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Five Reasons Dialogues Help Develop Listening and Speaking Skills

Paul has spent many years teaching English as a foreign and second language. He has taught EFL in Taiwan and Thailand, and ESL in the U.S.

Use of Dialogues


Developing listening and speaking skills through the use of dialogues has helped me greatly 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 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?

Dialogue is nothing more than communication between two people through either speaking or writing. For this article, I will consider speaking ones. A very simple dialogue between Jane and Toey on an elevated light rail in Bangkok might proceed 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

The author as an EFL teacher at Saint Joseph Bangna School in Thailand in 2009.

The author as an EFL teacher at Saint Joseph Bangna School in Thailand in 2009.

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 textbook authors intend 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, 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 that engage the interest of all students. The great thing about dialogues is that they are fun for students and represent authentic language from life.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Do you think that dialogue improves speaking?

Answer: The use of memorized dialogues improves speaking. By having memorized dialogues for numerous social occasions, one will have a starting point for initiating conversations and continuing them. You will be thinking in the target language and not be struggling to translate word for word from English to the foreign language you are using.

© 2012 Paul Richard Kuehn


Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on January 12, 2016:

Thanks for the great comment! I'm happy you found this hub useful!

bakyt on December 18, 2015:

It is very useful article for teachers. Thanks. It will help me.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on September 20, 2013:


Thank you very much for reading and commenting on this article. I'm very happy that you find this hub useful and that it will help you teach your kids. Good luck in your teaching!

Nitpitchaya on September 19, 2013:

Thank you very much for this useful article. I'm not an English teacher, but I really want to teach English for my kids. I started from words , but nothing more than this. I don't know how to put them in a lesson more than a minute.Now I'm thinking about making a short fun dialogue and encourage them to act as the comic characters they like. I hope that it would be work. Voting up!!

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on January 26, 2013:


Thanks for reading this article and your very interesting comments. You are absoutely correct. Listening and speaking skills are definitely necessary when doing marriage counseling. I think you have to do as much listening as speaking and maybe even more listening if you want to establish good communication.

Kas from Bartlett, Tennessee on January 26, 2013:

How much could something like this be used for marriage counseling as well. It could be described as two people with different languages coming together to decipher each other. Funnily enough, my wife speaks pretty fuent Italian because she was born in Italia and was around Italian speaking parents most of her life.

The best way for me to learn Italian is for my wife and I to engage in dialogue and then she translates as we go. Great hub, voting up!

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on August 21, 2012:


Thanks for reading and your kind comments. I try to write my hubs so that the common person can easily understand. It makes me feel good that you are finding them resourceful.

Brittany from Buffalo, NY on August 20, 2012:

Thanks for sharing! As an ESL instructor at a local college, I find your Hubs very useful for those times when I'm trying to come up with fresh techniques and activities to help my students understand English in a new way and improve their fluency. Honestly I have found your Hubs more resourceful than some of the texts and other resources out there.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 28, 2012:


Thanbk you very much for your comments. I also can remember the first dialogue I learned while studying Chinese Mandarin many years ago.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 28, 2012:

Thanks for reading and the comments. Yes, improvisation in dialogues for adult students is a good technique to use.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 28, 2012:


Thanks a lot for your comments and good luck in your language studies!

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 28, 2012:


Thanks for reading and your comments. I like using dialogs because they seem to make the language come to life for students. Thank you also for sharing.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 28, 2012:


Thanks for reading and your comments. I especially appreciate your sharing of the hub.

Mary Craig from New York on June 27, 2012:

Excellent concept and I know it works. Way back in 1961 when I took French in High School our first lesson was (in French of course) "Hello, Jack, How are you? Very well thanks, and you?" Yes, all these years later I still remember my first French lesson, I would say proving your theory though you put it so much better and support it so well.

Voted up, useful and interesting.

Kymberly Fergusson from Germany on June 27, 2012:

Dialogues are great tools in the EFL / ESL classroom! With adult students I find I need to leave more room for improvisation in dialogues - makes it more fun, and the students get exposed to a larger vocabulary and variety of grammar constructs. Although this may be better for lower intermediate and more advanced students!

Jenn-Anne on June 27, 2012:

Great hub! Lots of useful information. Will keep these things in mind as I continue my language studies. Voting up!

Janine Huldie from New York, New York on June 27, 2012:

As a teacher, this article is so very true. We need to listen, as teachers sometimes even more than we speak ourselves. Thanks for this article. Sharing and voting it up!

Brett C from Asia on June 27, 2012:

You are right, this is a very effective technique for teachers and learners. As you say, it can provide the framework and real life scenarios in one hit! Much better than knowing the grammar, but not knowing how to fit it to an actual sentence!

Shared, up and interesting.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 24, 2012:

Yes, it is true that here in Thailand quite a few of the locals think it is alright to ask someone their age and salary. Thanks for reading and your comments.

Andrew Spacey from Sheffield, UK on June 24, 2012:

Thanks for this and all strength for your future teaching.

Part 2 has scratched my comedic itch? if that's the right way of putting it. Cultural introductions - you can picture a stranger meeting someone from a land where it is compulsory to know everyone's salary and tax affairs.

'How do you do? And how much do you earn each year?'

'Nice to meet you. $48 per annum on Hubpages. And you?'

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 24, 2012:


Thanks for reading and your positive comments. Thank you also for your comments on the 35 acre piece.

Suzie from Carson City on June 24, 2012:

Very useful information here on a vital topic. The better we listen and communicate....the better is our understanding and interaction with one another. A first step toward more harmony in the world. UP +