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Teaching English for Specific Purposes (ESP)

How is English for Specific Purposes (ESP) different from English as a Second Language
(ESL), also known as general English?
The most important difference lies in the learners and their purposes for learning English. ESP
students are usually adults who already have some acquaintance with English and are learning
the language in order to communicate a set of professional skills and to perform particular job-
related functions. An ESP program is therefore built on an assessment of purposes and needs and
the functions for which English is required .
ESP concentrates more on language in context than on teaching grammar and language
structures. It covers subjects varying from accounting or computer science to tourism and
business management. The ESP focal point is that English is not taught as a subject separated
from the students' real world (or wishes); instead, it is integrated into a subject matter area
important to the learners.
However, ESL and ESP diverge not only in the nature of the learner, but also in the aim of
instruction. In fact, as a general rule, while in ESL all four language skills; listening, reading,
speaking, and writing, are stressed equally, in ESP it is a needs analysis that determines which
language skills are most needed by the students, and the syllabus is designed accordingly. An
ESP program, might, for example, emphasize the development of reading skills in students who
are preparing for graduate work in business administration; or it might promote the development
of spoken skills in students who are studying English in order to become tourist guides.
As a matter of fact, ESP combines subject matter and English language teaching. Such a
combination is highly motivating because students are able to apply what they learn in their
English classes to their main field of study, whether it be accounting, business management,
economics, computer science or tourism. Being able to use the vocabulary and structures that
they learn in a meaningful context reinforces what is taught and increases their motivation.
The students' abilities in their subject-matter fields, in turn, improve their ability to acquire
English. Subject-matter knowledge gives them the context they need to understand the English of
the classroom. In the ESP class, students are shown how the subject-matter content is expressed
in English. The teacher can make the most of the students' knowledge of the subject matter, thus
helping them learn English faster.
The term "specific" in ESP refers to the specific purpose for learning English. Students approach
the study of English through a field that is already known and relevant to them. This means that
they are able to use what they learn in the ESP classroom right away in their work and studies.
The ESP approach enhances the relevance of what the students are learning and enables them to
use the English they know to learn even more English, since their interest in their field will
motivate them to interact with speakers and texts.
ESP assesses needs and integrates motivation, subject matter and content for the teaching of
relevant skills.
The responsibility of the teacher
A teacher that already has experience in teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), can
exploit her background in language teaching. She should recognize the ways in which her
teaching skills can be adapted for the teaching of English for Specific Purposes. Moreover, she
will need to look for content specialists for help in designing appropriate lessons in the subject
matter field she is teaching.
As an ESP teacher, you must play many roles. You may be asked to organize courses, to set
learning objectives, to establish a positive learning environment in the classroom, and to evaluate
student s progress.
Organizing Courses
You have to set learning goals and then transform them into an instructional program with the
timing of activities. One of your main tasks will be selecting, designing and organizing course
materials, supporting the students in their efforts, and providing them with feedback on their
Setting Goals and Objectives
You arrange the conditions for learning in the classroom and set long-term goals and short-term
objectives for students achievement. Your knowledge of students' potential is central in
designing a syllabus with realistic goals that takes into account the students' concern in the
learning situation.
Creating a Learning Environment
Your skills for communication and mediation create the classroom atmosphere. Students acquire
language when they have opportunities to use the language in interaction with other speakers.
Being their teacher, you may be the only English speaking person available to students, and
although your time with any of them is limited, you can structure effective communication skills
in the classroom. In order to do so, in your interactions with students try to listen carefully to
what they are saying and give your understanding or misunderstanding back at them through
your replies. Good language learners are also great risk-takers , since they must make many
errors in order to succeed: however, in ESP classes, they are handicapped because they are
unable to use their native language competence to present themselves as well-informed adults.
That s why the teacher should create an atmosphere in the language classroom which supports
the students. Learners must be self-confident in order to communicate, and you have the
responsibility to help build the learner's confidence.
Evaluating Students
The teacher is a resource that helps students identify their language learning problems and find
solutions to them, find out the skills they need to focus on, and take responsibility for making
choices which determine what and how to learn. You will serve as a source of information to the
students about how they are progressing in their language learning.
The responsibility of the student
What is the role of the learner and what is the task he/she faces? The learners come to the ESP
class with a specific interest for learning, subject matter knowledge, and well-built adult learning
strategies. They are in charge of developing English language skills to reflect their native-
language knowledge and skills.
Interest for Learning
People learn languages when they have opportunities to understand and work with language in a
context that they comprehend and find interesting. In this view, ESP is a powerful means for
such opportunities. Students will acquire English as they work with materials which they find
interesting and relevant and which they can use in their professional work or further studies. The
more learners pay attention to the meaning of the language they hear or read, the more they are
successful; the more they have to focus on the linguistic input or isolated language structures, the
less they are motivated to attend their classes.
The ESP student is particularly well disposed to focus on meaning in the subject-matter field. In
ESP, English should be presented not as a subject to be learned in isolation from real use, nor as
a mechanical skill or habit to be developed. On the contrary, English should be presented in
authentic contexts to make the learners acquainted with the particular ways in which the
language is used in functions that they will need to perform in their fields of specialty or jobs.
Subject-Content Knowledge
Learners in the ESP classes are generally aware of the purposes for which they will need to use
English. Having already oriented their education toward a specific field, they see their English
training as complementing this orientation. Knowledge of the subject area enables the students to
identify a real context for the vocabulary and structures of the ESP classroom. In such way, the
learners can take advantage of what they already know about the subject matter to learn English.
Learning Strategies
Adults must work harder than children in order to learn a new language, but the learning skills
they bring to the task permit them to learn faster and more efficiently. The skills they have
already developed in using their native languages will make learning English easier. Although
you will be working with students whose English will probably be quite limited, the language
learning abilities of the adult in the ESP classroom are potentially immense. Educated adults are
continually learning new language behaviour in their native languages, since language learning
continues naturally throughout our lives. They are constantly expanding vocabulary, becoming
more fluent in their fields, and adjusting their linguistic behaviour to new situations or new roles.
ESP students can exploit these innate competencies in learning English
make change
verb + noun. give customers money back from a payment. We can make change if
all you have is large notes.

nouna small appliance that heats and cooks food quickly We can heat your dinner in
the microwave if you like.

adjectivenot spicyI'd like a half dozen mild chicken wings.

verb/nounmake a request to a serverIs everyone ready to order lunch now?

over charge
verbgive a customer a bill that is too high (by mistake)I think you over charged us
for our drinks; we only had one each.
nounpeople who come into an establishment oftenYou can give the regulars a
complimentary drink from time to time.

nounplace for people to use a toilet and wash handsThe restrooms are to your left
and down the stairs.

nounitems that were prepared particularly for a certain day and are usually at a
reduced priceWould you like to hear the specials before you decide on lunch.

nounfood item that a restaurant is popular forHomemade fish and chips is our

adjectivehot flavourAny item with three chilies beside it means that the dish is very

stir, mix
verbspin round and round with a spoonStir the soup for a few minutes before you
serve it.straw
nounlong hollow plastic stick for drinking out ofCan I please get a straw for my ice

verbreplace one item for anotherCan I substitute the carrots for corn?

adjectivetaste with a lot of sugarIf you like sweet things, you'll love our chocolate
adjective/verbfood that is packed up and eaten at homeYou can either eat in or
order food to take-out.

warm up
verbheat food to an enjoyable temperature for eatingWould you mind warming up
the baby's bottle for me?

verbget food readyThe servers have to prepare the salads themselves.

nouna booklet of all of the food that can be orderedDo you have a children's menu
we could see?
nouna covering worn on the head while preparing foodIf you don't want to wear a
hat, you can wear a hairnet.

verbsay hello and welcome customers to the establishmentYour priority as a
hostess is to greet the guests at the door with a smile.

nounan eatery that offers quick inexpensive foodWe don't provide table service.
This is a fast-food restaurant.

adjectiveno sauceI'll have dry toast with two eggs.

adjectivevery good tasteThe cookies were so delicious they were gone in half an

nounstaff member who is professionally trained to prepare foodOur head chef is
one of the best cooks in town.

adjectiveovercooked to the point of turning blackThe toast is burnt around the

bill, cheque, check

nounthe slip of paper that tells the customer how much to payTable 3 would like
you to bring them their cheque.

nouna cloth covering worn over the clothes while cookingRemove your apron
before you come out to the dining room.

Understanding your Guests

How will your guests respond to your questions? They need to understand you, but even more
importantly, you need to understand them! Fill in the blanks and check your answers.
Bill bite delicious medium rare menu order pitcher sauce special board split
Top of Form

We'll take a of draft with four glasses, please.
I think we are all ready to .
We read the on our way through.
I think we'll get an order of garlic bread to .
I like my steak so that there is a little pink in the middle.
Do you have any to dip the chicken fingers in?
Everything is thank you.
I can't eat another .
We'll have coffee while we look at the dessert .
You can put it all on one , thanks.
English Pronunciation Tips
English Pronunciation Tips

These English pronunciation tips will help you get the most out of your program.

Tip 1

Do not confuse pronunciation of words with their spelling! For example, "threw" and "through",
although spelled differently, are pronounced the same. Also, identical letters or letter clusters in
words do not always produce the same sound. For example, the "ough" in "though" and
"through" represents a different sound in each word. Learn to practise what you hear, not what
you see.

Tip 2

Imagine a sound in your mind before you say it. Try to visualize the positioning of your mouth
and face. Think about how you are going to make the sound.

Tip 3

Listen to and try to imitate. In addition to listening for specific sounds, pay attention to pauses,
the intonation of the declaimer's voice and patterns of emphasis. This can be just as important as
the pronunciation of sounds.

Tip 4

The English language has many different dialects, and words can be pronounced differently. It is
important, however, that you pronounce words clearly to ensure effective communication.
Tip 5

Finally, you must practise what you are learning! Remember that you are teaching your mouth a
new way to move. You are building muscles that you do not use in your own language. It is like
going to the gym and exercising your body. Use the program to exercise your mouth a little bit
each day.
coversation in restarurent - customer and waiter - role play in English
B. Speaking

Task 1: Work in pairs. Talk with each other about your favourite
restaurant. What do you like most about it - the food,
the ambience, the waiters, etc.?

Task 2: Read the following dialogues and then role-play them.

Customer : Waiter, there’s a dead fly swimming in my soup.
Waiter : That’s impossible, madam. Dead flies can’t swim.
Customer : Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup.
Waiter : Look, there’s a spider on the bread, he’ll catch it
for you!
Hari : Hello Ravi, How are you? I thought we could go out
to a restaurant to celebrate Mittu’s birthday.

