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Speaking – Having a Discussion (Useful for FCE / CAE Students + Teachers)

In this post, I want to have a little look at how we interact with each other when we have discussions. Below, I have written a transcript of a conversation between three people at work.

Key: Red, Blue and Black are three speakers. Words in brackets () show when two people are speaking at the same time.

So, I thought that the meeting the other day was… (a bit rubbish)

…totally rubbish! Me too! And I was sure I was going to fall asleep y’know…

Yeah yeah me too! It was horrible! And I’d prepared some stuff to er… to talk about… and I didn’t… in the end I just couldn’t stay awake enough…

…so you’re saying you had things to say? I didn’t even have anything to…

…wait a minute, what was the meeting about?

Erm… about the way the new budget increase will… (be split)

…be split, and it was totally pointless erm… all the managers had already decided where…

Well hang on, I’m not sure about if…

They totally had and I…(thought it…)

Can I finish?

Yeah sorry, go on…

I’m not sure they’ve already decided that the money would go on resources for the training project…

No yeah, totally…

…and maybe saying something would actually help them get an idea…

Hahaha well maybe you’re right there, but anyway…

 

How many kinds of interruption can you see? Are they all polite or are some of them impolite?

Interruption Types:

  • Finishing sentences – anticipation – a bit rubbish / totally rubbish
  • Emphatic agreement – Yeah yeah me too / No yeah totally…
  • Disagreement – Well hang on
  • Clarification Request – So you’re saying… / Wait a minute

Can you see that when we agree, we often follow our agreement phrase with the word “And”?

Eg: Yeah no totally, and… / It was, wasn’t it? And… / Me too, and…

This makes sure that we keep our turn and can continue speaking. However, when we disagree we often use phrases that mean “Wait”

Eg: Hang on a sec / Wait a minute / Hold on / Well just a minute

We can also ask questions. This shows that we are paying attention and encourages the speaker. We often use the word “So” when we are going to ask a question. Phrases include:

So you’re saying that… / Wait a minute, so…

The other thing that we often do is finish each other’s sentences, anticipating what the other person is going to say. This shows that we know the person, and are comfortable in their company.

Next time you have a discussion, do you notice that other students are using this? Does your teacher use any of these phrases when you’re talking to him / her?

Simon

Teacher’s Notes:

It is useful to get a few of these phrases more automatised, so students could benefit from some drilling with a lot of these. Repetitive drilling, call and answer drills and backchained drills could all be effective.

As a practice, you could either use the Cambridge Exam speaking section where two students have to discuss a set of pictures, or you could play a game where students have to try to successfully interrupt each other in a topic-based discussion, with points gained for natural / polite interruptions. You could also use a game where one student is trying to tell a story and the other students are preventing them from being able to finish by using some of these phrases to slow them down.

You could use the model above as an analysis tool in the middle of a task-based lesson.

 

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