FC Speaking Module

Speaking Module


Hello, my name is Carl Blyth, and I am the instructor for this module on speaking. I am the director of the Texas Language Technology Center here at the University of Texas at Austin and I’m also an Associate Professor of French in the Department of French and Italian. And, importantly, I’ve been a Language Program Director of the French program here at UT for 10 years. And during that time I focused a lot of my attention on helping our beginning teachers learn to implement what are called communicative activities.
I’ve decided to focus on communicative activities in this module on speaking. The reason I have chosen to focus on these kinds of activities is because number one I think they are very important for communicative language teaching. You can’t teach people how to communicate without actually having them communicate.
Secondly, the reason I’m focusing on communicative activities is because I’ve found in my experience as a teacher trainer that beginning teachers in particular find them somewhat difficult. They are difficult cognitively for the students — they’re not just practicing, they’re not rote memorization, they are actually cognitively difficult because the students have to put lots of things together. And they’re often difficult for the teacher to manage because students get off track sometimes. You have different people in multiple conversations, and so it really puts a burden on the teacher to manage the whole group and keep things on track.
And thirdly, I think its important to focus on these activities for beginning teachers because they often get eliminated. They come at the natural end of a pedagogical sequence, that is, they come at the end of a chapter in a textbook, and because of that people often run out of time.
So I’m putting a lot of emphasis on these kinds of activities in this module on speaking because I think they’re important, they’re difficult, and they often get eliminated. There are other kinds of activities that can fall under the rubric of speaking, such as pronunciation practice and drills and so forth, but in my experience I’ve found that beginning teachers often do quite well with those kinds of things but not as well with these so-called communicative activities.


1 Defining Communication
Criteria to help beginning teachers distinguish “real” communication from “apparent” communication. Not all oral activities are created equal!

2 Challenges and Benefits of Communicative Tasks
The pros and cons of communicative tasks according to beginning teachers. Bottom line: Communicative tasks are hard but worth the effort.


3 Designing Communicative Tasks
Design principles for classroom tasks that get your students to talk to each other (in the target language).


4 Implementing Communicative Tasks
The teacher’s role in managing and guiding student-to-student communication.


Communicative Competence

In 1980, the applied linguists Canale and Swain published an influential article in which they argued that the ability to communicate required four different sub-competencies:

  • grammatical (ability to create grammatically correct utterances),
  • sociolinguistic (ability to produce sociolinguistically appropriate utterances),
  • discourse (ability to produce coherent and cohesive utterances), and
  • strategic (ability to solve communication problems as they arise).


A Jigsaw Task

A jigsaw task is a specific kind of information gap task, that is, a task that requires learners to communicate with each other in order to fill in missing information and to integrate it with other information. For example, in the video, the students are not aware that their note cards contain a communicative problem (e.g. a violation of prescriptive grammar, ambiguous reference, etc.) that indicates a deficiency in one of the sub-competencies of “communicative competence.”
Listen to the students attempt to paraphrase their language sample and see if you can determine which language sample below indicates a lack of which competency.


Sample 1

Sample 2

“OK, now move your cursor over and choose the scene from the menu.”
“From the what?”
“The menu.”
“Menu? Why do they call it a menu?”
“Well, ’cause you choose from a list. Just like in a restaurant. A menu.”
“Oh, OK.”
“Hello Mr. Patterson, thanks for dropping by. I’ve reviewed your bank statement and… ”
(interrupts) “Dude, you gonna ask me a bunch of lame questions?”
“Ah…lame questions…uhm…I don’t know, uhm…well, I DO have a few more questions.”
“Well, make it fast ’cause I am on a tight schedule!”

Sample 3

Sample 4

“I told ’em about it.”
“Told who about what? ”
“John and Mike about the report. And he wasn’t happy about it?”
“Who wasn’t happy?”
“Mike wasn’t.”
He eated the ice cream.

She no think you right.

The language teachers are asked to characterize four different samples of language on note cards.
Duration: 04:57



[Module Instructor JCarl Blyth. ] 2010. [Speaking]. In Foreign Language Teaching Methods. Carl Blyth, Editor. Texas Language Technology Center, University of Texas at Austin. http://coerll.utexas.edu

The material is provided free of charge for those that wish to study it.

How ever a no obligation  exam is available at the end of this module.