Ravi : A great idea! We’ll give her a treat. Where shall we go?

Hari : Let Mittu come. She can decide…….Here she is!

Ravi and Hari (together): Happy Birthday, Mittu!

Mittu : Thank you. So have you decided? Where shall we go?

Hari : You choose, Mittu.

Mittu : Let’s try Asha Bhavan - that new place in Kanthi Nagar.

I’ve heard they serve a delicious spread there, especially


Ravi : It would be very crowded! Today is Saturday.

Mittu : I’ll make a booking now. Then we could be sure of getting a place. Hari, please pass me
today’s newspaper.……..Thanks ……. (Turning the pages of the newspaper) Ammm ……
mmm …….. aha here it is! 24098765. (dialling) Hello, is that Asha Bhavan? I’d like to make a
reservation for this evening. In whose name? mm... mmm... Mr. Ravi Arunkumar, please ……
that’s right …… a table for three, please ……. at 7pm. Thank you. Bye!
Ravi : It’s only 5.30 now. Let’s play some Pictionary till it’s time to leave.
7.03 pm - At the restaurant ‘Asha Bhavan’

Hari : The place looks very festive. I wonder if there is anything special happening?

Ravi : Look there’s the maitre d’ hotel, I’ll ask him (going up to a gentleman smartly dressed in
a suit) Excuse me, but is there anything special today? Your restaurant is looking very festive.

d’hotel : Good evening, sir Yes, today is the first anniversary of our restaurant. We are
expecting a large crowd. Have you made a booking?

Mittu : Yes. In the name of Mr. Arunkumar …… a table for three.

Maitre : (signalling to a lady dressed in the restaurant colours of lavender and gold) Just a
moment, madam. The hostess will show you to your table.

Hostess : Good evening! Please come with me. (Seats them at a table in a corner) Is this alright?

Mittu : Yes, thank you.

(A waiter arrives with a tray of drinks. The Hostess serves them.)

Hostess : Please enjoy your ‘welcome’ drink.

Mittu : What is it?

Hostess : It’s chilled tender coconut water with honey and mint.

Ravi : (sipping his drink) It’s delicious! Thank you!

Hostess : Excuse me. I have to see to other guests. Enjoy your meal!
(The three of them sip their drinks and look around the restaurant.)

Mittu : We’ll order the food a little later. Let’s enjoy the ambience of this place first.

Hari : I like the rich decor of the place and also the clever arrangement of green plants between
tables to ensure privacy.

Ravi : And the music is not too loud … we can carry on a conversation! (Catching the eye of a
waiter passing by and indicating to him that his service was required at their table by nodding his
head.) Let’s order food. (The Waiter dressed in a lavender and gold uniform appears at
their table.)

Waiter : Good evening! Would you like to go for the buffet, Sir? Madam? We serve a very good
buffet here. There is also a salad-bar.

Mittu : I think I’ll go for the salad-bar. I’ve heard they do scrumptious salads here. Is it all
freshly prepared?

Waiter : Yes, madam. All the food prepared here is fresh. Every night all left-over food is given

Hari : I’ll try the buffet. I can see quite a spread there. Can you please bring the soup to the
table, please?

Waiter : Certainly, sir. Which would you prefer? ….. the chicken
–noodle soup or the baby corn–mushroom soup?

Hari : The baby corn-mushroom, please.

Waiter : And, what about you, Sir?

Ravi : Do you have any à la carte service?

Waiter : Of course, Sir. I’ll get you the menu-card. (brings Ravi a menu-card)

Ravi : Give me a few minutes please.

Waiter : Would you care for some hors-d’oeuvres?

Ravi : No,thank you. We’ll start with the soup. (The waiter leaves while Ravi studies the menu
card) They serve quite a variety of food here. There’s Chinese, Italian, Mexican, as well as
Lebanese, in addition to Indian. Everything is also very reasonably priced! This dish of Tacos is
only Rs. 75, and it has prawn, cuttlefish, and lots of vegetables in it, from its description on the
menu …. But it would be too heavy for me ….Mmm…let me see ….. shall I have a plate of
vegetable spring rolls? … or, ….. maybe, I’ll go for soup and kebabs ….? …. Oh dear, this is so
difficult. (Mittu returns to the table with a plate full of salad.)

Mittu : Come on Ravi, the waiter is waiting. Have a dish of steamed vegetables and some pita
bread. Or, since you have been showing off your French, try a French dish!

Ravi : They don’t have any. I think I’ll have the soup and vegetable cutlets.
(The waiter returns with the soup and serves them.)

Ravi : I’ll have the same soup and a plate of vegetable cutlets.

Waiter : Very good, Sir. (Returns with the soup and cutlets and serves Ravi.) Enjoy your meal,
Sir, …. Madam.
Ravi : Bon appétit!
Mittu : What does that mean, now?
Ravi : It’s like saying ‘Enjoy your meal’ in English. (They eat in silence for a while, enjoying
the music and the aromatic food on their table.)
Hari : This buffet is superb. They have such a variety of vegetables and salads. This corn and
raw mango salad is out of this world! How’s your cutlet, Ravi?
Ravi : It’s good. I’m glad they haven’t added too many spices in it. It has a nutty flavour.
(Noticing some activity at the entrance of the restaurant.) Look, some celebrities have come in.
O, I recognise that young starlet Faguni. I wonder who the other two people are?
Hari : I recognise that gentleman ….. He does a cookery show on DD every Wednesday and
runs a restaurant in Mumbai, that serves only Parsi food.
Mittu : And I know who that elegant lady is …. She is Lajmi Uday Sing, the gourmet cook who
writes a weekly column on food in ‘The Bondhu’ every Saturday. Okay, people, are we done?
Or, does anyone want dessert?
Hari : Of course I want dessert! There is such a tempting spread on the counter.
(Hari leaves to fetch the dessert.)
Waiter : Would you like some dessert, sir? Here is the menu card.
Ravi : Yes, please. I’d like the date pancake.
Mittu : I don’t think I’ll have any, thank you. (They eat their dessert.)
Ravi : (To the waiter) Could I have the cheque, please?
Waiter : What about some coffee, Sir? Ravi, Hari, Mittu : No, thank you! (The waiter returns
with the bill. Ravi pays. Waiter takes it to the Cashier.)
(The Hostess comes to their table.)
Hostess: Did you enjoy your meal? Was everything alright?
Ravi : O, yes! Everything was perfect! We enjoyed the meal very much.
Hari : I was wondering if you did any outdoor catering?
Hostess: Yes sir, we do. In addition to the food we also arrange for the crockery, cutlery, as well
as serving.
Hari : Here is my card. Perhaps we could discuss this in detail when you are not so busy.
Hostess: Certainly, Sir. Here is our card. In case I am not available, my assistant Najab Hussain
will be able to help you.
Hari : Thank you so much. Goodnight!
Ravi : We had a very pleasant evening. Goodnight!
Mittu : Thank you, my friends. I had a lovely birthday dinner. Goodnight!

Going to Restaurants
A Role-play for Ordering Food

Time: 1 hour
The purpose of this lesson is to give false beginners the skills to order food in a restaurant.
This lesson follows a simple format of an introduction and discussion, followed by a role-play activity.
The teacher will need to print off and photocopy four sheets: restaurant menus, the waiters' activity sheet,
the customers' activity sheet, and the role-play prompts.
Tell the students that they will be ordering food from restaurants today. Invite one student up to the front
and give the student a menu. After the student has had a short time to look at the menu, say,"May I take
your order?"
Usually, the student will say something very basic, "Hamburger." If this is the case,
I walk to my pretend
kitchen, cook up a pretend hamburger, and when I am done, pretend to spit in it. The class will usually
laugh and the student who ordered it may be surprised.
If the student gives a more sophisticated answer, then I write it on the board and then we begin to discuss
other ways of ordering food.
The purpose of the above demonstration is a lesson in pragmatic competence. Just barking out orders
can be perceived as being rude and may have real consequences. After the student sits back down, I ask
the class why I spit in the student's imaginary hamburger.
As a class we briefly discuss ways to order food: I'll have a hamburger, please. I'd like the seafood
spaghetti. Then we go over other aspects of the conversation to the right.
Role-play Activity:
Now, comes the real focus of the class: a role-play activity to practice ordering food.. Divide the class into
three: one third of the class will begome restaurant waiters and the other two thirds will partner up and go
around to the various restaurants and order food.
The waiters should receive their 'Special of the Day' prompt cards and their activity sheet. As customers
visit their restaurants, waiters have to write down the orders on their activity sheets. Likewise, the
customers write down what they ordered on the customer activity sheets.
Now, if you want to throw in an unscripted wrench into the works, you can hand out the complaint cards
to the customers and see how both customers and waiters react. You can also instruct a few waiters to be
rude and insulting on purpose.
There are also these optional support materials:
Restaurant Cloze Activity
Restaurant Crossword
Target Language:
Waiter: Welcome to Antico's. Here are your menus. Today's special is grilled
salmon. I'll be back to take your order in a minute.
Waiter: Are you ready to order?
Customer 1: I'd like the seafood spaghetti.
Waiter: And you?
Customer 2: I'll have a hamburger and fries.
Waiter: Would you like anything to drink?
Customer 1: I'll have a coke, please.
Waiter: And for you?
Customer 2: Just water, please.
Waiter: OK. So that's one seafood spaghetti, one hamburger and fries, one coke,
and one water. I'll take your menus.
Waiter: Here is your food. Enjoy your meal.
Waiter: How was everything?
Customers 2: Delicious, thanks.
Waiter: Would you like anything for dessert?
Customer 1: No, just the bill please.

Lesson Plan: At a Restaurant

Eating out is fun and exciting. It allows one to experience new taste sensations. It allows one to
see unique dining settings and ambiances. It allows one to save time and effort since someone
else does the cooking and cleaning up. There are any number of expression you are likely to
encounter at a restaurant. Below are just a few of them.

English Expressions

Expression Response
By a waiter
May I take your order? Could I have a few minutes, please?
Are you ready to order sir? Yes, I'll have the salmon.
How would you like ( ... your steak)? Medium rare, please.
You have a choice of ( ...baked or mashed I'll have the mashed.
Would you care ( ...for something to drink)? Yes, I’ll have an iced tea.
May I get you anything else? No, I'm fine thanks.

