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Using authentic spoken texts

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Using authentic spoken texts

Numerous researchers note the artificial- ity of textbook dialogues and emphasize the need to develop and analyze larger corpora of spoken data to be used in the language classroom (Leech 2000; Rühlemann 2008). Indeed, Cullen and Kuo’s (2007) survey of 24 mainstream English language teaching (ELT) textbooks found that coverage of spoken grammar was inadequate and incomplete, and that there was an emphasis on phrasal chunks over syntactic structures common to conversation, which were either ignored or confined to advanced levels. Rühlemann (2008, 683–684) echoes this sentiment, claiming, “the type of ‘conversation’ most textbooks present cannot serve as a reliable model for the teaching of conversation.” It is clear that learners must be exposed to spoken dialogues—whether they are authentic or specially constructed—that include com- mon features of spoken grammar that are so often missing in ELT textbooks. This means that teachers assigned to teach inauthentic materials may need to supplement textbook activities with authentic video, radio, and other audio materials to expose students to elements of spoken grammar.

  1. Identifying when to teach spoken grammar Because of spoken grammar’s function in conversation and frequency in corpus data, a number of researchers recommend teaching it in all language classes (Cullen and Kuo 2007; McCarthy 2006; Goh 2009; Timmis 2002; Mumford 2009; Rühlemann 2008). Indeed,

McCarthy (2006) emphasizes the importance of teaching spoken grammar:

Language pedagogy that claims to sup- port the teaching and learning of speak- ing skills does itself a disservice if it ignores what we know about the spoken language. Whatever else may be the result of imaginative methodologies for eliciting spoken language in the second- language classroom, there can be little hope for a natural spoken output on the part of language learners if the input is stubbornly rooted in models that owe their origin and shape to the written language. … Therefore, we believe it is timely to consider some of the insights a spoken corpus can offer, and to attempt to relate them more globally to the over- all problem of designing a pedagogical spoken grammar. (29)

In other words, it does not make sense to emphasize spoken communication and com- municative language teaching while refusing to acknowledge or teach important differences between spoken and written language. This implies that spoken grammar should be taught in all contexts—including EFL contexts—in which understanding and producing spoken language is a goal of second language teaching. Similarly, Mumford (2009) argues that all students, regardless of likely interaction with native speakers, can benefit from learning some spoken grammar features. He identifies forms related to fluency, such as fillers, heads, tails, ellipsis, and phrasal chunks, which allow stu- dents to adapt to the pressures of real-time communication and speak more fluently and efficiently (Mumford 2009). Furthermore, surveys show that teachers generally support instruction of characteristics of spoken gram- mar, although this support can vary depending on the specific feature. For example, a survey by Timmis (2002) shows that teachers feel students need to at least be exposed to features of spoken grammar, and Goh’s (2009) survey of teachers from China and Singapore shows that

teachers feel spoken grammar knowledge is use- ful for raising students’ awareness of spoken and written language. If the ability for students to understand spoken English is a goal of language teaching, spoken grammar should be taught in the language classroom, even to EFL students.

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