Directing a Conversation

Along the history of language teaching, many attempts have been made to make the foreign language learning more like first language learning because a language could be best taught by using it actively in the classroom. As all teachers of foreign language know they must encourage direct and spontaneous use of the foreign language in the classroom. Speaking began with systematic attention to pronunciation , and then known words could be used to teach new vocabulary, by using mime and pictures.

In the United States there still exists the Berlitz Method, with the following principles and procedures:
1. Classroom  instruction is conducted exclusively in the target lesson
2. Only everyday vocabulary and sentences are taught
3. Oral communication skills are built up in a carefully graded progression organized around question/ and/ answer exchanges between teachers and students in small, intensive classes.
4. Grammar is taught inductively.
5. New teaching points are introduced orally.
6. Concrete vocabulary is taught through demonstration, objects and pictures; association of ides teaches abstract vocabulary.
7. Both speech and listening comprehension are taught.
8. Correct pronunciation and grammar are emphasized.

Although critics pointed out that these principles were counter productive because teachers were required to avoid using the native tongue when sometimes an explanation in the native tongue  could have been more efficient of a route to comprehension.

But if a teacher wants to be successful and seeks to improve the quality  of language teaching, besides his particular methods that may differ from one class to the other he can also use Richard Titone’s guidelines from the Berlitz school:
Never translate: demonstrate
Never explain: act
Never make a speech: ask questions
Never imitate mistakes: correct
Never speak with simple words: use sentences
Never speak too much: make students speak much
Never jump around: follow your plan
Never go too fast: keep the pace of the students
Never speak too slowly: speak normally
Never speak too quickly: speak naturally
Never speak too loudly: speak naturally
Never be impatient: take it easy.

So here we are – the language teachers – facing the problem of leading the students down the road of pattern practice  “only to find themselves confronted by a great chasm, at the end. On the other side lies real conversation, but the group is stranded on the side of drills because the teacher sees no strong bridge across”.

As long as linguists haven’t found the right answer, we generally can assert that directed conversation practice could be the most reliable route to true communication. When learning a foreign language students want to converse in new language so that we may say that conversation is of primary importance in their learning experience.

Therefore, in order to make students embark on conversation practice, first and foremost they must be familiar with some basic grammar patterns and vocabulary words too. They also must know how the words are pronounced and the way they can be combined to form meaningful utterances. At the beginning,  the teacher acted like a conductor in order to maintain a controlled situation; because of the poor vocabulary the student needs your help but during later stages you gradually withdraw so that the student is his own master in the realm of communication.


prof. Cristina Laura Ianoși

Școala Gimnazială Nr. 3, Lupeni (Hunedoara) , România
Profil iTeach:

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