By a customer
Could I get another ( ... roll, please)? Certainly, I will bring it right away.
Could I see the (... menu)? One moment, please.
This steak is (... still bloody. Could you have the Right away, ma'am.
chef cook it a little more)?
This isn't what I ordered, (... I wanted a BLT I'm so sorry sir. It's my first day and I’m still a
and you gave me meat loaf)? little confused. confused.confused.
Can I get the check, please? Right away, sir.
Once you have eaten, or maybe before you order you may describe the food just eaten to your
dining companion. You may also want to know how something may taste before ordering
it. There are a number of words that can be used to describe food. Look at these examples.
Words used to describe food
Bland Rich Spicy Salty
Sweet Sour Bitter Hot

Ways to prepare food

Pickled Baked Boiled
Broiled Fried Sautéed
Words to describe the taste of food
Delicious Awful Good Tasty
Yummy Yucky Disgusting
English Dialogue
Students should work together in pairs and read the following dialogue, one student reading one
part, the other student reading the other. Note the expressions used in the dialogue and the
progression of the conversation. The dialogue can be used as a model to have similar

Waiter: Welcome to Kasey’s Kitchen. Do you have a reservation?

Customer: Yes, the name is Johnson, Paul.
Waiter: Ah, yes, here you are. That was a party for one, correct?
Customer: Yes.
Waiter: Right this way. Here’s the menu. I’ll return in a moment to take your order.
Waiter: Are you ready to order, sir?
Customer: Yes, I’ll have the T-bone steak.
Waiter: How would you like that cooked?
Customer: Well done, please.
Waiter: You have a choice of potatoes- French fried, mashed, or baked.
Customer: I’ll have the baked potato.
Waiter: Would you like that with butter or sour cream or both?
Customer: I’m on a diet, so only butter.
Waiter: The vegetables today are corn on the cob, peas and carrots, or broccoli.
Customer: I’ll take the corn on the cob.
Waiter: And what would you like for dessert?
Customer: What do you have?
Waiter: We have apple, cherry, and lemon meringue pie, chocolate and vanilla cake, peach
cobbler, and
chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry ice cream.
Customer: I’ll take the cherry pie, a la mode, please.
Waiter: Would you care for something to drink?
Customer: I’ll take a large ice tea with my meal and a cup of black coffee with dessert.
Waiter: Very good sir. Enjoy you meal.
Customer: Thanks.

After reading, close your book and tell your partner a summary of the dialogue. Then switch and
have your partner tell his or her summary. Start like this: This dialogue is about a man in a
restaurant ordering ...This may seem silly, since you both already know what the dialogue is
about, but the purpose is to practice using your English, not to give information or test your
reading skills.

Conversation Activities

1. Pair work- discussion

When did you go to a restaurant last? Tell your partner about it using some of the ideas for
below. Your partner should ask questions to get more information.
• when did you go
• where did you go
• what did you eat
• who did you go with
• how was the food
2. Pair work- Role Play
The situation: At a restaurant
Working with a partner, role play the situation, using the information below
Use the menu below to order a meal.
The roles: a waiter, a customer

One of the last things done before opening is when the chef will describe any specialty
items, soup of the day etc., being featured for the evening. Listen closely for any unfamiliar
ingredients, processes, preparations,etc, and get a clear understanding. With all that said,
The Greeting/Introductiion

This is the most crucial contact you will have is with the guest, for this is where the tone is
set. You must attend the table as quickly as possible, and here is where the opportunity to
"read" the table is made readily apparent.Introduce yourself along with a proper salutation,
prior to taking the beverage order. Learn to listen and observe. Are they discussing
business, is this a celebration, are they unwinding after a busy day, or do they just wish a
pleasant dinner.Whatever the case you must glean the tenor of their needs. Even when
busy, you must at least find the time to acknowledge their presence, and let them know you
will be with them as soon as possible.

DINING EXPERIENCE. You are a non-entity, and they are GUESTS. They are ladies and
gentlemen, not" folks", "you guys", or "you all. Remain polite and cordial,but not overly
My rule of thumb is: If it's not a menu item, we shouldn't be discussing it. As time passes,
you will have repeat guests that become "regulars/requests" and the above parameters will
ease a bit. During this first contact with the guest, you will need to ascertain whether or not
there are time constraints, if they want to relax awhile with their beverages,or move right
on to appetizers or dinner.
The specialties need to be described,recommendations made, if they wish, as well as a brief
overview of the menu in terms of what comes with the entrees,and any other available
options i.e., a la carte(unincluded) items like soups, sides etc. Mentally, you are a
WAITER(you too ladies), a waiter attends the guest,and sells via product knowledge. You
are not a SERVER (although for ease of reference you may be referred to as such), a server
just takes orders!
When describing "specialties/features", I visualize an empty plate and work my way up,
with respect to its' contents. I include any preparation details given by the chef.
The Process
Cocktails/apperitifs/beverages are the first items served after greeting the guest. This can
change if the guest opts to peruse the menu,deciding on a complementary wine. Serving
ladies first is preferred, especially during a formal dinner.
In most cases, dinner is served in 5 courses, excluding cocktails, after dinner drinks and
formal dinners with more than one entree.
Appetizer, soup, salad, entree,and dessert. Guests having like courses should be served
The exception will be if a guest wants soup or salad or some variable thereof with which to
start their meal.
When serving food, it should be to the guests left with the left hand,and the plate rotated in
a way the protein(as opposed to the veggie or starch) is closest to the guest. Beverages are
served from the right with the right hand, the rule being, whichever hand is the least
intrusive,and makes your body most open to the guest is preferred, backhanded serving is
Soiled plates are cleared from the right. Whether handling stemware,flatware,china etc. one
should only touch the stems,handles or rims respectively. In the case of glassware with no
handle, by the center of the glass or lower.Coffee/tea/espresso/cappucino service, handle
loop should be between 3:00-5:00 o'clock with respect to the guest.
In most fine dining venues, there is,or should be a reference point from which a guests
position number is determined. It may be the seat closest to the kitchen, or when facing a
specific direction in the dining room. Where ever it is, the order proceeds clockwise from
that point,or the first seat to the left. All items consumed must be in the right seat number,
thus, someone other than you may serve the table when the need arises.

Floor Courtesy

Courtesy should be extended foremost to the guest, but also to co-workers as well.
When walking through the dining room, the guest always has the right of way. A simple
"good evening" or pleasant expression upon eye contact can go a long way in making a
guest feel at ease. Look for telltales signs of a patron looking around as if possibly in need
of assisstance. FIND OUT WHAT IS NEEDED,rather than just telling the waiter they're
In the instance of co-workers, and due to the inherent sense of urgency,courtesy must be
When walking through the aisleways, always stay to the right as if driving a car. Yield the
right of way to waiters carrying food. NEVER DUCK UNDER A FOOD TRAY. One should move
with alacrity, but never look hurried; this tends to make diners uneasy.
When passing a waiter whose back is toward you, the verbal caution of "behind you" should
be spoken. A similar caution should be used when turning blind corners i.e. "corner" or
"coming around".
This completes my general synopsis, but is in no way exhaustive. There are still any number
of subtle nuances to be explored. This is where the "artistic" aspect of waiting comes into
play. A lot of the process is subjective, and depends on personal experience. Some
approaches are regional, some may be international. But the basics remain the same, and
the beauty is: these skills can go with you anywhere.

Teachers are often asked to evaluate learner progress during courses, maybe by preparing
progress tests. Teachers often feel unsure as to the best way to do this. Here are some ideas.

Teachers are often asked to evaluate learner progress during courses, maybe by preparing
progress tests. It can seem straightforward enough to test grammar or vocabulary with pen and
paper tests – but if our students’ work includes speaking – then it also seems necessary to assess
their speaking skills. Teachers often feel unsure as to how they could do this. Here are some
Criteria rather than marks

What’s the aim of a progress test? Often it’s to give encouragement that something is being
done well - or to point out areas where a learner’s not achieving as much as they could. With this
kind of aim, giving 'marks' may not be the most effective way to assess. An interesting
alternative option for progress tests is to base them around assessing if learners are successful
when compared against some 'can do' criteria statements (i.e. statements listing things “I can
do”), such as “I can describe what’s happening in a picture of town streets.” or “I can take part in
a discussion and explain my point of view clearly and politely.” To prepare a criteria list think of
about ten kinds of speaking that students have worked on over the course and turn them into

Too many students!

A frequent problem for teachers is when there are so many learners in one class that it seems to
make it unrealistic to assess speaking. With a list of criteria (such as those above) it now
becomes considerably more straightforward to assess even a large group. Explain to your class
what you will be doing, then, the next three or four times you set speaking tasks (i.e. where
learners work in pairs or groups), walk around class with a list of names, listening in to various
groups and noting successes, keeping track of individual 'can do’s'. Extend your assessment over
a few lessons; keep listening and adjusting your evaluation over a variety of tasks.

Speaking tasks

What are possible speaking tasks for assessment? Well, almost anything you do in normal class
work – e.g. narrating a picture story; role-plays; pair work information gap exchanges;
discussions etc. If you have a smaller class and enough time then a “three learners with one
teacher” activity is a very good way to assess, i.e. setting a task that gets the three learners to
interact together while you watch and evaluate.

Although fear of bad marks can sometimes be motivating, it’s surprising to find the amount of
power that students feel when assessing themselves. It can be a real awareness-raising
activity. Distribute a list of criteria and ask students to first write a short line comparing
themselves against each criterion (in English or in their own language) – a reflective view rather
than just a 'yes' or 'no'. Encourage 'guilt-free' honest reflection. After the writing stage, learners
can meet up in small groups and talk through their thoughts, explaining why they wrote what
they did.

• Check with customers to ensure that they are enjoying their meals and take action to
correct any problems.
• Collect payments from customers.
• Write patrons' food orders on order slips, memorize orders, or enter orders into computers
for transmittal to kitchen staff.
• Prepare checks that itemize and total meal costs and sales taxes.
• Take orders from patrons for food or beverages.
• Check patrons' identification to ensure that they meet minimum age requirements for
consumption of alcoholic beverages.
• Serve food or beverages to patrons, and prepare or serve specialty dishes at tables as
• Present menus to patrons and answer questions about menu items, making
recommendations upon request.
• Clean tables or counters after patrons have finished dining.
• Prepare hot, cold, and mixed drinks for patrons, and chill bottles of wine.

Customer and Personal Service — Knowledge of principles and processes for
providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs
assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer

Food Production — Knowledge of techniques and equipment for planting,

growing, and harvesting food products (both plant and animal) for consumption,
including storage/handling techniques.

English Language — Knowledge of the structure and content of the English

language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and

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Active Listening — Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking
time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and
not interrupting at inappropriate times.

Service Orientation — Actively looking for ways to help people.

