not
always conscious or successful, remedial lessons aiming at
improving the students' fluency had best focus on production/achievement
strategies and negotiation skills. Students can become aware
of (and trained in) the use of certain production/achievement
strategies. Furthermore, they can become aware of certain
features of native speech (Brown & Yule 1983a: 15-17;
Brown & Yule 1983b: 4; McCarthy 1991: 141-144). By integrating
these two elements in their spoken production the students
can become more confident and effective communicators.
page 4 of 7
to the articles index