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Dealing with complexity in Part 2 of the Speaking exam at Cambridge Certificate in
Advanced English (CAE) level
by Sandra Bradwell
- appendix 2

Appendix 2
Dörnyei and Thurrell(1992:introduction xi/xii)

The structure of the book

CONVERSATION AND DIALOGUES IN ACTION is divided into four main sections:

Section I: Conversational rules and structure
Section II: Conversational strategies
Section III: Functions and meanings in conversation
Section IV: Social and cultural contexts

Each section focuses on a different aspect of conversation and is introduced by a short text which summarises the issues dealt with and the topic areas the activities tackle. The following is a brief summary of the main themes of the sections:

Section I is centred around Conversational rules and structures, that is, how conversation is organised, and what prevents conversations from continually breaking down into a chaos of interruptions and simultaneous talk. Among others, there are activities to teach students how to start and keep up informal conversation (1 Relax and chat), how to change the subject smoothly (2 By the way, that reminds me), how to break into a conversation politely (3 Sorry to interrupt) and how to bring a conversation tactfully to a close (10 It was nice talking to you).

Section II focuses on Conversational strategies, that is, ways and means of helping speakers to overcome communication breakdowns, to deal with trouble spots, and to enhance fluency. Students can learn, among other things, how to gain time by using fillers and hesitation devices (11 Buying time: fillers), how to ask for repetition in order to clarify meaning (12 Pardon?), how to paraphrase when they don't remember a word (17 The thing you open bottles with), and how to make their narrative style more dynamic (20 You'll never believe this!).

Section III concentrates on Functions and meanings in conversation, that is, message and purpose. Several of the activities deal with the main language functions of conversation (22 Questions and Answers, 23 Oh yes, I agree, etc.), offering an array of function-specific expressions and structures. Students are also made aware that different language forms can have the same meaning (26 Change without changing), that the literal meaning of certain structures is not the same as the real meaning (27 What they say and what they mean), and that one sentence can have several meanings (28 Paranoia or a hidden meaning in everything).

Section IV leads into broader issues by focusing on how Social and cultural contexts affect conversation. Some of the issues tackled are, for example, how a person's status and personality is reflected in conversation (30 Who is the new one?), the main features of politeness (32 Let's not be so polite!), and when and how to use formal and informal style (33 Formal - Informal). Attention is also drawn to the fact that different cultures have different conversational customs; language learners often face communication difficulties because of differing cultural backgrounds; therefore a sensitivity to crosscultural issues is a prerequisite of becoming an efficient conversationalist (36 Cultural differences and taboos, 37 Visitor from Mars).

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