Five Reasons Dialogues Help Develop Listening and Speaking Skills
Use of Dialogues
Developing listening and speaking skills through the use of dialogues has helped me immensely in becoming proficient in Chinese Mandarin. Their effective use in my EFL and ESL classes has also aided my students in improving their listening and speaking skills. Through years of experience, I am convinced that recitation of dialogues definitely does help in making all language learners better listeners and speakers. In this article, I present five compelling reasons why they have a place in listening and speaking classes.
What Is a Dialogue?
A dialogue is nothing more than communication between two people through either speaking or writing. For the purposes of this hub, I will consider speaking ones. A very simple dialogue between Jane and Toey on an elevated light rail in Bangkok might go like this:
Toey: Oh, excuse me, Miss, but is this seat taken?
Jane: No, it isn't. Please sit down here.
Toey: Thanks. You have a very cute baby!
Jane: Why, thank you! I'm glad you think so. You speak English very well.
Toey: Really? I'm just learning, you know, and need to improve my pronunciation.
This dialogue could also easily be modified into a conversation among three or four people if Toey or Jane had friends with them.
A Shopping Dialogue
Five Reasons You Should Use Dialogues in the Classroom
1. They represent real-life speech.
How many times have you opened a beginning language textbook and seen sentences like these?
I have a pen.
You have a book.
She has a backpack.
The boy has a bicycle.
We have pens.
They have toys.
The intent of the textbook authors is to show students how to correctly use the verb "to have" with all subjective nouns and pronouns. But the problem is this: Do people talk to each other this way?
By using a dialogue, you can introduce the meaning and use of the verb "to have" through a sample of real-life speech such as:
Mary: You've such a big house!
Tom: Yeah, I do. It has at least 10 rooms.
There is a definite exchange of meaningful information in the above example. Dialogues also represent the fillers people use when talking such as "oh," "and a," and "you know." They also employ numerous contractions like "you've" for "you have," use slang like the word "yeah" instead of "yes," and degrees of stress and intonation when speaking.
2. They teach culture in different social situations.
The great thing about dialogues is that you are learning the culture of a people through its language when reciting them. For example, in a conversation on the topic of introductions, students quickly learn that males are introduced to females in American culture and that it is customary for people to shake hands, including men shaking hands with women. A conversation might also reveal that it is impolite or improper to ask a person about their age, weight, or salary or income.
3. Students love to roleplay.
All of my students love to recite and practice dialogues because they can be roleplayed. Each example that I present reflects a social situation such as visiting a friend, talking on the telephone, or shopping. Students love acting out the ones which call for a lot of body language and emotion.
4. They are springboards for learning new vocabulary and sentence structure.
Through the use of substitution drills, dialogues can introduce the student to new vocabulary and sentence structures. In the example, "You have a very cute baby," said while giving a compliment, one may substitute the noun "baby" with "dog," "kitten," "puppy" or "rabbit." You could also introduce a tag question in a dialogue like "You're a tourist, aren't you?," and through substitution drills, you could generate sentences such as "You're an American, aren't you?" and "She's your daughter, isn't she?"
5. Scaffolding learning leads to improved conversation ability.
Ultimately I try to get my students to proceed from dialogue recitation to casual conversation as soon as possible. I do this by scaffolding learning. I teach students how to apply appropriate substitutions to memorized dialogues in different situations. If the students are motivated and having fun, most can make the big jump to casual conversations after going through a series of practice runs.
In the 1970s I successfully used the English 900 series texts with personal supplementary dialogues while teaching listening and speaking. In the past, the school where I taught used Pearson Education Limited's Our Discovery Island series of textbooks and student workbooks. These textbooks and workbooks have very interesting, illustrated conversations which engage the interest of all students. The great thing about dialogues is that they are fun for students and represent authentic language from life.
© 2012 Paul Richard Kuehn