fluency and accuracy through planning, telling, transcribing
and noticing by Scott Shelton
importance of planning
(2001) like Kay (2001), advocates time for planning before
speaking although he warns that students may put up resistance,
feeling that it is unnatural and something that native speakers
would not do. Bygate (1994) argues that:
teachers encourage speakers to anticipate what sort of language
they will use in a given situation, this is very similar to
what second-language users will do in real life.
I agree with Howarth (2001) when he cites many instances when
we do indeed plan before we speak. Not only second-language
users do this in real life, but also native speakers of any
language do it as well when they want to take extra care with
what they say. Among these instances are, extended monologues
(making a presentation, a speech, giving instructions and
story telling, and so on). Other examples of this are potentially
important or potentially unusual situations such as job interviews,
making a complaint, proposing (marriage), telling a lie, and
others. The resistance put up by students to the idea of planning
time could easily be quelled by pointing this out.
(2001) also makes the case that preparing to speak naturally
encourages interlanguage development. Based on the research
of Skehan (1994) he suggests that by not allowing planning
time for initial lexicalization and jumping instead into the
performance, or syntacticisation stage, the learners chances
of successfully completing the analytical, relexicalization
stage are reduced. This may be an important factor in why
many such learners struggle to achieve fluency, the reason
being that they are trying to operate a syntactic constructional
system, which is not operating at real-time speed.
other words, by setting the stage through encouraging students
to plan what and how they are going to say something will
provide them with the template they will later use in analyzing
and noticing the language used, providing them with a personalized,
meaningful place to start improving from.
is the case of those who learn without instruction who become
highly fluent but due to lack of focus on grammatical form,
never syntacticize, or achieve a high level of accuracy. These
may be the fluent-but-fossilized students that were mentioned
before. Through use of communicative strategies and a bank
of lexicalized chunks at their disposal they are able to communicate
their message effectively. However, because of their lack
of attention to form, or the perceived need for better form,
these learners do not achieve the sophistication or complexity
of the native speaker they want to emulate.
time, Howarth (2001) explains, can provide opportunities to
experiment with developmental language and aid real-time processing
in the long run. Planning time can help reduce the amount
of planning necessary while speaking and in that way increase
spoken fluency. Accuracy can also be increased by a small
amount of planning time but it is suggested that more time
will lead to more errors. But as the learner is experimenting
with interlanguage, in this way the extra time may encourage
use of more complex language, suggesting that the errors may
be positive signs of development.
before speaking would then seem to be both valuable in terms
of promoting fluency, accuracy and as a result, introducing
additional complexity to the language system of the learner.
It is clear then, that providing students with not only time
to plan, but something to plan for, is an important part of
the process of language and language learning that teachers
need to be aware of and provide opportunities for through
the use of appropriate tasks in the classroom.
time may be a useful tool providing the learner with what
he or she needs in order to gradually make the shift from
simplistic, hesitant speech to a more fluent flow of discourse.
However, as Batstone points out (1994:229) a lack of a focus
on product could lead to a procedualization or relexicalization
of grammatically impoverished language. This focus can take
different forms, such as nonverbal teacher correction on the
spot (hot cards) or a general overview of important errors
the teacher has noticed after the initial task. It might also
be done by the students themselves, recording themselves and
listening afterwards for areas to improve upon. An important
point, because without some kind of feedback on form, fossilization
is likely to occur as the learner is not aware of his or her
mistakes and the errors get repeated and internalized.
in Kay's (2001) model previously mentioned, Howarth's (2001)
model also calls for task repetition. In this second model,
however, task repetition is called for after an initial analysis
is done with a focus on form. Monologues are mentioned as
good tasks for repeating as they hold up better to being told
again due to their intrinsic interest and are often improved
the more times they are told. They are well suited to planning
and repeated tellings, and by extension, language development
opportunities, and using them can be done easily and effectively
in the language classroom.
(1993:138) is quoted as suggesting that:
of language learnt by heart may actually fuel language acquisition
since such language is providing the mind with something to
Bygate (1996), task repetition is shown to increase the variety,
complexity and fluency of students' language.
may also lead to changes in learners' use of the language
system, to increased fluency, and perhaps to increased awareness.
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