Social Perceptiveness — Being aware of others' reactions and understanding

why they react as they do.

Speaking — Talking to others to convey information effectively.

Coordination — Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.

Monitoring — Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or

organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.

Judgment and Decision Making — Considering the relative costs and benefits of
potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.

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Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and
ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.

Oral Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking

so others will understand.

Speech Recognition — The ability to identify and understand the speech of

another person.

Speech Clarity — The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.

Arm-Hand Steadiness — The ability to keep your hand and arm steady while
moving your arm or while holding your arm and hand in one position.

Stamina — The ability to exert yourself physically over long periods of time
without getting winded or out of breath.

Trunk Strength — The ability to use your abdominal and lower back muscles to
support part of the body repeatedly or continuously over time without 'giving out'
or fatiguing.

Information Ordering — The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order

or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers,
letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).

Manual Dexterity — The ability to quickly move your hand, your hand together
with your arm, or your two hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble objects.

Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the

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Work Activities
Performing for or Working Directly with the Public — Performing for people
or dealing directly with the public. This includes serving customers in restaurants
and stores, and receiving clients or guests.

Performing General Physical Activities — Performing physical activities that

require considerable use of your arms and legs and moving your whole body, such
as climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, and handling of materials.

Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information

from all relevant sources.

Selling or Influencing Others — Convincing others to buy merchandise/goods or

to otherwise change their minds or actions.

Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates — Providing

information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written
form, e-mail, or in person.

Handling and Moving Objects — Using hands and arms in handling, installing,
positioning, and moving materials, and manipulating things.

Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships — Developing

constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining
them over time.

Judging the Qualities of Things, Services, or People — Assessing the value,

importance, or quality of things or people.

Resolving Conflicts and Negotiating with Others — Handling complaints,

settling disputes, and resolving grievances and conflicts, or otherwise negotiating
with others.

Training and Teaching Others — Identifying the educational needs of others,

developing formal educational or training programs or classes, and teaching or
instructing others

Ask open-ended questions. If you ask your child a broad question such as "What
did you do at the park?" you'll get a much more detailed answer than if you ask a
yes or no question like "Did you have fun at the park?" If she's slow to answer, then
be more specific: "What equipment did you play on?" Give your child a chance to
describe what she's been up to, and listen enthusiastically even if she gets lost in
seemingly trivial details about her day at the park. All of it is important to her. And
you might as well enjoy the conversation while it lasts; soon enough you'll have a
close-mouthed teenager sitting across the dinner table from you!

Speaking Skills - Asking Questions

Many post beginner to lower intermediate students are quite capable of expressing their ideas
reasonably well. However, they often run into problems when asking questions. This is due to a
number of causes: i.e., teachers are the ones that usually ask questions, the inversion of the
auxiliary verb and subject can be especially tricky for many students. This simple lesson focuses
specifically on the question form and helping students gain skill while switching tenses in the
question form.
Aim: Improving speaking confidence when using question forms
Activity: Intensive auxiliary review followed by student gap question exercises.
Level: Lower-intermediate
• Focus on auxiliary verb usage by making a number of statements in tenses
the students are familiar with. Ask students to identify the auxiliary verb in
each case.
• Ask a student or students to explain the underlying scheme of the object
question form (i.e., ? word Auxiliary Subject Verb). Have students give a
number of examples in different tenses.
• Split students up into pairs. Distribute worksheet and ask students to ask an
appropriate questions for the given answer taking turns.
• Follow-up check of questions either by circulating through the student pairs
or as a group.
• Ask students to each take the second exercise (one for Student A the other
for Student B) and complete the gaps by asking their partner for the missing
• Solidify question forms by quickly playing a verb inversion game using the
various tenses (i.e., Teacher: I live in the city. Student: Where do you live?
Asking Questions
Exercise 1: Ask an appropriate question for the response
• A steak, please.
• Oh, I stayed at home and watched tv.
• She is reading a book at the moment.
• We are going to visit France.
• I usually get up at 7 o'clock.
• No, he is single.
• For about 2 years.
• I was washing up when he arrived.
Exercise 2: Ask questions to fill the gaps with the missing information
Student A
Frank was born in ______ (where?) in 1977. He went to school in Buenos Aires for ______ (how
long?) before moving to Denver. He misses _______ (what?), but he enjoys studying and living
in Denver. In fact, he _____ (what?) in Denver for over 4 years. Currently, he _________
(what?) at the University of Colorado where he is going to receive his Bachelor of Science next
______ (when?). After he receives his degree, he is going to return to Buenos Aires to marry
_____ (who?) and begin a career in research. Alice ______ (what?) at the University in Buenos
Aires and is also going to receive ______ (what?) next May. They met in _____ (where?) in
1995 while they were hiking together in the ______ (where?). They have been engaged for
________ (how long?).
Student B
Frank was born in Buenos Aires in ______ (when?). He went to school in _______
(where?) for 12 years before moving to ______ (where?). He misses living in Buenos
Aires, but he enjoys ________ (what?) in Denver. In fact, he has lived in Denver for
______ (how long?). Currently, he is studying at the ______ (where?) where he is
going to receive his _______ (what?) next June. After he receives his degree, he is
going to return to _____ (where?) to marry his fiance Alice and begin a career in
______ (what?). Alice studies Art History at the ________ (where?) and is also going to
receive a degree in Art History next _____ (when?). They met in Peru in _____
(when?) while they _______ (what?) together in the Andes. They have been engaged
for three years.

Give groups five minutes to try to put the puzzle together. Remind them to only use their
assigned word and to try to communicate by varying their vocal characteristics. Ask students to
share their insights on what happened during the activity. Discuss how students were able to
communicate vocally, even when the words they used were nonsense.
I See What You are Saying
Divide students into groups of three. Near each group, place two chairs back to back. Ask two
students to sit in the chairs. Tell the third student to face one of the sitting students. Ask the
sitting student facing the standing student to describe a funny situation he or she has experienced.
The person sitting with his or her back to the speaker should listen closely. The person facing the
storyteller should carefully observe the speaker¡¦s facial expressions, gestures, and other
nonverbal movements.
Tell the person who sat with his or her back to the speaker to report to his or her group what the
story was. Tell groups to compare perceptions of the student who watched the speaker and the
participant who only listened. Discuss the following questions with the entire group:
- Did the observers tend to see and hear the same message as the listener? Why or why not?
- How did the speakers feel knowing that their words and actions were being closely monitored?
In real-life situations, how do you handle feelings of being watched by others as you speak?
- How does nonverbal communication affect communication with employees with disabilities
such as visual impairments or hearing impairments?
What¡¦s In It For Me?
Before the class session, choose a short article from a newspaper, magazine, or journal to share
with the class. The subject isn¡¦t important, but the article should have a lot of details in it.
Casually mention at the beginning of a class period that you read an interesting article and would
like to share it with them. Read the article to the class. After you¡¦ve finished reading the article,
pull out a one dollar bill and say, ¡§Okay, I¡¦ve got a few questions for you based on the article
you just heard. Whoever gets all the questions right wins this dollar.¡¨ Have each student take out
a blank sheet of paper. Ask students eight to ten questions based on details from the article. Ask
them to write their answers on the sheet of paper. Have students switch papers and then tell them
the answers. Ask if anyone knew the answers to all of the questions. It is unlikely that any one
person will have answered all of the questions correctly. Give the dollar bill to the student with
the most correct answers. Say to students, ¡§You all heard the story, yet few of you could
remember very much about it.¡¨ Ask students why they didn¡¦t remember much after listening to
the story. Discuss how they could improve their listening skills and whether they would have
listened more attentively if they had known ahead of time that there would be a prize. Discuss
how the four stages of active listening could have helped them.
Game Shows
Divide students into three teams. Ask Team A to prepare a six-question short-answer quiz on
vocal communication. Allow five minutes. Ask Teams B and C to review their class notes on the
topic while Team A prepares its quiz. Tell Team A to ask Team B one of its questions. If Team
B cannot answer the question or answers incorrectly, Team C may try to answer the question.
Team A directs its next question to Team C first and repeats the process. Team A continues to
ask questions until the quiz is done.
Ask Team B to prepare a similar quiz on verbal communication. Ask Teams A and C to review
their class notes on verbal communication while Team B prepares its quiz. Repeat the quiz
process from above. Ask Team C to prepare a similar quiz on listening skills while Teams A and
B review their class notes. Repeat the quiz process again.
Listening in Motion
Divide students into pairs. Ask partners to take turns explaining a concept learned in one of their
other classes. For example, they might explain how to write a geometry proof, or what a
feudalistic governmental system is, or the theme of a book they read in literature. Remind the
listening partner in each pair to use the active listening techniques you have taught (such as
mirroring, paraphrasing, summarizing, self-disclosure, and clarifying questions). Spend a minute
or two with each pair to make sure they are using active listening skills correctly. Offer praise or
suggestions for improvement when necessary. Ask each pair to demonstrate to another pair their
effective use of active listening skills.
Listen to What I Hear
Ask two volunteers to give you directions to their homes. Practice good listening techniques with
the first person and poor listening techniques with the second. Ask students what you did that
showed you were a good listener in the first example and what you did that showed you were a
poor listener in the second.

Teaching Speaking
Strategies for Developing Speaking Skills
Students often think that the ability to speak a language is the product of language learning, but
speaking is also a crucial part of the language learning process. Effective instructors teach
students speaking strategies -- using minimal responses, recognizing scripts, and using language
to talk about language -- that they can use to help themselves expand their knowledge of the
language and their confidence in using it. These instructors help students learn to speak so that
the students can use speaking to learn.
1. Using minimal responses
Language learners who lack confidence in their ability to participate successfully in oral
interaction often listen in silence while others do the talking. One way to encourage such learners
to begin to participate is to help them build up a stock of minimal responses that they can use in
different types of exchanges. Such responses can be especially useful for beginners.
Minimal responses are predictable, often idiomatic phrases that conversation participants use to
indicate understanding, agreement, doubt, and other responses to what another speaker is saying.
Having a stock of such responses enables a learner to focus on what the other participant is
saying, without having to simultaneously plan a response.
2. Recognizing scripts
Some communication situations are associated with a predictable set of spoken exchanges -- a
script. Greetings, apologies, compliments, invitations, and other functions that are influenced by
social and cultural norms often follow patterns or scripts. So do the transactional exchanges
involved in activities such as obtaining information and making a purchase. In these scripts, the
relationship between a speaker's turn and the one that follows it can often be anticipated.
Instructors can help students develop speaking ability by making them aware of the scripts for
different situations so that they can predict what they will hear and what they will need to say in
response. Through interactive activities, instructors can give students practice in managing and
varying the language that different scripts contain.
3. Using language to talk about language
Language learners are often too embarrassed or shy to say anything when they do not understand
another speaker or when they realize that a conversation partner has not understood them.
Instructors can help students overcome this reticence by assuring them that misunderstanding
and the need for clarification can occur in any type of interaction, whatever the participants'
language skill levels. Instructors can also give students strategies and phrases to use for
clarification and comprehension check.
By encouraging students to use clarification phrases in class when misunderstanding occurs, and
by responding positively when they do, instructors can create an authentic practice environment
within the classroom itself. As they develop control of various clarification strategies, students
will gain confidence in their ability to manage the various communication situations that they
may encounter outside the classroom.

