for teaching purposes
us compare the following two examples of conversations. In
the first dialogue, which is taken from a coursebook on colloquial
English and part of which is given below, the scene is set
in a French confectioner's shop in New Oxford Street. The
second dialogue is natural.
(approaching): Are you being attended to, ladies?
Mrs Brooke: No, not yet. Show me some Easter eggs, please.
Shop-girl (pointing to a display of Easter eggs on the counter):
In chocolate or marzipan? How do you like these?
Mrs Brooke (to her companion): They are too large, aren't
they? (She looks round). Why, here are some at sixpence; they
will do splendidly.
Shop-girl: Shall I mix in some of these plover's eggs?
Mrs Brooke: Oh, how beautifully speckled they are! They look
perfectly real, don't they? Are they filled with cream?
Shop-girl: No, madam, they are solid chocolate. Anything else,
Mrs Brooke: What does such an Easter-hare come to?
Shop-girl: That one is two and nine.
Mrs Brooke: What do they contain?
Shop-girl: Oh, they are empty, you know. They have to be filled
first. I can fill them for you with pralines or mixed chocolates
or fondants, as you desire.
Do you have any chocolate eggs?
Assistant: Yes. One?
Customer: Two, please.
Assistant: 20p, please.
Customer: Thank you.
Assistant: Thank you. 'Bye.
(from Taborn, 1983: 207-208)
can imagine a typical dialogue at the doctor's and compare
it to the one given below:
What's the problem?
it's a week of sore throat
P: which turned into a cold
D: A cold you mean what? Stuffy nose?
P: Stuffy nose, Yeah. Not a chest cold.
D: And a cough? Any fever?
P: Not that I know of
D: How about your ears?
P: I haven't got any problems
D: How do you feel?
P: Tired. I couldn't sleep
D: Because of the cough
(adapted from Bonvillain, 2000: 373)
Natural dialogues contain not only certain features of spoken
language, such as elliptical structures, but also more distinct
social roles of the participants. Here, the doctor is very
particular about details necessary to diagnose the patient,
while the latter is describing the symptoms to get more help.
Such functions are neglected in coursebook materials.
replies in discourse
tendency exhibited by EFL coursebooks is the overuse of full
replies beginning with "yes" or "no,"
or "yes, I do" or "no, I don't."
Good morning. Do you sell oranges?
Assistant: Yes, we do.
Peter: Do you sell ice-cream, too?
Assistant: No, I'm sorry, we don't.
(from Taborn, 1983: 211)
form is very widely used by foreign learners, and is also
very common in textbooks. However, it is highly unlikely that
one will ever come across such forms in native speakers' everyday
to each other in discourse
textbook conversations, it is assumed that people actually
listen to each other when they talk, and that questions are
immediately answered and requests attended to. The following
natural dialogue gives the lie to this assumption:
Are you going out this evening?
Lucy: Where did I put my green skirt?
Ben: Pass the salt, Lucy.
Mother: She can never find that skirt.
Lucy: I think I put it in the wash.
Father: There you are (passing the salt).
(Crystal, 1995: 112)
In real life, people talk to each other simultaneously, interrupt
each other, continue others' phrases and give multiple answers
to one and the same question (Crystal, 1995: 110)
page 4 of 4
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