Hello everyone and welcome to my Language Teaching and Learning talk show. I’m Language Pedagogy and here with me is Conversation. Today we’re going to have a fantastic talk about the history and current standing of this amazingly popular ESL task. Well, I have been in this profession since day one and frankly I haven’t seen any classroom task as appealing to students as conversation, so I thought, why not sit together and talk?
Language Pedagogy: Thanks for being with us today. I am sure that our audience is excited to hear from you.
Conversation: Oh, glad to be heard.
Language Pedagogy: OK, you know you are really popular with ESL learners. I’ve at times heard that the other tasks, for example, Paragraph Writing or Grammar Exercises, are jealous of your popularity. So tell us: where does that charm come from?
Conversation: Oh, really? That’s so flattering! LOL
Language Pedagogy: Of course it is. But joking aside, you’ve always had a desirable standing in ESL course books and the ESL profession since you made your appearance. Do you have any ideas why that could be?
Conversation: Well, I guess it might be related to learners’ primary goal of language learning, which is speaking, and I provide a practical means to that end. When, from very early stages of language learning, learners see themselves talk, it makes them motivated and excited about the whole journey.
Language Pedagogy: Have you always had the same function?
Conversation: I would say yes, in that I have always been Conversation and I was used to increase learners’ overall fluency, but with shifts and changes in Language Pedagogy, I was also looked at differently. ALM (Audio-lingual method) looked at me as a tool for learners to generate language through rote practice of scientifically produced patterns as it feared wrong language habit formation, but then came the age of Cognitive Code Learning with its emphasis on “deep structure” of language and conscious awareness of language rules and their application in language learning (Brown, 2001). With this becoming prevalent, I was seen not just as a group of words and phrases joined together to be repeated, parrot-like, but more of a text with a focus on how the rules are applied, and it was the beginning of me being seen as a communicative task to be applied in the Communicative Language learning era afterwards (Brown, 2001). So, I can say that I have adapted my functionality so that I can serve learners better. And we both know it’s an ongoing process with no terminating point ahead of us and right now we are still in the midst of it.
Language Pedagogy: I see. So, can you give some hints to your student audience?
Conversation: Sure. If you ask me, it’s best for you beginners to memorize conversation pretty much like ALM prescribes as this can increase your fluency. However, at the same time make sure that you fully know what’s going on there with grammar and vocabulary. To you intermediate learners, maybe it’s best for you to use the conversation as a model and then try to practice it line by line with a partner. Just take a look at every line of a story and then, as you keep eye contact, practice it with your partner and repeat it. Then you may apply new words and collocations to it. For you advanced learners, why not make a conversation from scratch and then give it to your teacher for full revision and correction and then practice it?
Language Pedagogy: Is there anything else you would like to mention?
Conversation: I just want to clarify that this is just what “I” as a Conversation think. Maybe if you sit with other Conversations, you’ll hear totally different ideas or even opposing ones, which I personally can’t wait to hear!
Language Pedagogy: Well, thank you so much Conversation for being with us this afternoon.
Conversation: Thanks for having me.
Brown, H. D. (2001). Teaching by Principles; An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy, Second Edition. NY: Pearson Education Company.