Teaching Speaking
Many language learners regard speaking ability as the measure of knowing a language. These
learners define fluency as the ability to converse with others, much more than the ability to read,
write, or comprehend oral language. They regard speaking as the most important skill they can
acquire, and they assess their progress in terms of their accomplishments in spoken
Language learners need to recognize that speaking involves three areas of knowledge:
• Mechanics (pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary): Using the right words in the right
order with the correct pronunciation
• Functions (transaction and interaction): Knowing when clarity of message is essential
(transaction/information exchange) and when precise understanding is not required
(interaction/relationship building)
• Social and cultural rules and norms (turn-taking, rate of speech, length of pauses between
speakers, relative roles of participants): Understanding how to take into account who is
speaking to whom, in what circumstances, about what, and for what reason.
In the communicative model of language teaching, instructors help their students develop this
body of knowledge by providing authentic practice that prepares students for real-life
communication situations. They help their students develop the ability to produce grammatically
correct, logically connected sentences that are appropriate to specific contexts, and to do so using
acceptable (that is, comprehensible) pronunciation.
Teaching Speaking
Goals and Techniques for Teaching Speaking
The goal of teaching speaking skills is communicative efficiency. Learners should be able to
make themselves understood, using their current proficiency to the fullest. They should try to
avoid confusion in the message due to faulty pronunciation, grammar, or vocabulary, and to
observe the social and cultural rules that apply in each communication situation.
To help students develop communicative efficiency in speaking, instructors can use a balanced
activities approach that combines language input, structured output, and communicative output.
Language input comes in the form of teacher talk, listening activities, reading passages, and the
language heard and read outside of class. It gives learners the material they need to begin
producing language themselves.
Language input may be content oriented or form oriented.
• Content-oriented input focuses on information, whether it is a simple weather
report or an extended lecture on an academic topic. Content-oriented input
may also include descriptions of learning strategies and examples of their
• Form-oriented input focuses on ways of using the language: guidance from
the teacher or another source on vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar
(linguistic competence); appropriate things to say in specific contexts
(discourse competence); expectations for rate of speech, pause length, turn-
taking, and other social aspects of language use (sociolinguistic
competence); and explicit instruction in phrases to use to ask for clarification
and repair miscommunication (strategic competence).
In the presentation part of a lesson, an instructor combines content-oriented and form-oriented
input. The amount of input that is actually provided in the target language depends on students'
listening proficiency and also on the situation. For students at lower levels, or in situations where
a quick explanation on a grammar topic is needed, an explanation in English may be more
appropriate than one in the target language.
For more on input, see Guidelines for Instruction.
Structured output focuses on correct form. In structured output, students may have options for
responses, but all of the options require them to use the specific form or structure that the teacher
has just introduced.
Structured output is designed to make learners comfortable producing specific language items
recently introduced, sometimes in combination with previously learned items. Instructors often
use structured output exercises as a transition between the presentation stage and the practice
stage of a lesson plan. textbook exercises also often make good structured output practice
In communicative output, the learners' main purpose is to complete a task, such as obtaining
information, developing a travel plan, or creating a video. To complete the task, they may use the
language that the instructor has just presented, but they also may draw on any other vocabulary,
grammar, and communication strategies that they know. In communicative output activities, the
criterion of success is whether the learner gets the message across. Accuracy is not a
consideration unless the lack of it interferes with the message.
In everyday communication, spoken exchanges take place because there is some sort of
information gap between the participants. Communicative output activities involve a similar real
information gap. In order to complete the task, students must reduce or eliminate the information
gap. In these activities, language is a tool, not an end in itself.
In a balanced activities approach, the teacher uses a variety of activities from these different
categories of input and output. Learners at all proficiency levels, including beginners, benefit
from this variety; it is more motivating, and it is also more likely to result in effective language

