I was hunting around the Aladdin’s cave that is the BBC Learning English website and stumbled across these two gems – “Better speaking” and “First sight, second thoughts”, which are both great resources for the ELF classroom. In this post, we’re going to suggest ways you could use Better speaking. Watch out for our next post on First sight, second thoughts.
Better speaking is a series of 12 podcasts, each around 10 minutes long, discussing ways students can improve their speaking. The great thing is, the series focuses on the fact that most English speakers use the language to interact with other non-native speakers. Although the programme is hosted by two native speakers, each episode features interviews with non-native speakers.
The first episode is about becoming a more confident speaker and could be a useful first lesson topic, to get students talking about their own difficulties with speaking. As the recording is quite long at 10 minutes, we’ve extracted the interviews with the non-native speakers and the most useful tips from the teacher trainer. It includes a suggestion that students should focus their pronunciation work on being intelligible, not sounding like a native speaker (if their aim is to use ELF – although they use the term English as an International Language). If like us, you’ve experienced reluctance from some students to accept this logic, it’s a great relief to be able to play a recording saying the same thing – from the BBC no less!
You might like to follow these steps to use the podcast in class:
1) Ask students what they find difficult about speaking English. Write students’ ideas on the board.
2) Tell students they are going to listen to speakers of different language backgrounds explaining what they find difficult about speaking. Play the extracts (see above or click here). As students listen, students should note down if the speakers say anything that is the same as their ideas on the board.
3) Play the recording again and ask students to make a note of any opinions expressed by the speakers which they agree with, but which were not originally on the board.
4) Ask students to compare their ideas with a partner, and then get feedback as a whole class.
5) Next, get students to brainstorm what they think is involved in speaking fluently. For example, not worrying all the time about accuracy.
7) Play the recordings a second time and tell students that this time they should make a note of the ideas he mentioned which are different to the ones they originally thought of.
8) Ask students to compare their ideas with a partner. Check the answers as a whole class (see below), and discuss how useful they think the BBC’s advice is. This is the ideal opportunity to find out how students feel about ELF pronunciation.
- The students’ concerns = grammar, translating from own language, afraid of making mistakes, and pronunciation.
- The advice (first extract) = words which go together, pronunciation (being intelligible, but not sounding like a native speaker), filling silence with words like ‘hmmm’, and not necessary to be accurate all the time.
- The advice (second extract) = don’t spend too long searching for a word you don’t know. Try to express yourself in a different way instead. Enjoy speaking and remember, it’s about communicating. It’s not an exam.