Humanising Language Teaching
Stealing from Nativesteenager and adult. upper inter- advanced
Mario Rinvolucri, UK
( Unfortunately Michael Rundell is snowed under with work He'll be back with us in September)
Sandra Piai, University of St Andrews, Scotland
in this area. Click here for more information.
Rather than going to REAL English by perusing the corpora, why not go straight to living natives and wonder directly at the extraordinary idiolects of these bizarre people?
Invite a native speaker into your class. They should come prepared to speak on either of two topics…. but they should not come with what they want to say worked out…. they are to speak as naturally as possible. If your native speaker should perhance be a teacher, invite them to speak as if they were an ordinary human!
In class, the students vote for the topic of their choice.
You then give this instruction:
Note down everything our speaker today says, which you reckon you would not say in your way of speaking English. These can be very simple little things.
The guest speaks for 5- 15 minutes.
Take down your own notes as they speak. Nobody speaks English in exactly the same way. Even if you are a native speaker of English, you are unlikely to be same age, gender, and from the same region as the speaker, so there are likely to be clear differences.
Group the students in fours to compare their notes. If the guest has time, ask them to go round the groups and listen in. Natives can be amazed at what they do actually say!
Go through your own notes with the whole class.
Explain to the group that the first time this exercise is done it can be hard to both pay attention to meaning and jot down adequate notes, but that the next time they do it, they'll probably find it easier.
On one intensive exam course (CPE) that ran from October to December, I invited 25 natives in and they talked on a variety of topics. The students quickly became aware of such salient features of UK spoken English as vague language ( kind of, sort of around, in the region of ) , the tendency to use the verb tend to, ellipsis etc…… They enjoyed a wide variety of text that welled out of real people, and was not found entree on some exam-preparation page.
Can you imagine finding a richer, fuller, more pleasurable text source than a human being talking about something close to their heart?
" hey Mario, where do I get all these native speakers from? Give us a break. I teach in a small town in inland Latvia!"
The same exercise can be done from a video clip, with the students following one of the people involved in the dialogue. It's not as full as with a real person. but it is still pretty good. Choose your video clips carefully- much is scripted and you will want unscripted stuff.
Have fun with your natives!