Teaching Listening
Listening is the language modality that is used most frequently. It has been estimated that adults
spend almost half their communication time listening, and students may receive as much as 90%
of their in-school information through listening to instructors and to one another. Often,
however, language learners do not recognize the level of effort that goes into developing
listening ability.
Far from passively receiving and recording aural input, listeners actively involve themselves in
the interpretation of what they hear, bringing their own background knowledge and linguistic
knowledge to bear on the information contained in the aural text. Not all listening is the same;
casual greetings, for example, require a different sort of listening capability than do academic
lectures. Language learning requires intentional listening that employs strategies for identifying
sounds and making meaning from them.
Listening involves a sender (a person, radio, television), a message, and a receiver (the listener).
Listeners often must process messages as they come, even if they are still processing what they
have just heard, without backtracking or looking ahead. In addition, listeners must cope with the
sender's choice of vocabulary, structure, and rate of delivery. The complexity of the listening
process is magnified in second language contexts, where the receiver also has incomplete control
of the language.
Given the importance of listening in language learning and teaching, it is essential for language
teachers to help their students become effective listeners. In the communicative approach to
language teaching, this means modeling listening strategies and providing listening practice in
authentic situations: those that learners are likely to encounter when they use the language
outside the classroom.
Teaching Listening
Goals and Techniques for Teaching Listening
Instructors want to produce students who, even if they do not have complete control of the
grammar or an extensive lexicon, can fend for themselves in communication situations. In the
case of listening, this means producing students who can use listening strategies to maximize
their comprehension of aural input, identify relevant and non-relevant information, and tolerate
less than word-by-word comprehension.
Focus: The Listening Process
To accomplish this goal, instructors focus on the process of listening rather than on its product.
• They develop students' awareness of the listening process and listening strategies by
asking students to think and talk about how they listen in their native language.
• They allow students to practice the full repertoire of listening strategies by using
authentic listening tasks.
• They behave as authentic listeners by responding to student communication as a listener
rather than as a teacher.
• When working with listening tasks in class, they show students the strategies that will
work best for the listening purpose and the type of text. They explain how and why
students should use the strategies.
• They have students practice listening strategies in class and ask them to practice outside
of class in their listening assignments. They encourage students to be conscious of what
they're doing while they complete listening tape assignments.
• They encourage students to evaluate their comprehension and their strategy use
immediately after completing an assignment. They build comprehension checks into in-
class and out-of-class listening assignments, and periodically review how and when to
use particular strategies.
• They encourage the development of listening skills and the use of listening strategies by
using the target language to conduct classroom business: making announcements,
assigning homework, describing the content and format of tests.
• They do not assume that students will transfer strategy use from one task to another. They
explicitly mention how a particular strategy can be used in a different type of listening
task or with another skill.
By raising students' awareness of listening as a skill that requires active engagement, and by
explicitly teaching listening strategies, instructors help their students develop both the ability and
the confidence to handle communication situations they may encounter beyond the classroom.
In this way they give their students the foundation for communicative competence in the new
Integrating Metacognitive Strategies
Before listening: Plan for the listening task
• Set a purpose or decide in advance what to listen for
• Decide if more linguistic or background knowledge is needed
• Determine whether to enter the text from the top down (attend to the overall meaning) or
from the bottom up (focus on the words and phrases)
During and after listening: Monitor comprehension
• Verify predictions and check for inaccurate guesses
• Decide what is and is not important to understand
• Listen/view again to check comprehension
• Ask for help
After listening: Evaluate comprehension and strategy use
• Evaluate comprehension in a particular task or area
• Evaluate overall progress in listening and in particular types of listening tasks
• Decide if the strategies used were appropriate for the purpose and for the task
• Modify strategies if necessary
Using Authentic Materials and Situations
Authentic materials and situations prepare students for the types of listening they will need to do
when using the language outside the classroom.
One-Way Communication
• Radio and television programs
• Public address announcements (airports, train/bus stations, stores)
• Speeches and lectures
• Telephone customer service recordings
• Help students identify the listening goal: to obtain specific information; to decide whether
to continue listening; to understand most or all of the message
• Help students outline predictable sequences in which information may be presented:
who-what-when-where (news stories); who-flight number-arriving/departing-gate
number (airport announcements); "for [function], press [number]" (telephone recordings)
• Help students identify key words/phrases to listen for
Two-Way Communication
In authentic two-way communication, the listener focuses on the speaker's meaning rather than
the speaker's language. The focus shifts to language only when meaning is not clear. Note the
difference between the teacher as teacher and the teacher as authentic listener in the dialogues in
the popup screens.
Teaching Listening
Strategies for Developing Listening Skills
Language learning depends on listening. Listening provides the aural input that serves as the
basis for language acquisition and enables learners to interact in spoken communication.
Effective language instructors show students how they can adjust their listening behavior to deal
with a variety of situations, types of input, and listening purposes. They help students develop a
set of listening strategies and match appropriate strategies to each listening situation.
Listening Strategies
Listening strategies are techniques or activities that contribute directly to the comprehension and
recall of listening input. Listening strategies can be classified by how the listener processes the
Top-down strategies are listener based; the listener taps into background knowledge of the topic,
the situation or context, the type of text, and the language. This background knowledge activates
a set of expectations that help the listener to interpret what is heard and anticipate what will
come next. Top-down strategies include
• listening for the main idea
• predicting
• drawing inferences
• summarizing
Bottom-up strategies are text based; the listener relies on the language in the message, that is, the
combination of sounds, words, and grammar that creates meaning. Bottom-up strategies include
• listening for specific details
• recognizing cognates
• recognizing word-order patterns
Strategic listeners also use metacognitive strategies to plan, monitor, and evaluate their listening.
• They plan by deciding which listening strategies will serve best in a particular situation.
• They monitor their comprehension and the effectiveness of the selected strategies.
• They evaluate by determining whether they have achieved their listening comprehension
goals and whether the combination of listening strategies selected was an effective one.
Listening for Meaning
To extract meaning from a listening text, students need to follow four basic steps:
• Figure out the purpose for listening. Activate background knowledge of the topic in order
to predict or anticipate content and identify appropriate listening strategies.
• Attend to the parts of the listening input that are relevant to the identified purpose and
ignore the rest. This selectivity enables students to focus on specific items in the input
and reduces the amount of information they have to hold in short-term memory in order
to recognize it.
• Select top-down and bottom-up strategies that are appropriate to the listening task and
use them flexibly and interactively. Students' comprehension improves and their
confidence increases when they use top-down and bottom-up strategies simultaneously to
construct meaning.
• Check comprehension while listening and when the listening task is over. Monitoring
comprehension helps students detect inconsistencies and comprehension failures,
directing them to use alternate strategies.
Teaching Listening
Developing Listening Activities
As you design listening tasks, keep in mind that complete recall of all the information in an aural
text is an unrealistic expectation to which even native speakers are not usually held. Listening
exercises that are meant to train should be success-oriented and build up students' confidence in
their listening ability.
Construct the listening activity around a contextualized task.
Contextualized listening activities approximate real-life tasks and give the listener an idea of the
type of information to expect and what to do with it in advance of the actual listening. A
beginning level task would be locating places on a map (one way) or exchanging name and
address information (two way). At an intermediate level students could follow directions for
assembling something (one way) or work in pairs to create a story to tell to the rest of the class
(two way).
Define the activity's instructional goal and type of response.
Each activity should have as its goal the improvement of one or more specific listening skills. A
listening activity may have more than one goal or outcome, but be careful not to overburden the
attention of beginning or intermediate listeners.
Recognizing the goal(s) of listening comprehension in each listening situation will help students
select appropriate listening strategies.
• Identification: Recognizing or discriminating specific aspects of the message, such as
sounds, categories of words, morphological distinctions
• Orientation: Determining the major facts about a message, such as topic, text type, setting
• Main idea comprehension: Identifying the higher-order ideas
• Detail comprehension: Identifying supporting details
• Replication: Reproducing the message orally or in writing
Check the level of difficulty of the listening text.
The factors listed below can help you judge the relative ease or difficulty of a listening text for a
particular purpose and a particular group of students.
How is the information organized? Does the story line, narrative, or instruction conform to
familiar expectations? Texts in which the events are presented in natural chronological order,
which have an informative title, and which present the information following an obvious
organization (main ideas first, details and examples second) are easier to follow.
How familiar are the students with the topic? Remember that misapplication of background
knowledge due to cultural differences can create major comprehension difficulties.
Does the text contain redundancy? At the lower levels of proficiency, listeners may find short,
simple messages easier to process, but students with higher proficiency benefit from the natural
redundancy of the language.
Does the text involve multiple individuals and objects? Are they clearly differentiated? It is
easier to understand a text with a doctor and a patient than one with two doctors, and it is even
easier if they are of the opposite sex. In other words, the more marked the differences, the easier
the comprehension.
Does the text offer visual support to aid in the interpretation of what the listeners hear? Visual
aids such as maps, diagrams, pictures, or the images in a video help contextualize the listening
input and provide clues to meaning.
Use pre-listening activities to prepare students for what they are going to hear or
The activities chosen during pre-listening may serve as preparation for listening in several ways.
During pre-listening the teacher may
• assess students' background knowledge of the topic and linguistic content of the text
• provide students with the background knowledge necessary for their comprehension of
the listening passage or activate the existing knowledge that the students possess
• clarify any cultural information which may be necessary to comprehend the passage
• make students aware of the type of text they will be listening to, the role they will play,
and the purpose(s) for which they will be listening
• provide opportunities for group or collaborative work and for background reading or
class discussion activities
Sample pre-listening activities:
• looking at pictures, maps, diagrams, or graphs
• reviewing vocabulary or grammatical structures
• reading something relevant
• constructing semantic webs (a graphic arrangement of concepts or words showing how
they are related)
• predicting the content of the listening text
• going over the directions or instructions for the activity
• doing guided practice
Match while-listening activities to the instructional goal, the listening purpose,
and students' proficiency level.
While-listening activities relate directly to the text, and students do them do during or
immediately after the time they are listening. Keep these points in mind when planning while-
listening activities:
If students are to complete a written task during or immediately after listening, allow them to
read through it before listening. Students need to devote all their attention to the listening task.
Be sure they understand the instructions for the written task before listening begins so that they
are not distracted by the need to figure out what to do.
Keep writing to a minimum during listening. Remember that the primary goal is comprehension,
not production. Having to write while listening may distract students from this primary goal. If a
written response is to be given after listening, the task can be more demanding.
Organize activities so that they guide listeners through the text. Combine global activities such
as getting the main idea, topic, and setting with selective listening activities that focus on details
of content and form.
Use questions to focus students' attention on the elements of the text crucial to comprehension of
the whole. Before the listening activity begins, have students review questions they will answer
orally or in writing after listening. Listening for the answers will help students recognize the
crucial parts of the message.
Use predicting to encourage students to monitor their comprehension as they listen. Do a
predicting activity before listening, and remind students to review what they are hearing to see if
it makes sense in the context of their prior knowledge and what they already know of the topic or
events of the passage.
Give immediate feedback whenever possible. Encourage students to examine how or why their
responses were incorrect.
Sample while-listening activities
• listening with visuals
• filling in graphs and charts
• following a route on a map
• checking off items in a list
• listening for the gist
• searching for specific clues to meaning
• completing cloze (fill-in) exercises
• distinguishing between formal and informal registers
Teaching Listening
Using Textbook Listening Activities
The greatest challenges with textbook tape programs are integrating the listening experiences
into classroom instruction and keeping up student interest and motivation. These challenges arise
from the fact that most textbook listening programs emphasize product (right or wrong answer)
over process (how to get meaning from the selection) and from the fact that the listening
activities are usually carried out as an add-on, away from the classroom.
You can use the guidelines for developing listening activities given here as starting points for
evaluating and adapting textbook listening programs. At the beginning of the teaching term,
orient students to the tape program by completing the exercises in class and discussing the
different strategies they use to answer the questions. It is a good idea to periodically complete
some of the lab exercises in class to maintain the link to the regular instructional program and to
check on the effectiveness of the exercises themselves.
Integrating Listening Strategies With Textbook Audio and Video
Students can use this outline for both in-class and out-of-class listening/viewing activities. Model
and practice the use of the outline at least once in class before you ask students to use it
1. Plan for listening/viewing
• Review the vocabulary list, if you have one
• Review the worksheet, if you have one
• Review any information you have about the content of the tape/video
2. Preview the tape/video
• (tape) Use fast forward to play segments of the tape; (video) view the video without
• Identify the kind of program (news, documentary, interview, drama)
• Make a list of predictions about the content
• Decide how to divide the tape/video into sections for intensive listening/viewing
3. Listen/view intensively section by section. For each section:
• Jot down key words you understand
• Answer the worksheet questions pertaining to the section
• If you don't have a worksheet, write a short summary of the section
4. Monitor your comprehension
• Does it fit with the predictions you made?
• Does your summary for each section make sense in relation to the other sections?
5. Evaluate your listening comprehension progress
Teaching Listening
Assessing Listening Proficiency
You can use post-listening activities to check comprehension, evaluate listening skills and use of
listening strategies, and extend the knowledge gained to other contexts. A post-listening activity
may relate to a pre-listening activity, such as predicting; may expand on the topic or the language
of the listening text; or may transfer what has been learned to reading, speaking, or writing
In order to provide authentic assessment of students' listening proficiency, a post-listening
activity must reflect the real-life uses to which students might put information they have gained
through listening.
• It must have a purpose other than assessment
• It must require students to demonstrate their level of listening comprehension by
completing some task.
To develop authentic assessment activities, consider the type of response that listening to a
particular selection would elicit in a non-classroom situation. For example, after listening to a
weather report one might decide what to wear the next day; after listening to a set of instructions,
one might repeat them to someone else; after watching and listening to a play or video, one
might discuss the story line with friends.
Use this response type as a base for selecting appropriate post-listening tasks. You can then
develop a checklist or rubric that will allow you to evaluate each student's comprehension of
specific parts of the aural text. (See Assessing Learning for more on checklists and rubrics.)
For example, for listening practice you have students listen to a weather report. Their purpose for
listening is to be able to advise a friend what to wear the next day. As a post-listening activity,
you ask students to select appropriate items of clothing from a collection you have assembled, or
write a note telling the friend what to wear, or provide oral advice to another student (who has
not heard the weather report). To evaluate listening comprehension, you use a checklist
containing specific features of the forecast, marking those that are reflected in the student's
clothing recommendations.

Teaching Speaking: Activities to Promote

Speaking in a Second Language
Hayriye Kayi
University of Nevada (Nevada,USA)

Speaking is "the process of building and sharing meaning through the use of verbal
and non-verbal symbols, in a variety of contexts" (Chaney, 1998, p. 13). Speaking is
a crucial part of second language learning and teaching. Despite its importance, for
many years, teaching speaking has been undervalued and English language
teachers have continued to teach speaking just as a repetition of drills or
memorization of dialogues. However, today's world requires that the goal of
teaching speaking should improve students' communicative skills, because, only in
that way, students can express themselves and learn how to follow the social and
cultural rules appropriate in each communicative circumstance. In order to teach
second language learners how to speak in the best way possible, some speaking
activities are provided below, that can be applied to ESL and EFL classroom
settings, together with suggestions for teachers who teach oral language.

What Is "Teaching Speaking"?

What is meant by "teaching speaking" is to teach ESL learners to:

• Produce the English speech sounds and sound patterns

• Use word and sentence stress, intonation patterns and the rhythm of the
second language.
• Select appropriate words and sentences according to the proper social
setting, audience, situation and subject matter.
• Organize their thoughts in a meaningful and logical sequence.
• Use language as a means of expressing values and judgments.
• Use the language quickly and confidently with few unnatural pauses, which is
called as fluency. (Nunan, 2003)

How To Teach Speaking

Now many linguistics and ESL teachers agree on that students learn to speak in the
second language by "interacting". Communicative language teaching and
collaborative learning serve best for this aim. Communicative language teaching is
based on real-life situations that require communication. By using this method in
ESL classes, students will have the opportunity of communicating with each other in
the target language. In brief, ESL teachers should create a classroom environment
where students have real-life communication, authentic activities, and meaningful
tasks that promote oral language. This can occur when students collaborate in
groups to achieve a goal or to complete a task.

Activities To Promote Speaking

After a content-based lesson, a discussion can be held for various reasons. The
students may aim to arrive at a conclusion, share ideas about an event, or find
solutions in their discussion groups. Before the discussion, it is essential that the
purpose of the discussion activity is set by the teacher. In this way, the discussion
points are relevant to this purpose, so that students do not spend their time
chatting with each other about irrelevant things. For example, students can become
involved in agree/disagree discussions. In this type of discussions, the teacher can
form groups of students, preferably 4 or 5 in each group, and provide controversial
sentences like “people learn best when they read vs. people learn best when they
travel”. Then each group works on their topic for a given time period, and presents
their opinions to the class. It is essential that the speaking should be equally divided
among group members. At the end, the class decides on the winning group who
defended the idea in the best way. This activity fosters critical thinking and quick
decision making, and students learn how to express and justify themselves in polite
ways while disagreeing with the others. For efficient group discussions, it is always
better not to form large groups, because quiet students may avoid contributing in
large groups. The group members can be either assigned by the teacher or the
students may determine it by themselves, but groups should be rearranged in every
discussion activity so that students can work with various people and learn to be
open to different ideas. Lastly, in class or group discussions, whatever the aim is,
the students should always be encouraged to ask questions, paraphrase ideas,
express support, check for clarification, and so on.

Role Play
One other way of getting students to speak is role-playing. Students pretend they
are in various social contexts and have a variety of social roles. In role-play
activities, the teacher gives information to the learners such as who they are and
what they think or feel. Thus, the teacher can tell the student that "You are David,
you go to the doctor and tell him what happened last night, and…" (Harmer, 1984)

Simulations are very similar to role-plays but what makes simulations different than
role plays is that they are more elaborate. In simulations, students can bring items
to the class to create a realistic environment. For instance, if a student is acting as
a singer, she brings a microphone to sing and so on. Role plays and simulations
have many advantages. First, since they are entertaining, they motivate the
students. Second, as Harmer (1984) suggests, they increase the self-confidence of
hesitant students, because in role play and simulation activities, they will have a
different role and do not have to speak for themselves, which means they do not
have to take the same responsibility.

Information Gap
In this activity, students are supposed to be working in pairs. One student will have
the information that other partner does not have and the partners will share their
information. Information gap activities serve many purposes such as solving a
problem or collecting information. Also, each partner plays an important role
because the task cannot be completed if the partners do not provide the
information the others need. These activities are effective because everybody has
the opportunity to talk extensively in the target language.

On a given topic, students can produce ideas in a limited time. Depending on the
context, either individual or group brainstorming is effective and learners generate
ideas quickly and freely. The good characteristics of brainstorming is that the
students are not criticized for their ideas so students will be open to sharing new
Students can briefly summarize a tale or story they heard from somebody
beforehand, or they may create their own stories to tell their classmates. Story
telling fosters creative thinking. It also helps students express ideas in the format of
beginning, development, and ending, including the characters and setting a story
has to have. Students also can tell riddles or jokes. For instance, at the very
beginning of each class session, the teacher may call a few students to tell short
riddles or jokes as an opening. In this way, not only will the teacher address
students’ speaking ability, but also get the attention of the class.

Students can conduct interviews on selected topics with various people. It is a good
idea that the teacher provides a rubric to students so that they know what type of
questions they can ask or what path to follow, but students should prepare their
own interview questions. Conducting interviews with people gives students a
chance to practice their speaking ability not only in class but also outside and helps
them becoming socialized. After interviews, each student can present his or her
study to the class. Moreover, students can interview each other and "introduce" his
or her partner to the class.

Story Completion
This is a very enjoyable, whole-class, free-speaking activity for which students sit in
a circle. For this activity, a teacher starts to tell a story, but after a few sentences
he or she stops narrating. Then, each student starts to narrate from the point where
the previous one stopped. Each student is supposed to add from four to ten
sentences. Students can add new characters, events, descriptions and so on.

Before coming to class, students are asked to read a newspaper or magazine and,
in class, they report to their friends what they find as the most interesting news.
Students can also talk about whether they have experienced anything worth telling
their friends in their daily lives before class.

Playing Cards
In this game, students should form groups of four. Each suit will represent a topic.
For instance:

• Diamonds: Earning money

• Hearts: Love and relationships
• Spades: An unforgettable memory
• Clubs: Best teacher
Each student in a group will choose a card. Then, each student will write 4-5
questions about that topic to ask the other people in the group. For example:
If the topic "Diamonds: Earning Money" is selected, here are some possible
• Is money important in your life? Why?
• What is the easiest way of earning money?
• What do you think about lottery? Etc.
However, the teacher should state at the very beginning of the activity that
students are not allowed to prepare yes-no questions, because by saying yes or no
students get little practice in spoken language production. Rather, students ask
open-ended questions to each other so that they reply in complete sentences.
Picture Narrating
This activity is based on several sequential pictures. Students are asked to tell the
story taking place in the sequential pictures by paying attention to the criteria
provided by the teacher as a rubric. Rubrics can include the vocabulary or
structures they need to use while narrating.

Picture Describing
Another way to make use of pictures in a speaking activity is to give students just
one picture and having them describe what it is in the picture. For this activity
students can form groups and each group is given a different picture. Students
discuss the picture with their groups, then a spokesperson for each group describes
the picture to the whole class. This activity fosters the creativity and imagination of
the learners as well as their public speaking skills.

Find the Difference

For this activity students can work in pairs and each couple is given two different
pictures, for example, picture of boys playing football and another picture of girls
playing tennis. Students in pairs discuss the similarities and/or differences in the

Suggestions For Teachers in Teaching Speaking

Here are some suggestions for English language teachers while teaching oral

• Provide maximum opportunity to students to speak the target language by

providing a rich environment that contains collaborative work, authentic
materials and tasks, and shared knowledge.
• Try to involve each student in every speaking activity; for this aim, practice
different ways of student participation.
• Reduce teacher speaking time in class while increasing student speaking
time. Step back and observe students.
• Indicate positive signs when commenting on a student's response.
• Ask eliciting questions such as "What do you mean? How did you reach that
conclusion?" in order to prompt students to speak more.
• Provide written feedback like "Your presentation was really great. It was a
good job. I really appreciated your efforts in preparing the materials and
efficient use of your voice…"
• Do not correct students' pronunciation mistakes very often while they are
speaking. Correction should not distract student from his or her speech.
• Involve speaking activities not only in class but also out of class; contact
parents and other people who can help.
• Circulate around classroom to ensure that students are on the right track and
see whether they need your help while they work in groups or pairs.
• Provide the vocabulary beforehand that students need in speaking activities.
• Diagnose problems faced by students who have difficulty in expressing
themselves in the target language and provide more opportunities to practice
the spoken language.

Teaching speaking is a very important part of second language learning. The ability
to communicate in a second language clearly and efficiently contributes to the
success of the learner in school and success later in every phase of life. Therefore, it
is essential that language teachers pay great attention to teaching speaking. Rather
than leading students to pure memorization, providing a rich environment where
meaningful communication takes place is desired. With this aim, various speaking
activities such as those listed above can contribute a great deal to students in
developing basic interactive skills necessary for life. These activities make students
more active in the learning process and at the same time make their learning more
meaningful and fun for them.

Assessing Listening and Speaking Skills. ERIC Digest.

Even though many students have mastered basic listening and speaking skills, some students are
much more effective in their oral communication than others. And those who are more effective
communicators experience more success in school and in other areas of their lives. The skills that
can make the difference between minimal and effective communication can be taught, practiced,
and improved.
The method used for assessing oral communication skills depends on the purpose of the
assessment. A method that is appropriate for giving feedback to students who are learning a new
skill is not appropriate for evaluating students at the end of a course. However, any assessment
method should adhere to the measurement principles of reliability, validity, and fairness. The
instrument must be accurate and consistent, it must represent the abilities we wish to measure,
and it must operate in the same way with a wide range of students. The concerns of
measurement, as they relate to oral communication, are highlighted below. Detailed discussions
of speaking and listening assessment may be found in Powers (1984), Rubin and Mead (1984),
and Stiggins (1981).
Defining the domain of knowledge, skills, or attitudes to be measured is at the core of any
assessment. Most people define oral communication narrowly, focusing on speaking and
listening skills separately. Traditionally, when people describe speaking skills, they do so in a
context of public speaking. Recently, however, definitions of speaking have been expanded
(Brown 1981). One trend has been to focus on communication activities that reflect a variety of
settings: one-to-many, small group, one-to-one, and mass media. Another approach has been to
focus on using communication to achieve specific purposes: to inform, to persuade, and to solve
problems. A third trend has been to focus on basic competencies needed for everyday life -- for
example, giving directions, asking for information, or providing basic information in an
emergency situation. The latter approach has been taken in the Speech Communication
Association's guidelines for elementary and secondary students. Many of these broader views
stress that oral communication is an interactive process in which an individual alternately takes
the roles of speaker and listener, and which includes both verbal and nonverbal components.
Listening, like reading comprehension, is usually defined as a receptive skill comprising both a
physical process and an interpretive, analytical process. (See Lundsteen 1979 for a discussion of
listening.) However, this definition is often expanded to include critical listening skills (higher-
order skills such as analysis and synthesis) and nonverbal listening (comprehending the meaning
of tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures, and other nonverbal cues.) The expanded definition
of listening also emphasizes the relationship between listening and speaking.
Two methods are used for assessing speaking skills. In the observational approach, the student's
behavior is observed and assessed unobtrusively. In the structured approach, the student is asked
to perform one or more specific oral communication tasks. His or her performance on the task is
then evaluated. The task can be administered in a one-on-one setting -- with the test
administrator and one student -- or in a group or class setting. In either setting, students should
feel that they are communicating meaningful content to a real audience. Tasks should focus on
topics that all students can easily talk about, or, if they do not include such a focus, students
should be given an opportunity to collect information on the topic.
Both observational and structured approaches use a variety of rating systems. A holistic rating
captures a general impression of the student's performance. A primary trait score assesses the
student's ability to achieve a specific communication purpose -- for example, to persuade the
listener to adopt a certain point of view. Analytic scales capture the student's performance on
various aspects of communication, such as delivery, organization, content, and language. Rating
systems may describe varying degrees of competence along a scale or may indicate the presence
or absence of a characteristic.
A major aspect of any rating system is rater objectivity: Is the rater applying the scoring criteria
accurately and consistently to all students across time? The reliability of raters should be
established during their training and checked during administration or scoring of the assessment.
If ratings are made on the spot, two raters will be required for some administrations. If ratings
are recorded for later scoring, double scoring will be needed.
Testing Oral Proficiency: Difficulties and Methods

Although testing language has traditionally taken the form of testing

knowledge about language, the idea of testing communicative competence is

becoming recognized as being of great importance in second language learning. In

testing communicative competence, speaking and listening tasks are commonly

used. Those require tasks such as the completion of an information gap and role

play (Kitao & Kitao, 1996).

As language teachers, it is important for us to enhance the students’ delivery

skills, increase their confidence, and develop their methods of organization and

critical thinking skills. On the other hand, as language testers, it is necessary to

establish a careful research design and conduct a precise measurement to

determine f these goals have been met. The oral communication field needs a clear-

cut method of evaluation as can be found in discrete language skill classes such as

listening comprehension (Nakamura & Valens, 2001). Language teachers and

language testers need a method which takes subjective qualitative observations

and then transforms them into objective quantitative measures.

In testing oral proficiency, or oral skills of second language learning, four

components are emphasised. These include: vocabulary, grammar, semantics, and

phonology. Accurate assessment of limited-English speaking learners requires a

total description of the communication skills, linguistic structures, and functional

usage of the learner’s language within all social domains (Silverman, Noa, & Russel,


A critical issue in the assessment is the selection of criteria for evaluating

performance. Stiggins (as cited in Butler & Stevens, 1997) points out that the

selection of these criteria should be one of the first steps in designing performance
assessments. Students should understand ahead of time what is expected of them

and whenever possible, actually help them determine on what basis their

performance will be judged. When students are actively involved in establishing

assessment criteria for tasks, they do not only have a better understanding of what

is expected of them when they perform the tasks, but they will be able to more fully

appreciate why the criteria are important (Butler & Stevens, 1997).

This paper is divided into two sections. The first provides a brief description

of the difficulties that testers of speaking skills encounter. The second presents

different methods and approaches to testing speaking skills and oral proficiency in

second language learning.

Difficulties in testing the speaking skills:

Speaking is probably the most difficult skill to test. It involves a combination

of skills that may have no correlation with each other, and which do not lend

themselves well to objective testing. In ( Kitao & Kitao, 1996), it was mentioned that

there are not yet good answers to questions about the criteria for testing these

skills and the weighing of these factors.

It is possible to find people who can produce the different sounds of a foreign

language appropriately; hence they lack the ability to communicate their ideas

correctly. This is one of the difficulties that testers encounter when testing the oral

production of learners. However, the opposite situation could occur as well; some

people do have the ability of expressing their ideas clearly, but at the same time

they can not pronounce all the sounds correctly.

Another difficulty is the administration of speaking skills testing. That is

because it is hard to test large numbers of learners in a relatively short time.

Therefore, the examiner of an oral production is put under great pressure (Heaton,


The next difficulty discussed here is that speaking and listening skills are very

much related to each other; it is difficult to separate them. In most cases, there is

an interchange between listening and speaking, and speaking appropriately

depends on comprehending spoken input. Therefore, this has an impact on testing

speaking because the testers will not know whether they are testing purely

speaking or speaking and listening together.

Finally, the assessment and scoring of speaking skills is one of its biggest

problems. If possible, it is better to record the examinees’ performance and the

scoring will be done upon listening to the tape.

The aspects of speaking that are considered part of its assessment include

grammar, pronunciation, fluency, content, organization, and vocabulary. (Kitao &

Kitao, 1996).

Depending on the situation and the purpose of the test, testers need to

choose the appropriate methods and techniques of testing. The next section will

discuss some of these methods.

Methods of testing oral proficiency:

The assessment of performance-based tests of oral proficiency on the

basis of ACTFL levels :

In (Kenyon, 1998) the author claims that performance tasks are the

foundation of any performance-based assessment. The task he describes refers to

the open-ended stimulus serving to elicit the examinee’s performance to be

evaluated. An example of that is an oral response to an interviewer’s questions or

instructions to a role-play, or to the physical response to instructions given to the

examinee in the target language. His study was based on the Speaking Proficiency

Guidelines of the American Council on the Teaching of a Foreign Language. The

framework of that study is that the determining source of the examinees’

proficiency level lies in his/her ability to accomplish speaking tasks that are

associated with different levels of proficiency that are defined by the Guidelines.

There are four levels of proficiency in the Guidelines. They are: Novice level which is

characterized by the ability to communicate minimally in highly predictive situations

with previously learned words. Intermediate which is related to the ability to initiate,

sustain and close basic communication tasks. Advanced that is characterized by the

ability to converse fluently in participatory fashion. Superior that is related to the

ability to participate effectively in most formal and informal conversations on

practical, social, professional, and abstract topics. Between these four main levels,

there are sublevels as well.

In conducting that study, a number of students were tested by asking them

to perform some tasks that were designed in accordance with the ACTFLGuidelines.

The examinees were allowed to demonstrate the characteristics of speech at the

main levels from intermediate to superior. After analyzing the results, the author

extracts the finding that it is important to clearly construct unambiguous tasks on

performance-based assessments so that all salient features of the task are clear to

the examinee.

Kenyon states that “When students are asked to give a linguistic

performance in response to a task in a testing situation, it is paramount that the

directions to the performance-based task be absolutely clear.”

Monologue, Dialogue, and Multilogue speaking tests:

In their report Nakamura & Valens (2001) conducted a study on Japanese

graduate students at Keio University. They used three different types of speaking

tests: Monologue Speaking Test which is also called the presentation. In this type,

students were asked to perform some tasks such as; show and tell where they talk

about anything they choose. This is considered a chance to give students an

opportunity to make a small presentation. The second type is Dialogue Speaking

Test which is also known as the interview. It is an open-ended test where the

students lead a discussion with the teacher, and students in that kind of test are

required to use conversation skills that they have learned throughout the course.

The third type is Multilogue Speaking Test that is also called the discussion and

dabating. Here, the discussions are student-generated, and students are put into

groups where as a group, they decide on a topic they feel would be of interest for

the rest of the classroom.

The evaluation criteria that was used in that study was as follows:

Evaluation Items:

• Content

• Language

• Eye contact


• Comprehensibility

• Pronunciation

• Fluency

• Ability to explain an idea

Discussing and dabating:

• Able to be part of the conversation to help it flow naturally

• Uses fillers/ additional questions to include others in conversation

• Transfers skills used in dialogues to group discussions

The rating scale ranged between poor and good with the symbols from 1 to 4.

The finding of their study reveals that among the three test types, the discussion

tests was the most difficult followed by interview test and the presentation test.

In the context of Saudi Arabia, I believe that the types of tests discussed

above could be successfully used in the assessment of students who are learning

English for certain purposes such as; to study in a university abroad where the first

language is English, or to be able to work in an environment where English is used

largely as in banks or hospitals. The learners, who have these intentions, are in

need to master these skills that were tested in the study mentioned above.

Testing speaking using visual material:

Without the need to comprehend spoken or written material, it is possible to

test speaking using pictures, diagrams, and maps. Through a careful selection of

material, the testers can have control over the use of vocabulary and the

grammatical structures required. There are different types of visual materials that

range in their difficulty to suit all the levels of learners. One common stimulus

material could be a series of pictures showing a story, where the testee should

describe. It requires the testee to put together a coherent narrative. Another way to

do that is by putting the pictures in a random order of the story to a group of

testees. The students decide on the sequence of the pictures without showing them

to each other, and then put them down in the order that they have decided on.

They then have the opportunity to reorder the pictures if they feel it is necessary.

Another way of using visual stimulus is by giving two testees similar pictures

with slight differences between them, and without seeing each others pictures they

describe their own pictures in order to figure out the differences. However, there is

a problem in using visual stimulus in testing speaking, it lies in that the choice of

the materials used must be something that all the testees can interpret equally

well, since if one testee has a difficulty understanding the visual information, it will

influence the way he/she is evaluated (Kitao & Kitao, 1996).

The portfolio approach:

Butler and Stevens (1997) state that “O’Malley and Pierce (1996) suggest that

the portfolio approach in the case of an expanded oral profile, widely used for

assessing reading and writing can also be used effectively to assess oral language.”

Profile or portfolio information, reviewed periodically, can be used to enhance

teaching and learning for students and to communicate to students, parents, and
other teachers what students can already do and what they need to improve. A

teacher would systematically collect and record a variety of oral language samples

for students that would help capturing the range of their communicative abilities.

Samples of students’ oral language tasks may come from individual tasks or

from group or interactive tasks. Individual tasks are those that students perform

alone, such as giving a prepared report in front of the class or expressing an opinion

about a current event. Group tasks require students to interact with other students

in the accomplishment of a variety of goals, such as debates, group discussions,

role plays, or improvised drama. Both categories of tasks are important in providing

students with a range of activities that stretch their speaking abilities and in helping

them to focus on adjusting their speech to the audience. In selecting oral samples

for a profile, teachers would also consider the continuum of formal and informal

language that is represented in the classroom.

The Taped Oral Proficiency Test:

In that approach, the learners’ performances are recorded on tapes and then

assessed later by the examiner. This method has some advantage and some

disadvantages. According to Cartier (1980), one disadvantage of the taped test is

that it is less personal; the examinee is talking to a machine and not to a person.

Another disadvantage is that it has a low validity. Moreover, the taped test is

inflexible; if something goes wrong during the recording, it is virtually impossible to

adjust for it. On the other hand, there are some advantages of that type of test. It

can be given to a group of learners in a language lab, it is more standardized and

more objective since each student receives identical stimuli, and scoring can be

performed at the most convenient or economical time and location.

I believe that the taped test method is very practical when it comes to testing

large numbers of students where the examiner would not have enough time to

assess each one of them individually. However, the problem lies in not having

enough language labs in some institutions which, in turn, creates a big difficulty for



Previous literature on classroom testing of second language speech skills provides several

models of both task types and rubrics for rating, and suggestions regarding procedures for testing

speaking with large numbers of learners. However, there is no clear, widely disseminated consensus in

the profession on the appropriate paradigm to guide the testing and rating of learner performance in a

new language, either from second language acquisition research or from the best practices of successful

teachers. While there is similarity of descriptors from one rubric to another in professional publications,

these statements are at best subjective. Thus, the rating of learners' performance rests heavily on

individual instructors' interpretations of those descriptors (Pino, 1998).

In spite of the difficulties inherent in testing speaking, a speaking test can be a source of

beneficial backwash. If speaking is tested, unless it is tested at a very low level, such as reading aloud,

this encourages the teaching of speaking in classes.

In my opinion, testing speaking skills could be a very interesting experience,


it gives teachers an opportunity to creative in selecting the test items and

materials. Moreover, it has a great impact on students by making them enjoy taking

the test and feel comfortable doing so if the teacher chooses the materials that

interest their students and that is suitable to their age and levels of knowledge.